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Monday, June 29, 2015

Seven Ideas to Steal When Trying to Use Your Phone Less (even when you know you can't live without it)

I really like my iphone.  I use it to keep in touch with the people I love.  I enjoy browsing through social feeds and watching for bargains.  I love having a small camera handy almost everywhere that I wander.  I need it for the map app.  For so many reasons, life is easier and simpler for having so much mobile access and information at my fingertips.  The iphone is my friend.

I see many others relying on their phones, too.  With a salesman husband, two teenage step daughters and elementary aged children already plugging their "need" for a phone, I see the vortex into which we can be sucked by our devices.

But these days, I'm valuing being a little less available, less plugged into the constant stream of information.  I'm finding great freedom in limitation as I seek to be a bit less tethered to an electronic device.
source: infographic

Seven Ideas to Steal When Trying to Use Your Phone Less:

  1. Leave it charging in another room during mealtime.  Or movie time.  Or game time.  Or just to remember what it feels like to not have it within arms' reach.
  2. Use the Do Not Disturb feature during certain hours. For me this is 10 pm - 7 am.  
  3. Turn off alerts so that you have to look for information instead of having push messages sent.
  4. Prioritize people.  When I am with a person, the phone remains in my purse (or pocket, or bag or car).
  5. Practice some time with out it.  Seriously, leave the phone at home while you go to the pool with your children.  Leave it in the car while you grocery shop.  You will find that it feels terribly uncomfortable, but the world keeps turning and you are more free.
  6. Practice delayed responses.  Train those in your life to know that you will respond, like, comment or notice when you are able.  If it is your child or spouse, I say respond, but if it's your sister's best friend with a PTA notice - this may not require urgent action. 
  7. Visit locales where there is no cell service or wifi.  Shocking - but they do exist! 

We are so often pressed into responding or being available that it limits our ability to be fully present in our actual lives.  Sometimes we feel stresses that aren't ours to take on, simply because they are handed to use through photos, articles, alerts.  Daydreaming can turn into a comparison trap.

I think it is so fun to know what my college roommates are doing in other states.  I love seeing the happenings in my parents' lives and it's a treat to see posts from my nieces who are rapidly entering the teen years.  But I want to choose when to engage.  I want to embrace the life in front of me and when I turn to my phone, it's intentional.

Start small, but with purpose, by choosing not to check messages while driving.  If there is an emergency, someone will call.  But you can wait till you arrive to see the little notes that others send.   Please know, I use my phone a lot, and I find it so valuable that I am ready to upgrade!  But I don't want it to be the boss of me and I notice the slide toward being engrossed in the gadget constantly.  There are no rules, except what you choose to enforce.

Will you try any of these ideas?  Are you happy with the amount of time you spend on devices?

I love how Kate left her laptop at home when she went on vacation!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Back to Life

Our family enjoyed a much-needed and wonderful vacation.  I loved spending last week with my Sweetheart!

I made special memories with my children.  I spent extra time with my stepdaughters and one of their dear friends (Hi, Elisabeth!).  I appreciate my in-laws and the chance to deepen our relationships.  I'm grateful to them for opening their island home to our large crew and giving us a place to unwind and indulge.

Togetherness as a blended family doesn't happen all that often, and we enjoyed the sense of family and memories made last week.  Much of our remaining summer includes children going to various destinations, camps, family trips and we treasure the times we get to celebrate our bond. 

We had a week where no one was coming or going, no transitions between houses, no tight schedules and it was glorious.  Intact original families do not ever have to consider the comings and goings of children between houses. It's something I never considered before divorce was part of my story.  When my original marriage disintegrated, this was the aspect that I dreaded the most, and it remains one of the greatest challenges.  Sadly, the children are the ones who bear the brunt of the stress.  So, we treasured this time even more.

