Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

I'll bet there's not a single American who hears or reads that line without thinking about the campaign of cell-phone commercials that touts the wonder of the cellular network that allows the nerdy guy to be heard just about everywhere as he walks across our land.  Deep, right?

It's occurred to me recently that the advance of  'communications' has spelled not only fun and addictive little games about farming, but the systematic destruction of human relationships.  Put your Farmville on pause and allow me to elaborate.

A couple hundred years ago, people communicated primarily by speaking.  Many people couldn't read or write, and many more who could do so were prevented from having very many books by their cost and scarcity.   So people learned stuff and socialized and passed on information verbally, and the limitations of technology at the time meant that nearly all communication necessarily came with a personal, face-to-face human relationship.  People's entertainment and passtimes almost all involved something that entailed other people,  right there 'in their grill,' as the kids like to say.  From story-telling and apprenticeships to gathering round the piano for a song,  activities usually involved other people.  And interestingly, when someone is right there, in front of you, it's a lot harder to think of them as anything but a fellow traveller on this Earth journey.  If you tell them off, you have to deal with their immediate and probably unpleasant reaction.  If you give them a hug, you get a hug back.  It's all very human.

But as time has gone on, and  technology has gone from verbal transmission to books to telephone and telegraph, to radio, television, cell phones and internet, fewer and fewer communications have a human relationalcomponent.  Today, someone could watch TV, listen to music on their Ipod, download a book on their Kindle, send a bunch of text messages, and look at everything from news to medical information, to pornography on the internet, all without ever seeing another human, even in the form of a photograph.

Heck, many of us now have "relationships" with "people" on the internet, and the reason for the quotes is simply that many people who thought they were in a relationship with someone later found out that the 36 year old attractive female who likes to dance in the rain and watch NASCAR is actually a 22 year old, 400 pound male deadbeat who likes pulling people's chains or getting them to give them money for airfare to come and visit.

Basically, our technology has cut us off from the very basic, and very necessary activity of relating to others of our kind.  Not only does it make us much more likely to get mean and stupid, since we can now tell someone off or tell them we love them without ANY personal feedback in the form of body language or a punch in the snout, but oddly enough, this very state of affairs has been recognized for a long time as being one of the subtler forms of torture. 

It's called solitary confinement.    Back in the 1950s, Harry Harlow, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, wanted to use monkeys in studies, but basically couldn't afford to buy monkeys, so he decided to breed his own instead of importing them from India. He didn't know much about raising infant monkeys, so he cared for them like babies of that day—in nurseries, with plenty of food, warm blankets, some toys, and in isolation from other infants to prevent the spread of infection. The monkeys grew up sturdy, disease-free, and larger than those from the wild. Yet they were also profoundly disturbed, given to staring blankly and rocking in place for long periods, circling their cages repetitively, and mutilating themselves.   True.  You can look it up.

So, in essence, we have spent the last two hundred years introducing, multiplying, spreading and perfecting the methods to just about ensure that people become self destructive, obsessive lunatics.  So now, shut off all the electronics.    Sit down and have a conversation with someone--face to face.  Or, just go back to staring blankly, rocking and circling or mutilating yourself.  It's up to you.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone. More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.
You'd think, reading that today, that it was written last week, last month, or last year. It certainly sounds familiar. What a mess of 'dark realities' we have.

In fact, this quote is from 1933, during the Great Depression--the only time the economic turmoil in America seemed even bigger than it does today. The fear of these realities has cable news and talk radio in a churning frenzy, day after day, month after month. The sky is falling, and the only way to prop it up there is with the ingenious idea of whichever politician or pundit happens to be yakking it up on the magic TV or radio machine at that moment.

And people are so scared that rather than demand real answers and real action, most of us are falling into one of two groups: Group A, in which we bicker and name-call and line up in neat rows along partisan divides, blaming the other guy loudly and with great fervor and suggesting that some program or other that affects someone else is high past ripe for some serious cutting; or Group B, in which we stick the proverbial banana in our ear, our heads in the proverbial sand, and with our intellects numbed by this week's smorgasbord of mindless diversion, proclaim with absolute confidence that it's 'their' problem to solve, and dammit, 'they' better get to it!

