For the love of God, put the screen down

For the love of God, put the screen down

I was safely ensconced in an easy chair by the fireplace, headphones blocking out most of the chatter around me. On Friday mornings I like to go to places like Panera to take care of tasks like writing, email and yes, blogging.

A different kind of sound that filtered through my headphones caught my attention.

At a nearby table a dad was reading a book to his preschool age boy. The kid’s face shone with the wonder of the story and the anticipation of what was going to happen next.

And maybe with the delight of a bagel and book with his dad.
Maybe such a thing shouldn’t be considered the stuff of heroes but don’t ask his son that. For myself, I’d like to nominate him just for the rarity of the sighting. Far too often  when I’m out and about I see parents and kids and sometimes entire families sitting at tables in silence, heads bowed before their individual screens.

What could be more important than the people you love?

For God’s sake, for the sake of the God who created us to be in community “(it was not good that man should be alone”) put down your phones and shut off your tablets.

Not all of the time. But when we’re with each other.

Because the cat video is probably going to be there later.

Because our time together, while seeming long while we’re living it, in truth passes as fast as a minute. Friends move away and family members die and the presence we took for granted becomes absence.

Because we cannot know each other if we do not tend to each other, and if we do not know each other our connections will always be stunted, falling short of the depth and richness they could bring.

Because that person on the other side of your screen is created in the image of God and may have something to teach you, something to give you, something that encourages you or something that surprises you.

For the love of God and the love of God’s children, put the screen down. There’s a little boy who needs you to read that puppy story again. There’s a spouse who needs you to see them, really see them. There’s a friend who has chosen to spend their precious time with you.

For the love of God, put the screen down.






Lessons from landscaping

Lessons from landscaping

by Peggy Haymes

First things first: this post has nothing to do with pot, marijuana, mary jane or funny cigarettes. Nope, I’m talking about the regular fescue.

I’ve been in my house for nearly nine years now. Every single year has been a battle to grow grass. The backyard was the first casualty. Between lots of shade cover and a new dog, the grass the previous owner/flipper had hurriedly cultivated didn’t stand a chance.

My natural area in the front started spreading slowly. I have two sections to my front yard – the top years directly in front of my house and the sloping bank. Originally the edge of my bank was grass covered. Since the bank was steep and I could only mow it by running down the hill with the lawn mower (note: I DO NOT recommend this) I extended the natural area on the bank. Up top I have more trees than sun and I’ve gradually been giving up the fight.

This year I took the plunge. It doesn’t look like much now but I’m converting it all to natural landscaping and garden. I’ve taken advantage of the one sunny spot to plant flowers and an herb garden.

You see, in order for me to have grass I’d have to lime the soil, seed, fertilize, water… and then mow. It didn’t seem to be the most environmentally responsible thing to do. Plus, in the last three autumns I’ve had shoulder issues from wrestling my mower over what remained of my bank. I’m glad to give it up.

I finally decided that grass just wasn’t meant to grow in this yard. Instead of fighting my landscaping, why not work with it? Instead of trying to make it into something that it’s not, why not nurture its strengths into beauty?

As I thought about the process I realized that perhaps I’d stumbled on a truth that was true for more than just my landscaping. We tie ourselves into knots trying to fit into someone else’s expectation of who and what we should be. We kill ourselves pursuing a dream that’s not even our dream. We try to be the green expanse of fescue when our soil is really shade trees and ground cover, flowers and herb gardens.

Do you need to let go of some grass?



Family Rituals Come in All Flavors

My niece had moved back after college. My mother reasoned that the best way to ensure that she’d be able to see her busy granddaughter on a regular basis would be to plan for it. So family dinner night at Mayberry’s, a local sandwich and ice cream place, was born. Over the years as family members have moved back and new people have been added to the family, they’ve joined them. Or should  I say “us,” because when I moved back I joined them as well.

It’s been an ever-changing group. First we lost my mom and then my dad. Along the way we’ve added three children. For a while we were blessed to have four generations gather together every single week.

Mayberry’s is a big deal. The other week my niece explained to her five year old son that they couldn’t go because he had open house at his new school that night. He wailed that he didn’t care about open house – it was Mayberry’s night. His friends there (the staff) would miss him. And besides, “How will Aunt Peggy go on?” (I managed to soldier on.)

The importance of Mayberry’s demonstrates the importance of rituals for children. They create a boundaries, a place in which they can feel safe. It is a routine that can be counted on, even when one is faced with new schools or siblings or a fight with a friend. Structure is important for children, and while they may protest structures like bedtimes and chore expectations, the truth is that they thrive with them.

Actually, adults need rituals as well. Do you get up and make a cup of coffee first thing in the morning? That’s a ritual (and for many of us, a life saving necessity.) I am one of the dinosaurs for whom reading the morning paper is a ritual.

The problem for we adults is that sometimes we find ourselves adopting rituals that aren’t so helpful to us. Like using food or alcohol or drugs to self-soothe when we’re upset. Or starting our days in a way that puts us behind and agitated before we’ve even really started. Or staying up too late which sabotages our attempts to get up early to have time to walk, read or journal.

What are some of your rituals? Are they helping you or hurting you?

