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The Consequences of Distraction and How to Avoid Them

It’s Mindful Monday, and I woke up with distraction on my mind.  Distraction affects our lives in numerous ways, with consequences ranging from distasteful to disastrous.  Often it masquerades as something we proudly venerate: multitasking.  But every time we multitask, we pull brain activity away from our primary task of the moment.


Distraction with Distasteful Consequences

A couple years ago, I set out to make a delicious stir-fry dinner from scratch.  The finished product was to look like this:

I carefully assembled the ingredients, added them to the pan at appropriate times, and enjoyed the pleasing aroma as I waited to perform the last step. [Read more…]

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How to Improve Communication with Teenagers

Last Friday night, my teen daughter and I watched as Nik Wallenda crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope.  For too many parents, talking to teenagers can feel like walking on a tightrope (minus a safety tether).  How can you avoid this feeling and find a connection with adolescents?

 Here are some suggestions to help keep your feet on solid ground:

  1. Calm your body.  If your heart is racing and your gut is churning, you may need to take a few deep breaths before proceeding to communicate with your teenager.
  2. Be present and tune in to your teenager’s inner world.  You hear and see what she’s doing, but really listen and think about what she may be experiencing inside.   Too often we misread clues: I’ve mistaken anxiety and fear for obstinance.
  3. Maintain your own emotional balance.  Your excessive emotional reaction can incite communication chaos and a rigid cold reaction won’t promote a healthy connection.
  4. Pause before speaking or acting.  This might save you from impulsively putting a parental foot in the mouth.
  5. Face your fear.  During the pause consider if the anger and irritation you feel is driven by your own fear and not your teenager.  Sometimes our parental fears are irrational.
  6. Show empathy.  Try to see the situation from your teenager’s point of view.  Can you sense his intentions and imagine what something means in his mind?

Maybe it’s less about what our teenagers bring to the table and more about how we respond.  We have little control over the former and most control over the latter.

 What helps you communicate with your teenager? 

What are your challenges?


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Living with Boundaries….a Snake’s Tale

Proper boundaries make for  healthier relationships

Proper boundaries make for healthier relationships

My daughter has a California King Snake named Jake.  For almost 10 years, Jake has healthily and quietly reposed in a large aquarium, dining on a thawed, previously frozen mouse weekly.  Jake likes to leave the aquarium to explore the outer world, but we’ve learned that he needs appropriate boundaries outside his aquarium.

One evening years ago, my husband held Jake’s tail while sitting in his Lazy Boy recliner and talking to family members. None of us noticed as Jake’s long body slithered inside the chair, wrapped around its inner metal workings, and became stuck.   We worked hard to dislodge Jake without harm, but nothing worked.  That is, until my husband brought out the WD-40, sprayed the stuck spot, and gently pulled Jake out of the Lazy Boy.  After a few days, the constricted indentation around Jake’s body released and he was as good as new.  What did we learn?  While appropriate boundaries encourage safety for Jake the Snake, inappropriate boundaries can lead to a tight squeeze.

Many of us understand the importance of boundaries for pets.  Fences and leashes keep other dogs from getting in our dog’s space. An indoor bunny condo keeps our rabbit safe while it protects our home from unsupervised nibbling teeth.  Clearly, appropriate boundaries promote healthy relationships with our pets.  The same is true for humans.  What are boundaries for humans?  Think of a boundary as your personal property line – it clarifies what you are and are not responsible for in life.  A boundary indicates how you define yourself, shows the world who you are and who you aren’t, sets limits, and establishes consequences if others try to control you.

Without healthy boundaries, a mom may be unable to separate her own past from her teen’s present experience.  A man may act as his son’s friend and fail to function as a father.  A wife may sacrifice her well-being trying to control the addiction of her spouse.  A child may become responsible for regulating his parent’s mood.  In each of these examples, where is the personal property line of the mom, the father, the wife, the child?  Lacking healthy boundaries, maybe each feels a little like Jake the Snake – caught in a tight squeeze.  Perhaps it’s a good time to examine our relational property lines and determine if we have healthy boundaries.  The good news is that boundaries can change!

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My home schooled daughter recently bailed after reading two thirds of Augustine’s Confessions (Chadwick, 2008).   Her favorite part of history is the Rockabilly Era, not the Medieval Ages.  Similarly, she eschews Geometry (have I mentioned that I have degrees in Mathematics?), and finds little compelling in her Chemistry.  Yet she rocks at Latin, taught by her grandmother.  Can you guess that I am frequently discontented with my role as a home school mom?

 Not one to leave loose ends, I decided to complete Augustine’s autobiography, even as home school discontentment swirled around me.  Imagine how my interest piqued as I read Augustine’s declaration to God in Book XIII, “whatever is less than you can never be sufficient to provide itself with the rest of contentment” (p. 277).  Apparently Augustine of Hippo learned something that many Christians have not fully accepted: “all [our] abundance which is other than [our] God is mere indigence” (p. 278).

Back to my daughter, an out-of-the-box thinker: I started out chasing the abundant home school models of other parents.  I found discontentment, which propelled me toward a higher challenge: truly accepting my unconventional child, and exploring unique ways to facilitate her learning experience.  Accepting her as she is, not as I might wish her to be, provides contentment.  Yet that acceptance only comes with my belief that she is just as God desires her to be.

Penned in the waning years of the fourth century A.D., I suspect that Augustine’s words could promote healthy discussion for people of all faiths, as well as those with none.   What gives us individual contentment? In what instances might we humans chase perceived abundance, only to encounter ultimate poverty? 


Chadwick, H.  (Trans., 2008).  Saint Augustine: Confessions.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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