Of course, neither group wants any part of taking our own measure of responsibility for our contributions to the problems we face. We don't want to give up the student loan for our kid. We don't want to work a few extra years before retirement. We don't us want our taxes to increase or our knee replacement to cost more. We don't want to drive a car that's smaller or less fancy because it gets great gas mileage. We don't want to recycle everything, even if it's more work, so there'd be less in the landfill. We don't want to eat less frozen pizza and more broccoli because we'd lose weight and be healthier and ease the burden on the healthcare system. Heck, we don't even want to use the high-post-consumer-recycled-content-bath-tissue. It's too scratchy, you know. We're all really quite ready for our ills to be cured by placing them squarely in the 'someone else's problem' field. We are desperately waiting for the heroes.

So, what are we going to do when they give us their solution? When they tell us which job we'll get and how much money we'll have. When they decide who's worthy to be educated and who's not. When they decide which brand of religion to observe because it's the one of our "forefathers" and which ones to attack because they're wrong or dangerous or bloodthirsty. When they tell us whom we have war with to preserve our national illusion. When they tell us what we have to do to get our bread ration or a pair of shoes. What exactly will we go along with because we "have to" to keep our place in this hard and scary world?

Back in 1933, right before that quote at the beginning of this post, Franklin D. Roosevelt gave us one of the most famous lines ever delivered, "...the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." A more quoted thought has been rarely had. But oddly, hardly anyone knows what the rest of the speech was, and certainly no one in our current political and economic system wants to talk much about it.

The rest of the speech was about what had brought America to the brink of financial ruin. Roosevelt called out the "self-seekers" and the profiteers, and all those who sought to protect their own interests at the expense of others and our common good. He talked about our own money-changers in the temple. He criticized the politicians whose only reason to serve was "pride of place and personal profit." He asked America to generously use the relative "plenty" that we still had, even in hardship, and to not react to that hardship with hard hearts. And he called on everyone to realize that,
Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.

The people who heard that speech and were inspired by it have come to be called the Greatest Generation--not because 'outsmarted' the downturn with clever investing and kept what they had, and not because they killed neighbors for their canned goods, and not because they found 'efficiencies' in payroll and increased corporate profits by double, but because by and large they came together and sacrificed and helped each other and pulled the world back from the edge.

Dang. Maybe 'they' aren't going to solve our problems. Maybe the heroes we've been waiting for all along are us.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Twelve-step programs have a saying that crops up over and over again--the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again expecting different results. This brings to mind the way we've lived for the last many years.

Our society has again and again placed its faith in the almighty dollar, and in a 'more is better' mantra for life that has continually let us down. And while our faith has always been repaid with further degradation of what we claim to hold dear, we continue to rely upon those good old samolians.

When the promise was that the 'superstore' would get everyone more good stuff for less money, what we got instead was the death of main street commerce, a lot of cheap disposable junk, and the wholesale shipment of manufacturing out of the US. Now, we're told that the way it used to be, say, when I was a kid, where people made stuff in the US and small merchants sold it to people, isn't actually possible and would kill our economy.

When we were going to 'feed the world' with commoditized farming, we got a rural rat race where, to make less money each year, farmers have to plant more acres of fewer types of genetically enegineered crops, spray with more chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, treat genetically weak animals with more and more drugs to fend off worse and worse diseases, and then sell for near nothing to compete with the factory farms. Meanwhile, last I checked, there are still lots of hungry people in the world, while people in the US and some other industrialized countries get fatter and fatter eating overprocessed junk made from those cheap commodity crops , and we still manage to waste enough food to feed most of the rest of the world. And we're told that the way it used to be, when small farmers grew lots of different types of crops and made enough money doing it to live on--well, that's not actually possible--can't be done.

After the 'energy crisis' of the 1970s, we scoffed at the idea of insulation and solar panels and wearing a sweater instead of turning up the heat in the winter. We ignored the need for non-fossil fuel and instead worshipped at the altar of bigger, fancier cars and ignoring the reality of dwindling resources. We've gotten higher gas prices, unending wars to protect our 'interests' in the oil producing regions, and an economy teetering on the brink at every meeting of OPEC. We've recently insisted that our treatment of the earth is having no effect on our environment, and we're reaping record heat waves, storms of previously unthought of proportions, droughts, and famines. And we're told that the way it used to be, where not everyone needed a car for everything, families shared one car, and people walked to town centers and took mass transit--that's not possible.

