What if child-rearing came with manuals?

You see I cannot take my child into the country. Work forbids it. With a child I could not find a place there…it will not be long before I come back. Will you keep my child for me?” 
–Fantine, Les Misérables

What Fantine experienced was commonplace in her time.  Of children born in 1875,  93,000 were abandoned, and one out of fourteen was illegitimate. There were hospices in every arrondissement in Paris, and the poor often could not afford their care, leaving children out on the streetsHomeless, Thomas Benjamin

Among the upper class, one would think life might have been a bit easier in terms of child-rearing, but often that was not the case.

For centuries children of the upper class were viewed as second-class citizens—property to be dressed and worked like adults. There were strict rules of conduct placed upon them. Upper-class children were afforded education, but that didn’t make their position in the family any higher. In aristocratic families, daughters learned their place in family and society from their mothers, and coldness and distance was the characteristic relationship between fathers and sons. A manual in 1886 titled, Well Brought Up Children instructed the children this way:

“When you have the honour to be admitted into the salons of your mothers, you must behave yourself in such a manner that they do not regret having accorded you this favour. You will, rightly, not dare present yourself in a salon without your gloves. Provincials are even more rigid observers of the etiquette than we.” Comtesse de Ferry, Les Enfants bein élevés- 1886

Its counterpart, a study titled Badly Brought Up Children, instructed that"Butterflies" by Frederick Steadway to be successful in child rearing was to be an authoritarian. “By the exercise of authority, one makes one’s sons respectful and men of duty.” This book argued that children had one instinct: a fear of being left to suffer.

On the opposite side of such literature, was Paul Janet who in 1861, praised intimacy in the family unit. He insisted this did not ruin the strength of a family but reinforced it. In years past children were neglected, respected only as far as roles of primogeniture. By Janet’s work, parents were seeking to win respect by love, not discipline (La Famille 1856). But like the above manual by Comtesse de Ferry, children remained an instrument for parental aspiration and social gain for years to come.

The transformation of the family began when children rose to a position of central importance in the home, after years of neglect and were accorded a basic right-of-life different from that of their parents—when children were allowed to be seen as children and not business tools. Before this shift, there was no social gain to being a good parent, or mar to being a bad one. The family was not a sentimental unit.

The increased attention families slowly took in their children did not mean overnight liberation from strict rules or preoccupied parents. Neglect was replaced with obsessive love (many of these manuals had opposing views) often resulting in increased demands on the children to act and behave as their parents desired. These manuals often were counterproductive. At first, it was preached that newborns should be purged, scheduled feedings were not needed, wet-nurses were preferred, and cold baths were a good thing. Then came the manual that said warmth was better, sex play, masturbation, and discovering their young bodies, bad.  Thumb sucking was a horrible thing. Heaven forbid you bite on anything while teething! Despite all this, a parent needed to show the child affection, but not too much! It would be wrong to overstimulate them. (Ryerson: Medical Advice on Rearing Children. 1550-1900)

There are many modern sources new parents use today. The “What to Expect” books, the “Happiest Baby Books,” and the millions of pamphlets given handed out by various childcare providers, doctors, teachers, organizations. However, I think there is a reason children shouldn’t come with manuals.

They will only eat the paper then demand a cookie chaser.

Bohemian Paris

Degenerates are not always criminals. Anarchist and pronounced lunatics; They are often authors and artists—Max Nordan, Degeneration.

I have spent the last several years in a dark and depressing world far below the Paris streets. I have been absorbed in researching the undergrounds of society to bring to life a man who was nota handsome Scotsman in a stunning a white half-mask as portrayed by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s popular movie. Leroux’s Erik was a passionate and unstable gentleman who hid his murderously vengeful ways in the counter-culture of Paris.

