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Why I’m Detoxing from Social Media in 2020

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The items on my Friday to-do list remain unchecked. Christmas Eve dishes are still in the dishwasher waiting to be put away, and it is now the last Sunday of the year.

Laundry overflows the hamper.

Leftovers sit in the fridge ticking off the minutes until they expire.

Dust bunnies no longer hide under the furniture but lounge freely on the hardwood floors.

The guest bathroom looks like a dog took a bath and left a nasty ring in the tub. Oh wait, this one is not a metaphor – my son really did bathe his hunting dog and left the residue.

The Christmas break is almost over. A new decade starts in a mere two days. I have a doctorate to finish, a business to build, 100 pounds to shed, two significant trips to plan, a house to put back in order, a children’s book to publish, and . . .

There is so much on my proverbial plate. Excellent, exciting, motivating, life-changing goals, and adventures. But what have I done today? What did I do yesterday? And the day before?

I got lost on YouTube. Did you know Jon Gosselin had a ten-year gag order that has now been lifted? Do you have any idea if it was Ryan Seacrest or Ryan Reynolds who got his start in show biz as baby Jesus in a church Christmas pageant? I didn’t either. And now that I do, I’m not sure I’m the better for it.

I found 200 ways to make cranberry sauce while scrolling through Pinterest. I bought a pair of boots from an ad on Instagram and sent tons of emails to my spam filter. I’ve reached level 90 in Solitaire and mastered the art of identifying three-letter words in Whirly Word.

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I spent hours scrolling through Facebook. I’m happy to know my friends’ twins were born and are doing well. I’m thrilled another friend is expecting her first child, that my cousin got engaged, and that my son has three photos in the US Army’s 100 pictures of the year. I’m sad to know my friend’s dad died two days before Christmas, or that another friend’s sister was killed by a drunk driver. But I’m also angry. Fuming at the idea that just because someone is hurting, their pain somehow makes it acceptable to spew ugliness on a public forum in the name of transparency and healing. I’m enraged by the close-minded, inflammatory political posts, fake news, and continuous downward spiraling of our society. I’ve seen the same memes, quotes, and jokes shared by just about everyone I know. I’ve lost brain cells, grew some more fat cells sitting on my butt looking at this stuff, and I still have the expanding to-do list of things I honestly do want to accomplish.

I wanted to step up on my soapbox and admonish posters to take the logs out of their own eyes before posting toxic statements. I wanted to remind those who profess Christ and post backstabbing comments to remember the biblical principles outlined in Matthew 18:15-20 to go to those who have offended them in private. I wanted to use my words like a sword in the battle combatting ignorance and selfishness. However, as is often the result of my righteous indignation, I tripped over the log hanging out of my own eye. No one tied me to my couch, strapped a smartphone to my palm, and made me scroll away the days of my life. I wasn’t tagged in the posts that made me angry. The members of my closest 723 digital friends didn’t single me out to pick a fight. They are just living their lives the best they know how. It is my responsibility to live my life the best I know how. I know social media has become an issue for me. While there are many good things about the digital age, there are as many downfalls. So for me, it is time to do something about the time-wasting rut I have fallen in to.

Friends and family who have untethered themselves from social media tell me it is the most freeing thing they have ever done. I tried deleting Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter from my phone and scheduling time in my day to check them from my computer. This worked for me as well as setting a clock 10 minutes ahead to stop tardiness. I know the clock is set forward, so I mentally make the mathematical adjustment. I know the apps are no longer on my phone, but the internet still is, so I go to the .com versions. I am a social media addict. It isn’t enough to delete the apps. The accounts must be shut down.

I recently told a friend I intend to close my accounts effective 11:59pm December 31st. She understood my reasoning, but said, “what about promoting your business or marketing your book?” Good questions. The problem is I haven’t yet clearly defined my mission and vision statements, built my service packages, or designed my website. The text of the book is written, but the illustrations are not finished, nor is the layout done. Truth is, I don’t have a business to promote or a book to market. I need focused attention to finally break through my indecision and build a firm foundation before I can advertise or market anything.

When my daughter was much younger, she asked, “How old were you when your mama let you have a cell phone?”

“Thirty,” I replied, “And all it did was make and receive phone calls.”

Twenty-two years later, my phone is a mini supercomputer that cost twice what I paid for my first car. It is a great tool when used properly, but a terrorist holding me hostage when I abdicate self-control. I have thought about doing a technology detox for some time. I keep putting it off, though, because it’s scary to disconnect. It’s terrifying to think that if I step out of the digital world and ground myself firmly in real life, I’ll never hear from my friends again. Worse yet, that no one will even notice my absence. But, as my oldest son, who lives a social media-free life, is so fond of saying, “I have shit to do!”