We had lots of seafood, watched movies at home and at the theater, enjoyed so many fun bike rides, participated in an impromptu talent show, the girls did our nails, the boys played video games, shopped and enjoyed a farmers market, and enjoyed hanging around the house.  It was just fun for so many reasons.  It was relaxing and restful.  We have returned as a closer knit group and will rehearse the memories until we get to return next again.

We are back to life and the children are once again scattered.  Work beckons and the routines of grocery shopping, house chores, yard work and more have already demanded our attention.  I love my life, and that makes returning from vacation just a little easier.  But I so treasure the uninterrupted days together without as many stresses and schedule requirements.  

Will you have a family get-away this summer?  How can we savor that bond, even in our 'regular' life?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Sometimes, I Plan for the Less in "Flawless"

The Fifth Grader took a trip to DC.
Do you ever plan to fail?  Okay, perhaps "failure" is too strong a word for the situation I am describing, but there are times when I know I will fall short of my idea of success.  Basically, I prepare for the "less" in Flawless.

Recently, we experienced a unique convergence of expected busy schedules and stretched resources compounded by some 'bonus' experiences that were earned and not planned.  Both added financial and logistical complications to our family dynamic and both were high honors for well-deserving children.  So, things got very hectic for a while around our place!

Each of us have expectations and sometimes I set mine way too idealistically.  I want to have high standards, not impossible requirements.  So, when I review the calendar I take notice if our week is busier than usual, our family going in more directions that typical, and whether there is margin for the ups and downs and bumps of normal family life.  When there is no margin, that's when I plan for the "less."

This is what it looks like in my home:

  • I incorporate a simpler meal that is not made from scratch and use paper plates.
  • We skip a scheduled, weekly activity (like gymnastics) and allow that to be time well spent on relationship-building with a friend.
  • I accept that laundry will pile up, and ask for help with the folding when it is finally washed.
  • I recruit help in advance for when guests are coming to visit our home.
  • Instead of packing lunches (during the school year), I just have the children plan to get the cafeteria meal.
  • I shop at the grocery store that is closest and where they load my groceries FOR me. 
  • I build "rest" days into my exercise routine (in other words, I SKIP it!).
  • I let the blog sit idle for a couple of weeks and hope my readers will understand.
  • I might miss Field Day, but I'll be there for awards day.  I don't have to be at every event or prove to my children how much I adore them.
  • I lower my standards for house chores and if I had the money, I would hire help for dusting, floors and bathrooms.  The world will continue to spin with dust on my mantle.
  • I am careful to continue self care, even in simple ways.  I feel strong when I take care of myself emotionally, physically and spiritually.  
  • I focus on the people in my life and let go of the lists.  My default is to be task-oriented, but I want to be relationship-focused, so I remind myself of this value.  I make the most of those tuck-in moments and be sure to communicate with Mr. Wonderful as we settle for the night.
We face overwhelming schedules, work pressure, relationship demands and just the normal requirements of life.  Some weeks everything seems to converge at once.  Mostly, I hang on for the ride and make sure there is a date when things will settle down.  When I know that this isn't the way I choose to live consistently, I can make it through a hectic season.  It reminds me that I prize a slower pace over constant excitement.  My core values are reinforced and I am able to make even more insightful decisions for myself.


Our crazy-month wrapped up with a delightful escape for just Mr. Wonderful and me.  We celebrated his birthday, we attended a concert and met up with both family and friends from different seasons of life.  We tried new restaurants and enjoyed each other tremendously!  Thank heaven!

Ice Cream at the Park - it doesn't get more relaxed than that!
Once home, we've enjoyed summer's slower pace and even a family night out including bowling and Chinese food.  My mother was able to come for a visit this week and we get to go for family vacation soon.  We are all enjoying the deep exhale.

How do you give yourself a break during especially busy seasons or weeks? When the schedules and/or the finances tighten up, do you give yourself some grace or do you sacrifice sanity and sleep to maintain your standards.  

I wrote about other calming habits some time ago - gosh, look at that hairstyle!