Reclaiming Conversation


Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation was one of the most important books I read in 2015. Her book distilled to three sentences:

This is our paradox.
When we are apart: hypervigilance.
When we are together: inattention.

I believe it. Sherry’d make a point and I was a one-woman gospel choir, swaying and amening. “Solitude is important,” she calls and my response is Yes, sister. “Support unitasking and deep reading.” Deeeeeep reading, I sing. “Continuous partial attention is the new normal.” Say it isn’t so, I moan. “Make sacred spaces where no devices intrude.”  Not in the kitchen, not in the bedroom, not even in the car, I harmonize.

What Ms. Turkle did not say, however, has reverberated through my brain. She never framed it this way, but I think we are simply selfish. We have zero tolerance for boredom, for discomfort, for anything unpleasant. We now have devices that we can take refuge in rather than discipline ourselves to wait through the boring bits.

Last May, my niece graduated from a large university in California. I’ve been to a handful of college graduations recently, but I’ve never seen the rudeness that I witnessed that morning. Rudeness I participated in.

A thousand names were called and a thousand graduates walked across the stage to shake the Dean’s hand. People pulled out their phones; some teachers graded papers. I, cough cough, tried to get my seating on Southwest Airlines, even while part of me looked upon myself in astonishment.  My husband assumed the tilted coffin pose and took a nap. This wouldn’t have happened ten years ago.

Conversations take work. Conversations take energy. Conversation require me to reveal myself to my friend.

Some of the wealthiest moments of my life have been three recent reunions with childhood girlfriends. We spend a weekend practically device-free. We don’t watch movies. We talk. We listen. We experience deep, focused conversation. (Once, a friend apologized for keeping her phone nearby. She hadn’t heard from her daughter who was living across the world in a country buffeted by a typhoon!) The time and attention is a treasure, all the more so because of its rarity.

Turkle has two time-honored commands to help us out of this murky mess.

Use your words. (what she told her young daughter)
Look at me when you speak to me. (what Grandma always said)



this morning’s loaf – for a potluck lunch
It has nothing to do with the post below.

It strikes me that whenever you develop an expertise or advanced skill, you become fussy or nerdy about details that matter.   Perhaps “particular” is a nicer adjective.

My photographer friends care immensely about light.  That is what makes them good photographers.  Where amateurs will say “put your arm around your sister and smile” the nerdy one will swivel his/her head, scoping out all the options, whip out a light meter and set up a shot.

My decorator friends are nerds about color.  It is never green.  Oh no, my friend.  It is celery or asparagus; celadon or chartreuse; moss, myrtle or Persian.  And they walk into a room where the pictures are hung too high and suddenly develop facial tics.

I can hardly name them, but I am a nerd about chords.  Why play I, IV, V chords continuously when a relative minor, a sustained or augmented chord gives texture, warmth and richness to the music?  When James Taylor sings and plays the National Anthem I go gaga over his gorgeous chords.

I’m a nerd about balancing to the penny.  But I’m a slob about stuffing receipts and change into my wallet.  You know people whose every bill faces the same direction in descending order?  Not me. But I admire them.

my brother Dan, who loves coffee and photography, took this photo
Coffee nerds not only grind their own beans, ahem, but their coffee must come from a certain region of Colombia.

I am a minor nerd in the area of fonts.  Last week I saw a wedding program and immediately asked, “Which font is this?  It’s stellar!”  And Katie, an extreme font nerd, rattled off every font used. Trust me, there were no Arial, Comic Sans or Times New Roman.

I’m scanning The Incredible Shrinking Critic, yet another diet memoir, and laughed aloud at this sentence:

I’m so good at ferreting out quackery I can tell when a book or website is not to be trusted simply by the typeface.  I’m not kidding!  Quacks seem to be drawn by unseen forces toward choosing ugly, fussy, confidence-killing typefaces!

You knew I’d ask, didn’t you?  What are you a nerd about?

Can’t Sleep?

I think it is that hormonal time of life, but insomnia seems to be assaulting my friends.  Me too. 

