A Liturgy for the Sacred Mundane

For the morning sun that peeks through the window, 
And the smell of freshly ground coffee. 
For the sleepy faces of children as we wake them and for partners who tell us that we are loved, 
For the mornings without alarms, 
but also for the mornings we are rushing to ensure that everyone gets out the door fully clothed,
For all these sacred mundane things, we give thanks. 

For the smell of fresh cut grass and the colors of spring, 
But also for the restorative rains and the cool breeze of autumn. 
For the feeling of a knowing look, 
For friends who intuit just how to take care of us when life is hard,
But also for that brief moment at the end of a hard season where you feel like you can really breathe again, 
For all these sacred mundane things, we give thanks. 

For the sound of a loved one’s keys in the front door after time apart, 
For the smell of cookies baking in the oven, 
And chips and salsa on a patio. 
For the way dogs greet us as if this moment is the best thing that’s ever happened to them, 
But also for still, quiet, purring cats.
For all these sacred mundane things, we give thanks.

For toilet paper and air conditioning and for the bounty after a grocery run, 
For dark chocolate and hot baths, 
For fresh sheets and the smell of lavender, 
For evenings by the fire with a good glass of wine, 
But also for evenings with cheap beer and belly laughs,
For all these sacred mundane things, we give thanks. 

For the sting of the cold night air, 
And the immensity of the universe, 
For our brief moments of being, 
And for the simple beauty we stand witness to every single day, 
For all these sacred mundane things, we give thanks. 

 

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Thinking Outside the Box: Finding a Healthy Relationship with Technology

I remember when my family got our first computer. I was maybe seven or eight years old and my mom was running a business out of our house so she needed a computer for her company. On very special occasions, I was allowed on her computer to play "Reader Rabbit and the Fabulous Word Factory", a slow and clunky game that was supposed to help me hone my reading skills. It was the first hint at the future of technology, but none of us could have even have begun to imagine that just 20 years later we'd all be carrying around very fast and powerful computers in our pockets in the form of cell phones.

Since these changes happened so fast, there is a lot we don't know about the impact of technology on our lives. My guess is that in the not so distant future we will start to really understand the harm these systems have done to our brains, relationships, finances, and bodies...among other things. But here is one thing I know for sure- for all the good that technology has done for my life, it has also disrupted my sleep patterns, made me obsessed with data, and completely shifted my social relationships in a way that I am not proud of. And that stops now.

I just finished reading Adam Alter's Irresistible and it rocked my world. Go get a copy. read it twice. One of the numbers he cites that haunts me is the fact that the average American adult spends about four hours a day on their phone? FOUR HOURS. That's a quarter of your waking life spent staring at a tiny box. And that doesn't account for time spent staring at a bigger box- laptop, desktop, TV. A QUARTER OF YOUR LIFE, FOLKS. The current life expectancy in North America is 79 years old for men and 81 years old for women. That's 1,460 hours a year and 11 YEARS OF YOUR LIFE (assuming you life to age 81 and start using a phone at age 13). That is a lot of time that could be spent doing some really cool stuff. So how do we figure out if we have an unhealthy relationship with technology? And what do we do to start reigning it back in? 

My general life philosophy is that anything can become unhealthy if we let it- even things that were meant for good. When something starts negatively impacting your daily routine or relationships, it's unhealthy and you should try to get a handle on it. A few months ago I realized that I was thinking about my "real" life mostly in relation to my social media presence- thinking about whether an art project was pretty enough to go on the internet, taking multiple pictures of my kiddo until I got just the right one to share, etc. And not only was I thinking about the internet when I was "off" it, it was bleeding over into my relationships. I was spending time arguing with people on-line instead of having conversations with people in the same room as me. I was carrying my phone everywhere, checking it every single time I got a notification, obsessed with my "internet points". How many followers could I grow to? How many people had visited my Etsy shop that day? How many calories did I have left? It got to a point where it felt like my phone was running my life and I was no longer in charge. That's when I decided to do something about it. 

  • The first thing I did was turn off all of my notifications. Well almost all of them. I still get phone calls and text message alerts, but only until 8PM. Beyond then, only 3 of my contacts can reach me. I turned off notifications for Twitter and Instagram and Facebook and all of the things. No more notifications. Without prompting from my phone, I found that I was picking it up far less often. That's a key element to staying off your phone, because once you pick it up, it's so easy to get sucked into a black hole of scrolling..."let me just check Twitter for a minute..." and then an hour later you realize what has happened. 
  • The next thing I did was change the color settings to black and white. The color on our phones actually can be quite addictive to our brains. Our phones become far less interesting when they are not in color...which means less time on the device. 
  • Recently, I started tracking my usage. The first step to improving is to know where you are starting. I spend about 3 hours a day on my phone...better than the average, but not where I'd like to be. So now I have a goal to slowly chip away at that time. Less and less time on my device until I am only using it for essential tasks or for very limited time periods. 
  • My next project is to deliberately create physical space and time away from my devices. I am moving my phone away from my bed. No more laying in bed and browsing before I fall asleep. No more checking it right when I wake up. And I plan to structure "device" free times in my day. A sure fire way to spend less time on my device is to keep it out of sight and out of mind- to limit my access. But I need to replace that time with new habits- going for a walk, doing an actual puzzle, making something. 