Facing Change

I recently came across this very good article in Huffington Post on mindfulness. I’ve written before about what a valuable tool just paying attention is, how increasing our awareness helps us increase our capacity to deal effectively with the ups and downs of our lives.

“Don’t look for mindfulness to cure your anxiety, depression or addiction, look at it more as a new way of relating to life, a way of coming home, nurturing a healthier heart and opening up to the experience of being alive.”

More than once when a client comes into my office they are looking for a cure. After all, that’s what they seek from their medical doctors. They want to make the sore throat go away or the painful knee to stop hurting. I have to break the news to them that what our work is about is not so much curing them.

I can’t make it so that they will never be sad again. I can help them deal with and perhaps even transform sadnesses that they’ve carried for far too long. I can help them identify the feelings that really don’t belong to them, that are based on faulty beliefs or someone else’s pain inflicted upon them. And I can give them the tools to deal with sadness that comes  in the future.

But things like sadness, grief and even anxiety are part and parcel of our humanity. They are acknowledgements of the inevitable changes of life, the ebb and flow that is as relentless as the tides.

I was at the beach with my five-year old great-nephew. He decided that he didn’t like the tide coming in. “Make it stop, Aunt Peggy,” he said. I  told him that I didn’t have the power to do that. It’s  just what the ocean did.

And change is just what life brings to us. Some changes are better than other, more joyful than others. But mindfulness is one way that we can navigate with some grace the changes that come and the feelings that they bring.

Shaving, mindfulness and contentment

Occasionally, when I visit my father he needs a shave. That’s usually because he has waved off the offer of help from the nurses at his retirement home, telling them he’ll get to it later. Sometimes I remind him to let them help him. On a few occasions I’ve shaved him myself.

Back when his hair was dark, my father didn’t have a five o’clock shadow – it was more like a two o’clock shadow. Even now, after only a couple of days he has a heavy growth of beard. I’ve learned that in giving him a shave there’s no substitute for patience. Sometimes it takes three or four passes to get his skin smooth – along with lots of hot wash cloths in-between. The other day he dozed off as I worked, his lips fluttering as he breathed deeply in and out. I was honored with the trust implicit in his dozing, but it got a little dicey when he did the old “sleeping head jerk” as I had a razor up against his throat. (I’m glad to report there was no blood loss.)

It’s a simple task that he’s done thousands of times in his life. but as I do it I am reminded of the profound mindfulness required for me to do it. My attention can’t be anywhere else. I have to be present, completely focused on this moment of time, completely attentive to this action. One night as  I worked he listened to Andrea Bocelli sing opera on the TV, and it seemed to me to be one of the most pure and exquisite moments of my life.

If you pay attention to magazines for therapists or look at the line-up of continuing ed conferences, you’ll see a lot about mindfulness. It’s one of the hot topics in therapy, and rightfully so. Distraction isn’t a modern invention but we’ve certainly taken it to a new level. Smart phones and IPads help us ensure that no moment of our days has to be free from distraction.

But if we are not present – to our lives and our selves – we suffer. Our mental health suffers. God knows our spiritual health suffers. And I’m no doctor but I’m sure it is not good for our bodies either. When my clients are able to be more mindful (even in difficult


times), they report deeper levels of contentment and well being.What I am discovering is that my occasional times of giving my father a shave are not only a gift for him but a gift for myself as well. Afterwards I feel more centered, more balanced. I have received the gift of mindfulness.

As you begin anticipating this coming year, consider the place of mindfulness in your own life. Where do you experience it? How do you need to make room for it? Sometimes it can be as simple as making sure you have a few moments to breathe – just breathing in and out and feeling present in the action.


It’s amazing what you can read on the internet.

Just this morning I came across the following article:

10 Ways to Stay Depression Free

The article has some very good information about how to have a healthy lifestyle, but I was amazed by this blanket (and inaccurate) statement:

Depression is a lifelong, chronic condition, and it needs to be maintained like any other disease. 

I’m sorry, but that’s just wrong. I’ve spent a lot of time working with people who are depressed. In many, if not most of the cases the depression is actually a strange sort of gift. It’s a warning light to let them know that something is wrong in their lives. It may be a relationship that needs addressing. Or it may be time to pursue that dream that they’ve put off for too long.

The depression may be a signal that it’s time to change an internal dialogue that keeps a person beaten down and feeling bad about themselves. It maybe time to give up the old family rules and roles that dictated who succeeded and who failed.

Depression may point out that how you’re living your life doesn’t match up to who and what you want to be. It may be the cry from your body and soul that it’s time to take care of yourself.

Depression may also be the indicator that it’s time to heal very old wounds. It may be time to finally grieve that loss you’ve not been able to acknowledge, much less grieve. It maybe time to deal with the fact that not only was your childhood not “not that bad,” there were times that were just plain abusive. Many times I see that depression in an adult is actually the cry of a hurt and scared child who has been living in that adult body.

Here’s the danger in promoting depression simply as “a chronic disease like diabetes.” When we think of depression in that way, we don’t take the time and do the work to hear what it is actually saying. We may band-aid the pain but never address the cause. I encourage you to follow the lifestyle tips in the article, but not because  you’re trying to keep a terrible disease at bay. Do them because you’re trying  to live the healthiest and best life possible.

When you change how you think about such a thing, it’s amazing how much difference it makes.