I have a magnet that says, “If you really wanted to, you would.” I got it when I was trying to decide if I would apply to grad school. I thought I was too old to embark on a doctorate, lamenting that I would be 53 before I finished. A friend wisely said, “You’re going to turn 53 either way. Do you want to be 53 with a doctorate or 53 wishing you had gotten a doctorate.” I’m now 52 and officially a third-year student. One more year of classes and a book to write before graduating in May 2021. I really wanted to, so I am. I truly want to attain other real-life goals, so I’m taking that terrifying step to cut the digital clutter and focus on reaching those goals. I have started unsubscribing from digital newsletters. I can always resubscribe later if they prove valuable in the future. I have unsubscribed to digital scrapbooking newsletters that offer freebies because I’ve fallen into a pattern of collecting digital scrapbooking supplies instead of actually scrapbooking! I have deleted shopping and gaming apps from my phone and requested removal from text groups. Wednesday night, I will disconnect my personal accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

I need a break. I need to refocus. I need to do what is right for me to find peace and balance in a wobbly world. What do you need to do to find harmony for yourself? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Flashback Friday 7

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Flashback Friday 7

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a Flashback Friday.  I’ve recently met several deadlines and enjoyed a few big events, and now find myself in a bit of blissful reprieve for a few short weeks before we jump into the holiday season. So I thought I’d take some time to schedule some Flashback Friday posts.

Today’s post is the very first column I ever wrote.  I showed it to my editor, Sue Hite, at the Chester County Independent and asked for feedback. I thought it was funny, encouraging, and meaningful, but what would Sue think? I sweated it out until she told me to run it on the Obits/Religion page as the first installment of my own weekly column.

Reading it back today, I still think it’s funny, encouraging, and meaningful. I wrote this the year I turned 30. Twenty years later, I’m balancing on the brink of celebrating the half century mark of my life on this planet.

Guess what…

I’m still making the same mistakes.

I think I’m making them a lot less often, and with a lot more grace and style, though.  But  those wayward Israelites still annoy me.

Not My Virtue

Patience is a virtue. It’s just not one of mine. Of course, life has written a daily lesson plan directed at teaching me, but I don’t have the patience to learn.

Last year I decided to read the Bible cover-to-cover, however, I lost patience with those thick-skulled Israelites. Moses must have been sure he was leading a group of toddlers. He had to be exhausted after a day of repeating,

“I told you not to build a golden calf!”

“No, you can’t have chocolate chip cookies, you’ll just have to be satisfied with manna from heaven!”

or “No, we can’t go back to Egypt. They want to kill you!”

“And so do I,” he must have whispered under his breath. His ears probably were burning from 40 years of hearing, “Moses, are we there yet?”

I became so disgusted with God’s chosen people. They just never got it. They made the same mistakes over and over. God punished them, and they did it again. They were brought out of slavery, famine, and the slaughtering of their children. Instead of praising God for His mercies, they turned their backs to him. Rather than publishing the first edition of 101 Ways to Serve Manna, they threw up their hands and said, “We can’t stand another day of freedom and free food falling from the sky, we’re going back!”

The Israelites had their every need provided, but they had no patience for the inconveniences they faced along the way.

Of course, I had to go and have an epiphany – bright, flashing lights and arrows pointing to my head. If the story of my life is ever written, years from now someone may read it and exclaim, “The moron! She kept making the same mistakes.”

The Lord has allowed me enormous blessings, but I stumble over the small stuff and scream in impatient tantrums. I’m still not a virtuous woman in the area of patience, but now instead of shouting, “I can’t take it anymore,” I pray, “Lord, let me learn from the Israelites.”

Flashback Friday 4

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Flashback Friday 4

Tomorrow is Halloween, and that means lots of kids, big and small, will be dressing up and going out trick or treating. Many of those kiddos will be dressed as their hero – superheroes, historical heroes, musical heroes, pop culture heroes, sports heroes – up and down neighborhood streets, mall hallways, and haunted house stairs, hero look-a-likes will be out in droves.

Thinking about all of these little hero worshippers converging on houses begging for candy made me think of this column from the late 1990s for this week’s Flashback Friday. After you read it, please share in the comments who your hero is.

Everybody Needs a Hero

“The Greatest American Hero.” “My heroes have always been cowboys.” The “Rocky” trilogy. Television, music, and movies.

Abraham Lincoln, General Patton, Jimmy Stewart, Mother Teresa, Princess Diana, Superman.

Heroes.

The world is enamored with greatness. We all seem to be searching for our ideal person – for someone to “look up to,” to pattern ourselves after. But have you ever noticed that most heroes are dead or imaginary? Is that because dead and imaginary heroes are less likely to disappoint us? Of course, as soon as some long-lost diary is discovered or the last living person who knew hero so-and-so contacts “20/20” with some juicy gossip, the dead heroes lose their high standing.

We all want our heroes to be courageous, personable, wise, witty, honest, and faithful. Of course, money and good looks sure don’t hurt. But most people, at some point, fall, and when they do, those who admire them are left in turmoil.

There was a couple in the church I grew up in who helped with our youth group. I thought they were the perfect couple and “idolized” them as such. When I was 15, they divorced, and I was devastated. I remember crying until my head ached, and I couldn’t breathe through my nose. My dad hugged me and pointed out that this is what happens when we put people on a pedestal that should be reserved for Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the perfect hero. After all, he is perfect. He is an example to all of us of how to live our physical and spiritual lives. He is a comfort to us. He is a protector and the savior. He is not dead or imaginary. The greatest investigative reporters will never find anything to tarnish his name.

