Do As I Say Not As I Do

I regulate my children’s media intake. We only got a tablet  a year or so ago and it’s one kindle fire for the whole family mostly reserved for long roadtrips or very occasional usage. We limit tv and movies and are thoughtful about what content is consumed in that time. My children also attend a classical school where they encounter very little technology and even then only occasionally. Limiting these things seemed like a pretty logical step for me but it’s also recommended by most in the medical field and research backs it up pretty strongly.

Then I started researching the why. See, I am an educator and educational technology has gone far beyond a buzzword to become an assumed asset to the classroom but that seemed rather illogical.

How could digital media be bad for children in personal use but perfectly fine to expose them to on a daily basis in a captive setting when we were supposed to be engaging their minds? Spoiler alert: it can’t. Digital media is changing the way our children process information. This is not an opinion or theory it is a fact with an expansive, and yet growing, field of research to support it. If you are unsure where to begin sifting through research I will be including a list of resources at the bottom of this blog.

But then I was confronted with another fact. If it is not good for developing brains it’s likely not neutral to adult brains either. Spoiler alert: it’s not. So was I leading by example? It’s easy to say, “I’m an adult, I can control myself.” or “My brain is done developing, I don’t need to worry.” but that’s because it’s very easy to deny facts we do not want to confront.

The reality is I need to unplug just as much and just as often as my children. I am aware of the irony of writing this on a digital media platform using a laptop. I truly am. But as I became convicted I needed to lead by example I decided I needed some concrete boundaries.

See phones and tv have been around a while now and I was having trouble connecting why they would be inherently more addictive than in the 80s or 90s until I listened to a talk on media ecology by Dr. T. David Gordon.

Two factors stood out: First, tvs and phones were stationary. To use them you must be tethered to one place, something most of us tend to avoid. We used them less in most cases because we weren’t willing to miss out on the whole world to wait by them.  Now, they are with us always, or least they can be. Another was the nature of the beasts themselves, tv camera angles remained stationary for 30-40 seconds instead of 3-4 and shows were on when they were on. Not many people liked every single show on tv so you were limited to certain viewing hours simply because you wouldn’t like the shows on in many time slots. Now, you can choose your own personal brand of distracting, mind numbing programing any time of day or night and the idea of binging it is completely normal.  Phones had one function and could only distract us by interacting in a very personal way with another human. Now, you can do almost anything on your phone, the possibilities are very nearing limitless.

Faced with the reality that the phones and tvs of my childhood were not those of my today I was also faced with the reality that the way I grew up (no limits on technology), not longer applied.

As I write this I am sitting at my new writing desk. I bought it to essentially turn my laptop into a PC when I am home. This is where my laptop lives now and if I want to use it I will have to sit on the backless stool, my body regularly making me aware if I am here to long.

I also deleted facebook & facebook messenger from my phone since I can’t imagine a scenario where someone would need to reach me in an emergency but also would not have my actual cell phone number. I don’t want to find myself distracted from real life by digital life and those little dings. The dings can wait but life can not, in fact it is notoriously impatient, passing us by with or without our permission or acknowledgment. I want to ensure I am leading by example, not telling my children to do as a I day, not as I do.

*This does not mean that I think technology is inherently evil or harmful but our constant consumption of it, and our replacement of worthwhile ventures like education with a watered down digital substitute ARE dangerous. We will continue to use digital media but in more thoughtful ways and amounts than ever before.*




Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction is Hijacking Our Kids – And How To Break the Trance – Dr. Nicholas Kardaras

The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder – Richard Louv

12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You – Tony Reinke

Alone Together: Why We expect More from Technology & Less From Each Other- Turkle

The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans & Jeopardizes Our Future – Bauerlein

Articles & Sites

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? 

Screens in Schools are a $60 Billion Hoax 

Media Ecology Resources


A Halloween Conviction

I used to love Halloween. I would dress up, sometimes making elaborate costumes for myself other times putting together multiple costumes per year (like 3 or 4). I also never missed a haunted hayride..or a few… and would drive an hour or two to go to my favorite haunted houses. I really enjoyed it.

Notice all the past tense?

I’m not sure when it happened but slowly I became increasingly uncomfortable with Halloween. It’s not just my faith, although that plays a part, that changed how I see the holiday. It’s a combination of my faith against the backdrop of an increasingly dark world and a society that seems to embrace evil, hatred, and all manner of unseemly things.