I wake up sometime between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m. and–boing!–I’m wide awake!

My girlfriend Lisa awes me with her discipline.  She just trains herself to stay in bed and stay relaxed, rest assured that she is getting rest if not sleep

My friend Val starts praying through her lists.  She prays for her relatives, her co-workers, her friends at church, her neighbors until she drifts back into never-never land.  I don’t think she has ever gotten to the place where she prays through the phone book!

Another friend never has two bad nights in a row.  After one sleepless night, she takes Benadryl.  I guess you’d call that the Better Living Through Chemistry approach.

Here’s what works for me:  I get up, grab my book or The Book, go to the living room and read. I figure if I’m awake I might as well read.  I don’t take a blanket, don’t try to get cozy.  My main goal is get very cold.  Icy feet, icy fingers, chilled arms, droopy eyelids.  When I’m good and cold, I go back to my warm bed and slip under the down comforter.  It never fails. 

Since I’ve been walking with Leslie I have fewer middle-of-the-night rendezvouses. (I had to look up how to make a plural of rendezvous; pronounce it vooz. I’m not convinced this is correct. *See comments*)  

Do you have times you can’t sleep? 

What’s your scoop on snoozing through the night?


Some days (often Tuesdays) the web is wonderful.  I can’t keep these to myself.

~ I’ve already linked once to Nancy Wilson’s post on January attitudes.  It’s worth a second look.

~ I received a trial (print) subscription to Books and Culture.  I knew I would never get any “real stuff” (read cleaning, cooking, dusting, teaching) done if I received this oversized periodical on books regularly.  Instead I get the free newsletter which comes on Tuesdays and is manageable. 

~  Today’s Book and Culture newsletter has N.D. Wilson’s article about the debate between atheist Christopher Hitchens and Christian pastor Douglas Wilson. 

Cindy had a sidelink to a reading schedule for Calvin’s Institutes.  My dear friend Lisa and I have been talking about doing this together for a while.  Lisa moved last year and is still unpacking boxes of books.  Start digging, Lisa, before we get too far behind!

~ We are moving towards a more liturgical approach to the calendar.  We’ve been celebrating Advent for a few years; today we’re celebrating Epiphany.  We’ve kept our decorations up (that involves a changing of the mind) and our lights on.  I am encouraged by Kristen at This Classical Life who writes:

When Yuletide ends there is a mixture of sadness and joy, the sadness of knowing that every day cannot be a holiday, but the joy of knowing that each season brings newness and fresh delights.

I really like the words Yuletide and Eastertide.

~ The end of the Christmas season is called Little Christmas in Ireland.  The men take over all the household chores and the women go out to restaurants and pubs.  Hmmmmm.

~ A friend on Facebook recommended The Book of Ebenezer Le Page for those interested in Guernsey after having read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  Her quote from Ebenezer will make you want to get the book today.  

Meanwhile it snows.  My husband went to work yesterday at 4:00 a.m. and shoveled snow for ten hours (not his normal duty).  He came home, ate dinner and went to bed at 5:30 p.m.  One trip to see our Seattle grandson has been canceled due to snow; it is quite possible our plans this week may go the way of the snowplow.  I have pictures of Noah, but it’s not the same as cuddling him myself. 

The monochromatic landscape is beautiful and achingly quiet.  Yesterday my neighbor took me to her back window.  There were 100 birds on her apple tree having a feeding frenzy.  Some birds looked drunk.

I have new and old books to read, pots of tea to drink, real work to do (gasp!), and food in the freezer.  We’re hunkering down.  Life is an adventure!       

How Have You Changed in 2008?

Before you make resolutions (or projects as Sherry calls them), take a look back and see how you have changed this year.  It’s kind of fun!  This is a variation of the I Used to Think post.  Poiema’s perceptive comment:

I really do think that the small details of life show forth growth in a far greater way than we normally stop to realize. It feels good to mark something measurable on the growth chart.

We’ve made several changes in our diet this year. 