Everyone needs a hero, and Jesus is the only one who will not disappoint us.

He is my hero.

How about you, who’s your hero?

Best Laid Plans

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“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” St. Bernard of Clairvaux

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Robert Burns

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Romans 7:15

Obviously I am not the only one who watches my good intentions flit on the wind like wishes blown from a dandelion.

Perhaps it’s perfectionism breeding inactivity again. Or maybe it’s just laziness. Whatever it is, it’s an excuse. I’m full of those -things I tell myself are legitimate reasons for not accomplishing my goals. Sometimes it isn’t enough just to be inactive and not complete a goal. Sometimes I have to go out of my way to actually sabotage myself and set myself back. I am especially good at sabotaging my weight loss goals, but that’s a different blog post.

Today I’m writing about my best laid plans for this blog already going awry. I started at the beginning of vacation when hope and excitement were high. My intention was to use my trip to really kick off the blog and write my way through a solo adventure in Ireland. I started strong, three posts in and then the excuses started.

I was tired after driving on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road where I didn’t know what was around each corner.

I didn’t have very good wifi.

My brain was too full from the excitement of the day to write clearly.

Really?

I wasn’t too tired after driving to watch American reruns on Irish TV. I had good enough wifi in one bed and breakfast that I watched a movie on Netflix. My brain was really full, but from that wealth of thought I wrote several blogs in my head while hiking around the Emerald Isle. I even took a few minutes after breakfast one morning to write four pages of bullet pointed lists of topics to write about. How hard would it have been to type one up while NCIS played in the background and upload it when I had a good wifi signal?

I am a creature of habit and even though I want to do things differently, I allow myself to do the things I hate like Paul wrote about in Romans 7. I start off strong, then wane when I’m tired and let the old habits reach out and pull me back into inactivity. The key is making sure the paralysis doesn’t become permanent.

So the plans go awry. Make a new plan.

So I do evil today and watch reruns instead of posting on my blog or getting in a good workout or flossing my teeth or dusting the living room. Do good tomorrow.

There’s nothing wrong with having good intentions. There’s nothing wrong with our plans going awry. It’s only wrong when we give up, when we stop trying, when our intentions are no longer good and we no longer make plans.

“Tomorrow’s another day.” Scarlett O’Hara

“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful men keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” Conrad Hilton

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

An Imperfect Start

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An Imperfect Start

I’m a perfectionist. Sometimes this is a good thing. When I’m cleaning house or completing a project at work, it’s good to have an eye for detail and do my best.

Sometimes it’s a bad thing. When I’m so concerned about doing something perfectly that I don’t even try to do it, that’s a paralyzingly bad thing.

Take this blog for example. I’ve been wanting to do this for several years. I used to write a regular column for the Chester County Independent and loved that creative outlet. I’ve missed it. So I thought, why not do something similar with a blog? But I put it off because I didn’t have the perfect title, or the perfect layout, or the perfect organization, or the perfect whatever the hell I thought needed to be perfect.

So I finally thought of a blog name. It was available and I was excited. I bought the domain and found an online class on how to use Photoshop Elements to create a beautiful blog and signed up. Then I got busy. And maybe a little scared. Scared that I wouldn’t have time to devote to a regular blog, that no one would read it anyway, that I wouldn’t be able to make it as visually appealing as some of the other blogs I’ve seen, that it wouldn’t be as cool or clever as my friend’s blog, that it wouldn’t be perfect.

My kids aren’t hung up on perfection or even the perception of or the drive for perfection. They just do what they want, when they want, and how they want. They try new things, they fail, they succeed, they have adventures! They are who they are and they accept that.

As a new empty-nester, I’ve been redefining what’s important and just how perfect everything really needs to be. I’ve started working out and eating better. I’ve completely dejunked and deep cleaned my house and turned my daughter’s bedroom into a comfortable guest room.

Now I’m waiting in an airport to leave for the trip of a lifetime. I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland and I’m wanting to get back into writing. So what could be better than going to an immersive writing retreat in Ireland? I’m not sure, so I’m doing it!

I’ve had a long layover, so I thought I’d finally get started on this blog. Guess what! I waited too long for perfection and the perfect blog title I’d come up with has been taken. Someone who doesn’t even use capitalization or punctuation is using the title I thought would perfectly define what I was writing about and the message I hoped to share with my readers. Every variation I could think of has been used. Every synonym and alliteration is already in the blogosphere. I spent three hours plugging in ideas and seeing the red box stating this title has already been used.

Then I thought about talking to my 19-year old daughter about taking a spontaneous, solo trip to a foreign country. Leaning over and smoothing her waist-length hair into a ponytail, she flipped her head back up, twisted her hair into a bun and pinned it to the top of her head.

“You just do you, Mama,” she said as she looked me in the eye. “You’re perfect enough.”