A Case For Putting Down Your Phone.

First, watch this.

I showed this to my newspaper staff last week, and then issued a challenge to them: track their tech use for five days. How often were they looking at their phones, how many tabs did their browsers have open that weren’t relevant to the task at hand, was their tech use purposeful or rudderless?

I made a list on the board of all the things I want to accomplish, goals I’ve set for myself this year, and shared how my tech use often impedes my longed-for achievements.

I use two apps to try and wrangle my phone into something to serve me, rather than something I serve. Moment notifies me every 15 minutes I log on my phone and sends me a weekly accounting of which apps I’m using the most. ATracker Pro, when I use it, helps me to see how I’m spending my day, with categories I create. Then I get a pie chart of how much time during the week I’ve spent doing things like working, reading, practicing the piano.

I’m grateful for technology’s benefits. Without it, I wouldn’t talk to my sisters everyday. I wouldn’t be able to see photos of friends far and wide. I wouldn’t be able to stay current with the news I prefer to read. I wouldn’t be able to blog.

But there really is a point where, like I asked my newspaper staff, I have to wonder: are we using the tech? Or is the tech using us?

The bright side, I learned from my own efforts and from my newspaper staff last week, is that we have the power to choose how we use our technologies.

Try it for five days–make a list of what do you want to accomplish, and then honestly assess whether your tech use is helping or hindering those accomplishments. You might be surprised at what you can do when you put your mind to it, and set your phone down.

A Short Spell of Reprieve.

I chatted with my assistant principal as we walked to our cars after the school play Saturday night, and the chat ended with a brief discussion about the broadcasting my and Stueve’s students do for football. If our team had won the quarterfinal game Friday night, there was a small chance we’d have broadcast the semifinal. But we didn’t win, so next Friday is open.

“I don’t think we’ll broadcast until December 15–that’s the first home basketball game,” I said.

“I think you’re right,” she said. “Enjoy the reprieve!”

I thought about that word–reprieve–as I drove home. I’m becoming more respectful of life’s seasons as I age. I know that summers will be slower-paced and need only be boring if I make it so. I know August and September will be frenetic but manageable. I know that January to March is a white-knuckled seat on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and I will make it just fine.

But I’ve never really given November the appreciation it deserves. It is a short season of reprieve. Classes are humming along, with tests and quizzes distributed evenly so I’m not overloaded with grading. No major school events like conferences or concerts happen in November. There’s no newspaper deadline, no sports that need broadcasting.

It’s a reprieve.

Reprieve 1

And when I look at what’s on the horizon…

Reprieve 2

So I shall relish November, this month of reprieve. It’s a necessary season that I vow to appreciate in all its reprieval goodness.

Friends at Work.

I’m at a point in my career where I’m looking at my next act, figuring out what I might be able to do after a teaching career. I’m not the retiring type, I don’t think. So I’m looking at options.

And what makes me the most nervous, more than learning a new skill or moving to a new place, is working with people who aren’t good, working with people I can’t call my friends.

That’s not the case where I currently work. I have a great lunch crew that empathizes and makes me laugh and think. I have other friends scattered across the building, and even the school district, upon whom I could call if I ever needed their particular area of expertise.

Lately, I’ve been feeling like pretty much everything I do has an expiration date. Maybe this is my mid-life crisis. But I don’t ever want to take for granted that for a few glorious years, I worked with some really amazing people who made me better, and who made my life better.


I’ve done a share of family history research the past couple of years, and thanks to Google, I’ve learned quite a bit about the women in my family tree.

I’ve probably written about them before, but the Spurs are losing and I don’t feel like digging through my archives to check, so sorrynotsorry if this is repeated info for the more dedicated readers.

Today I sat in a meeting for a nonprofit I volunteer for, and I thought about how I got there. This nonprofit launched 10 years ago, and I’ve been a tiny part of it for nine of those years. I don’t do much, but it is one way I stay connected to an organization that is doing quite a bit of good in the community. It’s something I’ve often thought I should leave behind, what with the teaching and the journalism advising and churching and pianoing and writing and such that I overcommit to. And pretty soon, I’m going to add schooling back into that mix.

Occasionally, my mind drifted to the many things I do with my time, and I thought of my mom, who was always engaged in multiple endeavors while also raising her children. I thought of my Nana, who saw to it that a rough and tumble frontier town had access to the arts. I thought of my grandma, who worked at a time when most women did not.

I thought of my great-aunt who earned a PhD in Sociology from the University of Chicago in 1911, and a cousin, one or two times removed, who practiced psychiatry in the 1930s.

And further back still–foremothers who braved oceans and plains to leave their homelands and build lives in a new country where they could worship without threat of persecution, only to realize some Americans had yet to really figure out how to be nice to everyone. (We’re still figuring that out, aren’t we?)

Sometimes I go to bed so bone tired and I blame it on the pace of life and all of the things I’m asked to do with my time. But today as I thought of my foremothers and their hard work and community engagements, I wondered if they were equally bone tired when they finally settled to bed at night. I think they probably were.

But I take strength from their lives, and if nothing else, I want to live an equally full life so that a hundred years from now, when one of my siblings’ spawn adds me to their family tree, they can Google me (if Google still exists then) and draw strength from my life, and then carry on in theirs.

I Might Be Back.


Remember me?

I used to write things here occasionally.

And then I stopped.

I’m not sure why, to be honest. Didn’t make the time, was too sad, didn’t feel inspired, felt too inspired–you name it, I had an excuse.

But like the swallows to Capistrano and the cranes to Kearney, I’m here on November 1, compelled to write about gratitude for another month.

And today, I find myself grateful for so many things, but especially grateful that I can write. Grateful for new months and the chance to recalibrate goals and expectations. Grateful I still have an avenue to publish my writing to tens of readers.

It’s November. Hold off on Christmas for a week or two, and identify one thing you’re grateful for. If you feel so compelled, share it in the comments.

I’ll be back here tomorrow, and I hope, most days this month to write a little more about gratitude. It’s tradition. And this time of year, tradition counts for something.