Looking back, I think it started years ago when the “Saw” movie franchise was popular. It did not seem at all like something I would enjoy so I didn’t not watch them..until 2006 when they had released a third so I decided to try the first one and just see what everyone was obsessed with. I was left in shock. Did people actually enjoy this? Revel in seeing humans tortured? Pay to see people murdered, maimed and tormented in disturbing ways? Why? What does this say about them? I’m sorry I couldn’t get past the idea people saw this as “entertainment” and I will openly admit I judge people who enjoy those movies. I honestly don’t trust people who do, I wonder what dark part of them embraces that.

It was that peak into an ugly part of humanity that began my journey to breaking up with Halloween. Slowly I noticed more and more themes of disturbing adult content being pushed down for children, murder and gruesome acts being trivialized and even celebrated and an intolerable focus on evil.

In a world full of evil and pain and murder and hate I, for one, do not want to give any more energy and time to darkness. I don’t want to surround myself with negative, sinister, wicked imagery and I don’t want my children exposed to it. 

I will let my children trick or treat this year but even that formerly innocent activity is wearing on me, last year I had to block their view from inappropriate costumes and decorations.  As I walk my Sleeping Beauty and undecided historical figure (he’s still torn) around for candy this year I am going to do some soul searching as I decide if it needs to be our last.  Maybe we will save our costumes for comic-con and the ren faire…

The halloween of my childhood was still largely one of vampires, frankenstein and witches. It existed in a world where terrorists were not beheading captives and posting the videos to youtube. A time when scary movies that bothered to show blood resembled something akin to a ketchup bottle spurting everywhere not the hyper-realistic, disturbingly intense fare of today.  Halloween no longer seems like campy fun and the scary, disturbing places it has gone are not roads I desire to walk.







Be a September 12th American

When I think of an American I don’t think of the exceptions, I think of the rules. The media loves to find the outliers in any situation because typical doesn’t sell. “One dies from eating lettuce!!!” is going to get way more attention than “Millions of people don’t die from eating lettuce.” Sadly, the same is true in their coverage of the American people. Who leads the coverage? Racists, anarchists, looters, mobs, gangs, and criminals, these people don’t really represent America anymore than a death from a salad represents the typical risks of eating healthy.

I want to talk about REAL America. The America most of us experience every single day. Real America has a lot of hard working folks. Salt of the earth people who will quietly do what needs to be done and ask for no recognition in return. I’m looking at you first responders, farmers, factory workers, teachers, nurses and more. I’m talking about the kind of people who dug through the rubble on September 11th, 2001 or jumped in their boats to rescue strangers after a hurricane. These are the hands and feet of America doing what needs to be done.

Real America has a heart too, it is easy to find strangers helping strangers, rescuing animals, donating to those in need, giving their time to charities and just being kind to their fellow humans. These acts occur by the thousands in every city, every day, you’ve probably been the giver or recipient of one yourself. I refuse to let the identity of REAL America be stolen by a hateful minority simply because they get all the attention.

If you are old enough just think back to one clear September morning where we all remembered what it meant to be American, to grieve with those who grieve, to help those in need, and to recognize the good in our fellow man. We reached out and held hands across pews, across religions, across genders and races and financial divides and we were a stronger people for it. September 11th will live on vividly in my mind as a somber day but September 12th? That will forever remind me what it means to be an American.

Politics, Religion and the Wisdom of Silence

Start discussions of FAITH with the nonbelievers and do not get sidetracked on the nuances of life and how to live it until they know WHO the live it for.

Save the discussions of politics for fellow believers so that iron may sharpen iron and you can grow in wisdom, better understanding HOW to live this live in glory to Christ

So I am a follower of Christ. That is no secret, nor would I want it to be.

I am also very politically active, with the majority of those activities leaning conservative, which does not seem like an issue, in fact being a religious conservative is fairly typical.

But there is a problem because the two things can not and will not always agree.

Sometimes my view as a Christian and my view as an American get mixed together because I happen to be both things but it does not change that they are not mutually inclusive or exclusive.

Sometimes what I know to be true as a Christian is not what should be legally true as an American.

My desire to defend the rights and freedoms of Americans is not born of my love of Christ. It does not mean it’s unchristian of me to do so but I have to examine these desires carefully.

Sometimes I’m compelled to speak, sometimes i’m compelled to silence. Sometimes I pray from a place of confusion, other times from one of peace.

Sometimes my religion is used against me by people who have never cared to actually understand what it is they hate. Sometimes my religion is used by people who think they understand it as a reason to hate things they don’t like.

But at the heart of all of this I think one thing can be forgotten by myself and my fellow Christians.

This it NOT our home.  America (or wherever you are reading this!) is not our country. We are foreigners here. We are strangers in an alien land. God called us to be. So everyday that you wake up and watch the news and feel like you just can’t understand all the evil and hate and ridiculousness in the world…you shouldn’t. You don’t belong here. We are here for one job, and it is not to fit in, it is not to change society, it is not to win battles. We are here to lead people to Christ.