If I had unlimited space, I could go on--the list of things sacrificed in our worship of money includes community, education, health, and many more.

So, aside from showing us to be really clueless for a really long time, what do these events have in common? First, they gave us more of stuff that we really didn't need more of, but someone convinced us we do. And second, in doing so, they took money and power from regular, hard-working people--the main street merchant, the small farmer, or the consumer--and gave it instead to the larger, richer and more powerful companies.

HMMMMM. Sounds like maybe we should get a grip. In writing these posts, I usually end with something that I can think of that I can do, or you can do, to fix stuff. In this case, the answer isn't so simple. I suppose it can't hurt to shop a lot less at the superstore and more at local merchants. If any of you are farmers, it couldn't hurt to plant a more diverse crop of non-gmo plants and for us consumers, we could start to shop for those items that aren't cheaply made processed imitation food. But in reality, what really has to happen is we have to start thinking differently. We need to remember that it is 'possible' to do things differently--it's just not possible to do them differently and get the same result. But that's ok--the result we've got is pretty well sucking.

We need a spiritual modification where we get realistic about how much we need, and grateful about how much we have. We need to learn the word "enough." We need to unlearn most applications of the word "more." We need to start being happy with what we've got, because in America, nearly all of us have more than we actually require, and a whole lot more than most of the other people in the world. Such an awakening is a fairly tall order for a blog post--but who knows?

Or, I suppose we can keep doing the same thing, and expect that somehow, some way, we're going to get a better result this time. And denial is a river in Egypt.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Little Stuff that Makes Me Happy

Since I've been working on this blog, I've noticed that small stuff seems to make me much happier than usual.  So today, I will just publicly be happy about some of it, hoping that maybe it makes you all happy too, or inspires you to find some of your own little stuff to be happy about.

Hummingbirds.  We have a crazy little hummingbird that comes to a feeder outside my kitchen window.  He's very territorial, and tries to fend off other creatures from the sugar water, seeming not to notice that he is smaller than a mouse.  He flies as if the sugar water has fermented into a stouter beverage, and he never fails to make me happy.

Chocolate Almond Ice Cream.   I've always enjoyed this flavor, or its cousin with marshmallows, Rocky Road.  Since I've been in Oklahoma, I've elevated my enjoyment of this ice cream to a new height, because my family and I can go to these local ice cream parlors called Braum's and get a big scoop on a waffle cone for $1.30.  Yikes.

The Way My Dog Looks at Me.   I have this old mixed breed dog who is a bit neurotic, and very stand offish to new people.  She's quite the chicken, in fact.  But to me and my family, she is the most loving, sweet, and devoted creature ever to walk the earth.  She looks at me with this very old, very wise look, as if to say, "I know all about you, and I still love you."  She makes me happy.

Time Alone With my Husband.  In the mornings, early, my husband and I get up and work out together.  Then I make breakfast as he gets ready for work, and we get to have usually our only one on one conversation of the day.  The fact that he still likes to get up and talk to me says, "I know all about you, and I still love you."  Yes, there is a theme developing there.

Focusing on the things that make me happy never fails to make it a better day.  I think maybe I'll do it more often. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Jesus Had Some Pretty Whacked Ideas

Ok, get over the shock of the title, and admit it.  The guy went around saying we are supposed to love our enemies.  Not our friends, or even the many people we're neutral on, but our enemies.  I know I've always had difficulty with that, and I'm guessing some of you do too.  In fact, I used to just think that the whole notion was just plain stupid, until someone once pointed out to me that if you have an "enemy," that person isn't going to change for you, because they don't like you.  So you've got two choices:  either let the enmity keep on, with the drag it places on you; or, refuse to let them stay your 'enemy' by wishing them well.  You can maybe try to understand why they are the way they are.  You can skip that step entirely and just acknowledge that chances are, they're doing the best they can with where they find themselves.  But then, you just identify something that you are learning from the bad experience with them, thank them for the lesson, wish them the best, and let it go.

