In our Indiana Home, Summer of 2011
I simply don’t know where to start this story. This story goes way back. Way, way back. Do I start in the Fall of 1985, during my first day at a new school, as a wickedly awkward 8th grader who knew almost no one? A really sweet girl named Rachel invited me to lunch with her friends, and I was never alone again. I went from being a bullied nerd, to being in a gang of uber-cool smart chicks, in one morning. Life-changing doesn’t begin to describe what it means to survive Middle School unscathed. I don’t need to tell you. You survived Middle School; you know exactly what I mean.
Do I start when Rachel and I reconnected 25 years later, and discovered we’d both become writers? Those were good times too. We had long conversations about our messages, our styles, and shared our stories with each other. Rachel was leaning towards starting a blog, and I thought it was a great idea (really? me? pro-blog? go figure…). Greg did the legwork, and voila! Hands Free Mama found a place to become a national movement.
Do I start the day she called and told me she had an agent, an editor, and a book deal? That was a really, really great day. I was in the school lobby, and had to walk outside because I was incapable of using my indoor voice. Some things you just know, and I always knew this day would come. Shortly thereafter her blog crashed from so much traffic, and she had to switch to professional blogging services. Rachel’s blog turned into pieces on Huffington Post, articles in Reader’s Digest and Good Housekeeping, and countless speaking engagements. The movement was moving alright, straight into its space in the sun. YES.
Do I start the day my preview copy of her book came in the mail, and I read my name, along with Greg’s, in the “Acknowledgement” section? Because I cried that day. That was a special day in being a small part of cheerleading this important message; a message whose time has come.
We’re parenting in a new world, my friends. I don’t need to tell you; you know exactly what I mean. Learning how to incorporate, ignore, use, and limit technology as parents and spouses is as complex as it is a slippery slope. Our children are looking to us as role models for what part technology will play in their interpersonal relationships, and yet, we have no history to guide us. My Mom was reasonably distracted with a phone cord that stretched around the entire house, and wasn’t to be interrupted while drinking her Tab Cola on the front porch with neighbors. But that’s nothing compared to the allure of my iPhone. I can talk ANYTIME. I can surf ANYWHERE. And you know what? Parenting can be dull and thankless. Technology is not. Therein lies the rub.
Rachel has shared her story in how she found balance in a hurried, overly distracted world. A world that tells us to be perfect, and to strive to be everything to everyone, at all times. It’s not easy for any of us, and it wasn’t easy for Rachel. She didn’t write a finger-wagging lecture about how we’re all doing it wrong. With a background in Special Education, Rachel has a gift for showing the way without ever indicating something is broken. Only a teacher who taught the most desperate of students could have the capacity to tell this story with so much love and non-judgement.
I especially appreciate that Rachel suggests very small changes. I’ve always thought habit changes are best eaten one tiny bite at a time. She doesn’t have lengthy checklists, instructing you to flush your iPad down the toilet. She won’t try to convince you to quit your career and move to a deserted island. In an attempt to summarize a few things I learned from Hands Free Mama: Rachel’s words reminded me of what saying “I’m sorry” to my children does to mend a relationship. She reminded me that grace moves mountains. Rachel’s book reminded me to look away from my writing and into Greg’s eyes when he speaks to me. She reminded me that respect changes relationships, one small conversation at a time. Her writing encouraged me to stand firm on my calendar, and create healthy white spaces of unscheduled time. Breathing room is critical to enjoying life. YES. I can never hear that reminder enough. And finally, Rachel’s book reminded me to show myself some grace and respect; to find the clues when I’m falling into distraction and perfection, and how I can easily snap myself back into the precious present.
So much of family life is about tiny decisions, day in, and day out. Finding ways to refill our tanks of love of forgiveness, and ways to dole those things back out into the world (and back into us) is tricky business. Hands Free Mama is a great guidebook, and I’m honored to have played a small part in its existence. Greg and I are humbled that God trusted us to be witnesses to this journey.
Picture courtesy of Hands Free Mama
If you know Rachel, you’ll see her smile shining out from every page. If you’d like to meet Rachel, and you live in or near Indianapolis, Indiana, you are IN LUCK! She is signing books and doing a reading at the River Crossing Barnes & Noble at 7 pm, this Tuesday, January 21st. For Indy folks, the short-hand term is “the one across from the Fashion Mall and on the corner with Cafe Patachou”. You’all just said, “Ah, yes, of course. That one.”
Greg and I will be there, with our highlighted and dog-eared copies in hand. We’d love to meet you. And Rachel, safe travels my friend. I’m am so glad I was right about this book being in your stars!! I guessed this one BIG TIME! CONGRATULATIONS!!! You boomeranged your joy out into the world, and watching it come back to you brings me so much joy. Godspeed, and may this be the first of many books to come.