I am just getting started on my journey, but I'd encourage you to carefully consider how you are using technology in your life. It's not so far fetched to imagine a Wall-E scenario in our lifetimes, especially once virtual reality technology is widely available, where we are all so locked into our devices that we are missing all of the wonderful things happening right in front of us. Put that tiny box down. Look around you. Life is happening and you are missing it. 

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Becoming the Advocate You Were Born to Be

I believe we are all born as really great advocates. Despite mobility & language limitations, babies are the best advocates. There is no doubt in anyone's mind when a baby needs or wants something. Typical babies in loving happy homes scream and cry until their need gets met. If they don't like how you respond, they let you know with more screaming until you get it right. But something happens along our journey and we lose these advocacy skills. Adults told us to sit down, be quiet, stop asking for things. People said "that's just the way it is". Those who have all the power and resources showed us over and over again how small we are and how little we can influence the world. And after being worn down for years in so many ways, we just stopped trying. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it)  eventually life presents all of us with a situation that forces us to become advocates again. A loved one becomes disabled, we get caught in a toxic job or relationship, we are awakened to some injustice in the world. When that time comes for you, how will you reclaim these lost skills? Whether you are self-advocating, advocating for a loved one, or advocating for systemic change...here are a few things you can do to get started or be more effective:

  1. Gather information & learn the rules of the game. It doesn't take long for babies to learn that when they cry, somebody comes to attend to them. How many toddlers work the "fake cry" in an effort to get some attention? Whatever you are advocating for, learn how the systems already work. Read books, talk to people who are involved, try to find out what's working, what isn't, and what has been tried before. In order to be a super effective advocate, you have to know where you are starting before you can ever get a sense of where you should go. 
  2. Make a game plan. Truly effective advocacy work is strategic. It isn't haphazard or always coming from a defensive place, it's proactive and deliberate. Plan for the short term and the long term. As an advocate for my son my "big goal" is to see him live a fulfilling and happy life in adulthood, but that won't just magically happen. It means we have stuff to work on now, even at six years old, to ensure that happens. A couple of additional notes about your game plan: 
    1. Have a clear & simple message/goal. Don't over complicate what you are trying to do. You (and anyone along for the ride with you) will get bogged down in the chaos if you overcomplicate it. It needs to be hella clear what you are trying to accomplish. My goal in advocating for J in the school system is to help create the most effective learning environment for him. That's it. It's a big goal with a lot of moving parts, but it's a really clear and simple idea I can cling to and communicate to others. Every issue I tackle in the school environment comes back to that one goal. 
    2. Focus more on what is possible than what is impossible. People are drawn towards things. People want to hope for something, believe in something. It can be terribly immobilizing to hone in on the things that are not possible or the things that are beyond your control. Your plan should focus on all the possibilities in the areas that you can control or influence. 
  3. Start where you are with what you have. You may not have a million dollars or a huge audience or even be the most knowledgable about a topic. That's okay. Take what you have, what you know, and what you can do and run with it. You don't have to be an expert or have a huge platform to effect change in the world. Making a difference in one life, in one classroom, in one doctor's office...whatever...that matters. 
  4. Partner with others. There is power in numbers. Not only does the message seem a lot louder when more than one person is saying it, you can accomplish more when there are multiple people with a variety of skill sets and experiences working on an issue. You can also lean on each other when things get hard. Advocacy work can be so life giving, but it can also feel very draining and overwhelming. Having people who can help carry the torch when you're drained or feel lost is so important. Those partnerships might be other people or they might be other agencies depending on the work you are doing. You don't have to be the one stop shop tackling all the issues and you don't have to go it alone. Find people with common passions and experiences and go together. 
  5. Get some quick wins and build some momentum. If you are just getting started with advocacy work, get some quick wins under your belt. Find some "low hanging fruit" and grab it. Effecting change, even if it is seemingly small and insignificant can feel super empowering, can boost your confidence, and can help get the ball rolling. After accomplishing something, you will likely feel empowered to tackle bigger and harder issues. 
  6. Play for the long game. Advocacy work is rarely "finished" and it rarely happens quickly. Don't get so bogged down in more minor issues that you lose sight of the bigger picture. When you experience set backs, because you absolutely 100% will, remember your why. Why did you get started in this work? Why is it important to keep going? What are you working towards? Cling to that why for dear life and remember that change takes time and tomorrow is a new day. 

Remember, you were born an advocate. All you need to do is reclaim the advocate that is already in your bones. Over the next many weeks and months, I plan to share some more practical tips that you can apply to your every day work...so stay tuned! Here's to becoming the advocate you were born to be!

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