A tall order, no?  Well, if you're not ready for that one, try a simpler one with me today.  Just identify
one person you don't like much--a coworker, a relative with whom you've got a thorny relationship, a neighbor, a politician--doesn't matter who, and all day long, every time you think about them, send them a mental hug.    You'll feel better--trust me.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Changing the World Progress Report

It's Friday, the end of my first week of  my changing the world experiment, and I owe you a report on my progress. 

Saturday, I challenged myself to make a fuss over someone in a good way, to make them happy.  I took my girls to a local bagel place.  As we sat and ate, a couple with a little boy about 3 came in and sat across from us.  This little boy looked like he could be the ad for angels--cute, curly hair, a sweet little voice.  He was quiet and well-behaved and adorable.  I warned my girls that I was going to speak to them, and fearing embarrassment, they girls went quickly to the front door of the restaurant and pretended not to know me, even though everyone had seen me buy them breakfast not 15 minutes before.  So I walked over and I apologized for disturbing their breakfast, and told the little boy that he was the best behaved child I'd seen in a while and told him he deserved two thumbs, way up.  He grinned at me and did thumbs up back.  The parents smiled and thanked me.  I think their day was better than it would have been.  Megaphone for good, operational.

Also this week,  I had to take my daughter to our doctor's office to get a vaccination she needed for school.  When I made the appointment, I specifically told them we were bringing her in for the second vaccine of this type--that the first one was done last year in Iowa, before we moved here, and that the school had sent us a card saying she had to get the second one to enroll this year.  So we get there--a twenty minute drive from our house--and after waiting half an hour, we are told they can't give her the shot without her vaccination records, which are filed at our house because no one has told us we needed to bring them.  So here's the world-changing part--I didn't chew anyone out.  Not a single person.  Even though I had to drive twenty minutes home, and go back two hours later.  It caused me actual, physical pain to not act miffed at the inconvenience--to not tell someone that they really should warn people if they must have particular records in order to receive services, but I did it.  They apologized for the inconvenience and I said,  "I understand.  It's all right."   (!)

I allowed someone else to take a desireable parking place I was waiting for.  I waved her into the spot, backed up and took another further away.  She didn't give a thank you wave or say anything as I passed by her car on the way into the store. 

I smiled at strangers a lot.  I got a lot of puzzled looks, but also quite a few smiles back.  I made sure I told clerks in stores thank you and  to have a great day as I walked away.    They responded better than average.  I think retail clerks must be used to being treated like furniture, because many times, they would act a bit surprised to be thanked and well-wished, and thank me back.

I held a lot of doors open for people.  Most of them smiled and said thank you.

I commented on peoples' dogs a lot.  Out on my evening dog walks, rather than just say hi as other walkers passed, I began to comment on the dogs.  People really love their dogs--when you say how pretty or well-behaved someone's dog is, they ALWAYS smile big.  Gives me hope for humanity--someone who loves a dog can't be all bad.

Finally, I tried this week to just enjoy my life more.  I spent more time in the moment.  I tried to pay attention to how pretty my yard is when the sun is just coming up, how good the laundry smells when you're folding it, how tasty a cookie is, how pretty my girls' eyes are, how great it feels to get a hug from them,  and how wonderful it sounds to be called  'mama.'   

I think without my experiment, I would have considered this week to be distinctly average.   With it, I've caused a few extra smiles.  I refrained from ruining someone's day, and maybe more importantly, I slowed my mind enough to enjoy a few things that would have been there anyway, but I might have ignored. 

Changing the world, Week One:  B+

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Dash

My husband's father died this week, and my husband is off attending to the matters of death. Sitting and talking about this to my friend, she mused about how a person's entire life is reduced to a dash between a birthdate and a death date on a tombstone.

As poignant as that thought is, what's probably more important is what would be there if there were space to write it all up?

Most of us didn't invent any world changing machine or develop a cure for a disease. So without a huge thing to take up the space, we have to base our life evaluation on the way we lived in small ways, every day. That thought set me on my heels a bit. I thought how such an evaluation now, while there's time to change it, might serve as sort of a preliminary judgment day.   I decided to perform a "Life Hygiene Analysis." I asked myself some questions to determine what my 'dash' would look like if my life ended today.