•  We eat oatmeal for breakfast almost every morning.  My husband recently said, “I can’t believe you converted me to oatmeal, and I honestly can’t believe how much I like it!”   Here’s the difference: we make individual servings in the microwave.  Easy cleanup, fast, and fabulous.  And cheap!  This has made a significant dent in our grocery budget.

1/2 cup oatmeal, cover with water (experiment with amount), microwave 2 minutes.  Add milk and sweetener.

Oatmeal supreme:  add a handful of frozen blueberries to the cooked oatmeal.

•  We stopped drinking soda pop. 

•  We started drinking raw milk and eating locally grown chickens.  These cost about twice what we were paying.

•  We switched to sucanat instead of sugar.  This also costs about twice what white sugar costs.

But, enough about food!  What other changes have we made? 

I joined Facebook, after my kids talked about it on a backpacking trip.  Facebook seems to be the medium many prefer for staying in touch.  It has extended my time on the computer (argh!) but has reconnected me with friends from the past. 

Reconnecting.  Several important people from past decades have resurfaced in our life.  Those reconnections underline ways we have changed (oh yeah, I used to think/like/agree with that; but I don’t anymore!) or ways our friends have changed in areas where we have not.  But it has been a blessing to pick up loose pieces of yarn and weave them back into the fabric of our lives.

So many changes are part of the daily or weekly cycles.  We now worship in a liturgical setting and recite the Apostle’s Creed every Lord’s Day.  I think the repetition of those words “I believe” has made me a more confident woman. 

Last night my husband and I had a disagreement (which we resolved, thankfully).  I realized, though, that the longer we have been married, the fewer quarrels we have.  We must of plowed through the dirt so many times that we are aware of, and compensate for, our differences.  Grace, all of grace.  

Of course, not all changes are positive.  I used to keep a tighter guard on my tongue.  I’ve caught myself gossiping too much lately.  Blech.  So we resolve to change.   

Nancy Wilson has written what I think is the best blog post of the year–simply stellar–about New Year’s here. If you are prone to depression this is REQUIRED READING. 

How have you changed lately? 


While the air in southern California was choked and mucked up with smoke, charred chunks, whirling dirt, and other corruptions, the Lord saw fit to give us these blue skies yesterday.  And while half a million–a number one can barely comprehend–half a million people were evacuated, we saw the aftermath of evacuation in our little corner of the world. 

My husband, who sheriffs the front lawn for unwelcome piles, gave us a little lesson on scatology yesterday. 

Deer leave tiny little pebbles.

This thick one here is from a bear – see all the seeds in it?  Yep, we have a resident bear in the neighborhood.

I thought about taking a picture (how often do you see bear doo in your yard?) but it was too gross. 

*     *     *     *     *

Prayer for those suffering loss of homes
(taken from Lutheran Prayer Book “In Business Reverses”)

The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.

O my heavenly Father, I, Thy poor, harassed child,
come to Thee for comfort, for peace, and for aid.

Thou knowest even better than I
the worries and anxious forebodings
that are troubling my heart and mind.

Whither shall I flee in my distress but to Thee,
my gracious, omnipotent Father?

Let these losses teach me the fleetingness
and vanity of all earthly riches.
Create in me that godliness
and contentment which is great gain.

Strengthen Thou me that I may remain
firmly clinging to the word of Thy promise,
Fear not, for I will never leave thee
nor forsake thee.

A Foretaste of Winter

The snow level is dropping,
threatening to swoop down to the ground.
The biting air today feels like snow.
Hats, gloves, scarves are coming out of storage.
Life has moved indoors for a while.


Every season does this little tease.
She runs on stage and waves to us,
we point and titter and giggle,
and then she quickly scampers behind the curtains
until her appointed appearance in the act.

That’s a good thing.
Because autumn is my favorite season.
I’m not quite ready for her to take her leaf.