I will still vote and remain politically active because I have children and I don’t want them to grow up in a place without the freedom to choose their own paths just like I got to. I will still debate privately with people who want to understand my perspective. I won’t let my political voice drown out who I am though, I won’t let the hatred that is synonymous with politics define me instead of the self sacrificing love of Christ. I will attempt to show Christ’s love to people I strongly disagree with.

There is far too much political apathy in the church and I don’t want to condone that but many have been driven to that point to avoid being associated with the small but loud and angry mob who use Christ’s name as a shield. We need more Christians who take stands in love, not giving up ground on issues of faith but not screaming and attacking over them either.

Proverbs 1:7 reminds us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” 

A relationship with God is the beginning of knowledge, you will never convince someone you are right on a political point that is based on a religious worldview until you first convince them of that religion.

Start discussions of FAITH with the nonbelievers and do not get sidetracked on the nuances of life and how to live it until they know WHO they live it for.

Save the discussions of POLITICS for fellow believers so that iron may sharpen iron and you can grow in wisdom, better understanding HOW to live this life in glory to Christ.


Finding Beauty in the Mess: Week 3

This week I felt surrounded by ugliness. Mainly in the form of media, I just felt overwhelmed by the death, anger, hate and stupidity plastered all over the screen. I have realized that i’m usually pretty good at finding the beauty in my own personal little mess but I often have difficulty finding it in the mess of our society. It took some perspective but I found beauty in two places, one very unexpected and the other so expected I forget to count it at times.

The expected, but overlooked, beauty hit me as I sat in the middle of a pile of boxes, bags and products at church Wednesday night. I was surrounded by food & hygiene items my church family had generously donated to help me create crisis kits to be handed out to local woman in need. In a society full of “what can you do for me” I had asked a bunch of people to donate hundreds of dollars worth of supplies to bless a dozen local women we will never know and that is an amazing and beautiful thing. I sometimes forget how beautiful my fellow servants of Christ are because they are so humble but they are part of society and with them come the love and service modeled by Christ.


The unexpected place I found beauty was in a strong disagreement with my younger cousin. A disagreement seems like a weird place to find beauty but it was a good reminder that you can have completely different thoughts on anything, or everything, and still respect and care about a person. You can each think the other is wrong and still recognize that you are both intelligent, thoughtful people who just happen to have completely different starting perspectives because you are different people. In a world where the first hint of disagreement is typically met with name calling and vitrol it’s beautiful to have a discussion of an issue rather than just stone throwing.

It’s true when you begin really looking for beauty in life you will find it hidden in less than obvious places.


Finding Beauty in the Mess: Week 2

This week my moment of beauty came as I tried to clean blood out of washclothes and off my bathroom counter. I found myself reflecting on my gratitude for my children’s health and safety. Shortly before I had been holding a wet washcloth on my toddler’s mouth trying to slow the flow of blood gushing from her teeth. She had slipped on the bench at our table during dinner and her two top teeth connected with the edge pretty hard. I was upset and worried for a moment but once it was clear there more blood than anything I settled in to grateful. The minor injuries of my children’s lives are just that minor, small, momentary discomforts and for that I am tremendously thankful. It’s beautiful to have a healthy child, even one covered in blood.


Preschool Co-Op Year Two

Last year I joined with two other moms to start up our own preschool co-op. It was a terrific experience that we all really enjoyed. The kids learned and played, we planned field trips (and spontaneously decided on a few more) that took us on nature hikes, to the planetarium and zoo and even for some physical education at a local indoor kids play space. They counted, sorted, colored and wrote their names, made crafts and science experiments and learned to navigate the social structure of an intergenerational classroom! (There is an art to navigating not just your peers but the younger siblings at play and the moms and dads teaching and supervising.)

Today we kicked off for year two! We have 3 new families and i’m looking forward to this years learning and growth! I want to encourage parents who think about joining or starting a co-op to jump in! We started months late last year, largely due to my own feet dragging caused by trepidation that it would be alot of work or not rewarding enough to justify the effort. When my friends and I jumped in I quickly realized it was not that much work (certainly less than just home preschooling him with no one to divide responsibilities was, I know I tried it a few months!) and it was tremendously rewarding!

Today was a typical first day, kids flitting about, somewhat sitting, interacting in the alternating shyness and excitement, siblings extra boisterous, parents still feeling out their roles. Soon we will all find a routine and rhythm and the children’s little sponge brains will soak up so much new information that we will be amazed. I am so thankful for this little piece of community I get to immerse my kids in.

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