Is my spouse glad that he married me, or wishing he hadn't? Do I act more like a helpmate and companion or a heckler and critic?

Do my friends say I'm a good friend? If each of them could tell a story of their most memorable moment with me, what story would they tell? Would I like to hear it?

Would my kids say I'm a good parent? Did I give them the time and attention they deserved, or was I too caught up the the harried details of day to day life to really tune in? Through my example, did I teach them how to love fully and be content or merely how to work and worry and grab for more stuff?

When I visited people, did they look forward to my arrival, or anxiously await my departure?

Did I take the time to enjoy the REAL wonders of the world--the ones that the Universe has provided for us every single day--like a baby's toothless smile, the wet kiss of a dog, the smell of cut grass or the rain, the feel of a cool breeze ruffling my hair on a hot day--or did I merely lurch mechanically from one task to another?

All in all, did I give more to the world than I took from it?

I think I did ok on most of this inventory. There were certainly times in my life when I didn't do as well as I do currently, but that's because I've grown. There are people whose impression of me is pretty lousy, but there would be more who'd provide a rebuttal on my behalf. As far as the balance of my own behavior, I think I've tipped the scales slightly in favor of the good. When you add in my contribution of my children, I'm confident that my positive influence grows substantially. I'm good with all of that, and I think I can forgive myself for most of the times where I've missed the mark.

The one question where the tears flowed as I gave myself this test was when I evaluated my ability to enjoy the tiny wonders of life. I too often overlook the abundant opportunities God has given me to feel extreme joy over ordinary things. I have taken far more time to muse over the problems of the world that I have to love the world, even with its problems. I have often treated as ordinary the extraordinary fact of life. I have walked, looked, or driven past the vast and amazing wonder that is the earth, and thought of it as somehow pedestrian. Of course I've been moved by the beauty of particular settings, but I needed to appreciate it more often and more deeply.

Maybe more than anything else, I realize that I've failed to appreciate that other people, for all their faults, are my fellow travellers in a Universal journey. They are here to learn and experience, just as I am. They will make mistakes, and they will sometimes learn their lessons, just as I do. They will screw up and they will redeem themselves, slightly and incrementally, as I have. And most of all, if they are incredibly lucky, they may come to appreciate the wonder of the life they've been given.

The dash between your birth and your death is a wonderful, glorious, beautiful, joyful, and amazing journey. May you enjoy and appreciate the wonder of yours.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Boogeyman

I remember when I was a kid being afraid of a couple of 'somethings.' One of them lived in the bushes outside my bedroom window. It would cast an eerie shadow in my room whenever the moon was right. It seemed to stand over me and lick its lips like it wanted to devour me. The other one lived under my bed. It would grab at my feet and pull me under the bed to eat me if I had to get up in the night.

I had my ways of dealing with the 'somethings.' When the one outside the window would rear its ugly head, I would snuggle down further in the bed and pull the covers up over my face so it couldn't see me. It was stupid and most of the time fell for my trick. But sometimes, I was convinced that it still knew I was there, and I would cower under my covers and imagine its creepy shadow playing on the covers over me, licking its lips. I would be frozen with fear and probably hyperventilating until either morning or sleep would catch up with me.

The one under the bed was even more troublesome. It could only reach so far and still stay within the protection of its lair. So if I really had to get up in the night, I would stand up on the edge of my bed, hunker down, and leap as far as I could out away from the bed. If I tried hard, I could land so far out that I could reach the small square entry area in front of the bedroom door--clearly outside the reach of the 'something.'

One time, I remember making a particularly good jump and actually hitting the door with a thud loud enough to bring my mother from the other side of the house. She asked me angrily what I was doing to make so much noise, and I told her I was avoiding the scary thing that lived under the bed. I wish I could do my mother impersonation in writing, but since I can't, you will just have to imagine the voice that for you would make you feel as small and invalid and stupid as is humanly possible. That voice said, "Leslie, don't be ridiculous! Get back in bed." I did.