~   ~   ~

The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose;

Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Morning Routine

Cindy calls it Morning Time.  She has 20 Morning Time posts: you will be inspired to read them all.  We call it Morning Routine.  This is the time we begin together at the table.  I am remodeling our Morning Routine this week.  Exercise, brekkers and shower come first on both plans.


Read chapter of Bible   from what we were studying at the time
Sing Psalm     mix learning new ones with reviewing familiar ones
Pray   don’t ask me why, but this has always followed the singing
Read Psalm from the Vulgate    One verse in English, one in Latin
Read Catechism question    Currently WLC
Read a poem   reading through different anthologies


Pray   We will begin with the daily prayer from the Lutheran Book of Prayer.  It has four weeks of daily prayers.  I would like our prayer life to grow in maturity; I like the tone and posture of these prayers.  On a tired Friday morning I want us to pray, “Send me, O Lord, into the tasks of this day rejoicing.”  

Read chapter of Proverbs   This is how we began school back in 1994, our first year of home schooling.  I’m returning to my roots, at least for autumn.  I even like the idea of picking one verse and copying it in a journal.  I remember one of my former lit students told me he was working on handwriting, and he was a high school junior at the time.

Sing Psalm    Continue on our course with more emphasis on memorization.  My husband puts me to shame with the hymns and psalms he has stored in his head.  He works on them on his lunch half hour.  Many psalms we sing are challenging musically; I have a fond hope that my son is improving in musical sight reading.

Catechism   Continue through WLC; re-evaluate when we are completed.  This makes me laugh, though.  When I was growing up catechism is what the poor kids in the Catholic church did.

Poetry    Continue through The Top 500 Poems for three weeks of the month. [Oh – Oh – and when we complete that the next anthology is The Oxford Book of English Verse.  Yippee!! ] One week during the month we will focus on one poet (Frost, Service, Cowper, Bradstreet, Kipling, etc.).  My greatest aid in sustaining any interest in poetry in my son has been Jeeves and Wooster.  More than once, Collin has read or listened to a story that referenced a poem the same week that we had read it.  The glow of recognition keeps us going.

Art   This is an addition which requires more thought and planning on my part.  We have several books to work from.  I like the drip, drip of daily exposure with a concentrated focus on one artist, one week a month.  I plan to watch Sister Wendy’s art films to educate myself.  

When I get to this point, I always want to add more.  One year we read through Grant & Wilbur’s Christian Almanac.  I’d love to do that again.  I’d love to read the Proverbs in the Vulgate.  I’d love to work through our set of People and Places and pray for the nations, learning a microbit about them each day.  I’d love to incorporate prayer for those being martyred, to raise our awareness of our brothers and sisters in chains. 

This is where my husband shines.  He has such a skill at estimating the time it takes and making priorities.  He’s always subscribed to the philosophy of Do A Few Things Well. 


File this one under Lessons I Keep Re-Learning

Hydration is a key factor in maintaining energy.

Drinking lots of water is also a universal component
of every weight loss program I’ve seen.

The problem for me is when I’m just living…not, cough-cough, on a program.

I forget to drink water.

I get sluggish.

I sit.

Here’s a TBOI (tasty bit of information).
 Take your weight in pounds,
switch it to ounces,
divide by two.

That’s how much water your body requires.

So, if you weigh 150 pounds,
drink 75 ounces a day.

“Says who?” you ask.  I forget says who.
My best method (so far) to get it down:
Fill a gallon container almost full with water.
Add a block of ice (I use a 2 lb yogurt container).
Keep it in front of my eyes.

How do you get your quota of water each day?

Hitting the Jackpit

Kenny, our nice neighbor and friendly mail carrier,
walked up to our door with letters in his right hand;
then, in a dramatic gesture, he pulled out of bundled pile of packages from his bag.
“Wow!” I exclaimed, “I’ve hit the jackpit!”
I was so excited for ten seconds that I couldn’t think of the correct word.

Only one of these is an assignment for school.
I’m excited about each title.

Hat Tip to Deb for turning me on to Gervase Phinn,
‘The James Herriot of schools…’

PaperBackSwap:  it’s a beautiful thing.