After that, I was even more reticent about getting up in the night. If I really had to, I'd be careful to leap just far enough to evade the' something,' but not so far as to require a lot of racket in the landing. But I would try hard to not need to get out of bed. I would sometimes lie in bed for an hour, telling myself I didn't actually need to go to the bathroom. During those times, I would work myself into a lather, scared that the 'something' would figure out it could claw up through the mattress or that it would learn to slither up the side of the bed. In the end, I might wind up getting up and leaping to the bathroom or not, but I'd always spend a good part of the night scared to death.

Many years later, I told that story to someone and she said, "Oh you poor thing. You spent all that time afraid, and all you wanted was someone to take you by the hand and show you the bushes outside the window or the regular stuff under the bed, so you'd know not to be scared." I'd never, ever, thought of that, but she was right. I needed someone to gently, lovingly show me that it was my own mind I was scared of--not the roller skates under the bed or the bush outside the window.

My 'somethings' remind me of our society today. Our world is full of powerful, frightening boogeymen. The Republicans. The Democrats. The Bankers. The CEOs. The Poor People. The Environmentalists. The Illegal Immigrants. The Terrorists. The Muslims. Like my somethings, they are all actually regular, everyday sorts of things--things that were there all along and not too scary, until you start to think about them alone, in the middle of the night.

We desperately need for someone to act like my friend said--to calm us down and take us by the hand and show us that our 'somethings' are just normal stuff and we're only scared because it's the middle of the night and we've got a lot on our minds. Instead, what we get is either people cutting us down by saying that our fears are ridiculous and calling us names for expressing them, or people who exploit our fears and try to get us to vote for them because they're ready to go do battle with the 'something,' or try to sell us doomsday food kits in bright orange suitcases for a thousand smackers.

Well, in honor of scared children everywhere, let me be the one to say--it's all going to be ok if we'll just wake up and see that the 'somethings' are just ordinary stuff. It's our own minds we need to be scared of.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Anesthetic. Good for knee replacements, open heart surgery, and getting fillings. Really not good for our souls--But boy do we use a lot of them. We will do ANYTHING to not have to engage in real time with real people or real issues. Drugs and alcohol, compulsive eating, social media, and the vast array of electronic diversions.

Most of us claim that family is the most important thing in our lives, and yet too many rarely sit down and talk, play a game, or really enjoy our families. The pull of numbness is too strong--many people's 'family time' consists of dad playing a computer game while mom Facebooks and talks on her I-phone and the kids play Worlds of Warcraft on the PS3 while carrying on inane text conversations with 3 or 4 different people at a time. We act as if, when we recap our lives on our deathbeds that we're going to exclaim, "Damn, I can't go yet. I missed Season 6, Episode 22 of "The Bachelor!"


Both intellectually and in our hearts, I think we all know that we're lost in this anesthetic abyss, but we're kind of scared to tune back in. It might be a spiritual hog wallow, but it's ours, and it's grown comfortable.
I've believed for a long time that if people just shut down the electronics and other numbing devices for one hour a day and did something productive, or at least together, some seriously good stuff would happen here in the USA. Not only do our 'electronic drugs' shut off virtually all higher thought, but the vast majority of shows and electronic diversionary devices that are popular are not just numbing, they're negative. Too many commercials telling us we can't be happy with what we've already got. Too many people doing degrading stuff for reality game shows. Too much jiggle and violence and blood and guts and crude humor. Of course to avoid that, you could turn over to news, where you can get your fill of gloom and doom, politicians calling each other evil instead of just disagreeing on policy, multiple wars, fear mongering of all sorts, and garden variety murders. Wow. What an uplifting way to spend an evening--much less every evening.

My family and I got rid of TV several years ago. When I proposed this, you would have thought I'd suggested we all cut off a limb, but it was only painful for a bit, and it's been a great thing for our lives. We watch a very limited number of shows on the internet. We usually spend at least an hour an evening talking or playing cards or a game. I'm not going to suggest that is the right thing for everyone. But maybe you could try an experiment. Get your family all in the living room and turn off the tube, computer, cell phones and video games for one hour, one time, and see how awkward it is to actually have an undistracted conversation with your family. Just realize that the more it hurts, the more you need to do it again.