Jean Béraud “La Lettre”

The Bohemian movement prevalent in late 19thcentury Paris was a counter-culture effort to reject the values of mainstream society and mock the upwardly mobile bourgeoisie. While the Bohemian moment isn’t something that was ubiquitous in Leroux’s original novel it was a culture that influenced Paris in the Victorian era—whether you were a journalist, lawyer, aristocrat or artist. Those involved were not the upper class or the deviants of the underground, but writers, students, and artists who contented themselves with ignoring the social ladder-climbing around them. The terms “Boheme” and “Bohemian” came to denote a generation who hated the idea of a work ethic. Bohemians were portrayed as vagabonds, misfits, drunks, philosophers, and narcissists—the lifestyle

associated with idleness. Public opinion of the Bohemian movement solidified after du Maurier’s 1894 best-selling novel of Bohemian culture: Tribly. This body of work was used by Gaston Leroux to craft the original story of Erik—the Phantom.

Bohemians lived by their own sets of rules; they were wanderers of the most extreme extent. Social values weren’t their concern. Their lives were carefree events filled with drink, merriment, arts, and sexual freedom. They usually didn’t work and instead poured themselves into living solely for the sake of art and literature. Renouncing private property made them glaringly different from the bourgeoisie, a class that desired to achieve the status of the aristocracy. Members of the Bohemian culture shared this lifestyle with others in communal camps, an area I have had great delight in exploring in my body of works. Who can resist a vagabond who carries all his wealth with him and hangs his hat wherever the road may take him? It’s been fabulous crafting how this sort of life has impacted my characters in the 4thbook in my series.

A snapshot of a daily routine for a Bohemian might be to rise and work on a painting or poem. But the goal was not to be productive, instead to interact and enjoy one’s company. The night was pure entertainment hanging out in salons or seeking the latest sexual encounter.  You could spot a Bohemian, if the long hair and pockets overflowing with all they owned didn’t give it away, by their out-of-date fashions and bright colored clothing.

Bohemians weren’t just men; women joined the movement too. These Grisettesbecame a source of inspiration for many Bohemians. Grisetteswere young women usually of the countryside who headed to Paris to find work—but Bohemia found them. The allure of freedom called to these women. Women of the bohemian mindset didn’t want to be ruled by marriage, and it took a great deal for them to leave behind the stability that such a life might have offered. It was harder to break the ties with their former lives because women were encouraged to be respectable and upstanding individuals. They were carefree and longed for the best of both worlds: the money of the upper class and the thrill of being considered an equal in the eyes of the Bohemian man.

I think it would be a fascinating culture to explore if one was able to time-travel. Though, I think there are plenty of types of Bohemian lifestyles found in the 21stcentury!

The Day Updike Left Me Speechless

Certain shades should come with a warning label and pink plaid should be banned.

All I learned about networking I learned from John Updike’s pants.

Pants and a very annoying bird, to be exact… The pants were pink plaid, the bird a phoebe. As I stood before this author-of-greatness, chatting robotically about what sort of bird was nesting underneath the eaves of his porch, all I could think about were his pants. They were a crazy shade of pink. Like, Jersey shore salt-water taffy pink. My mind was a disorganized jumble of nonsensical thought, staring at this man’s pink nether regions when I should have been like that damn bird.

Phoebes are little birds with big attitudes. They’re not afraid to speak up and scream their name: PHOE-BEEEE! They fly around with their mouths open catching tidbits on mid- wing and glutting themselves on the result. Their acrobatics get noticed. Their voices are heard So when John Updike smiled at me our little chance encounter, happy with the information I gave him about his phoebe; he left me behind banging my head and cursing my ineptitude for organized thought.

I had just sent out my first query letter, and here I had the chance to chat about writing with a Pulitzer winner, and I wanted to run like a damn rabbit. Pun intended. Never again. Granted, Mr. Updike probably appreciated not being hounded by a new writer, and in hindsight, I learned a valuable lesson. What was the point in keeping my writing secret? How would I ever learn to progress my career if I didn’t speak up?

Annoying, arrogant little things but they know how to market themselves as a bird.

At this time I had been writing for a year, and no one knew. I knew networking was going to be a significant step in the business, but I was too scared to open my mouth and scream like that bloody bird. After learning a valuable lesson, and thinking I should grow a spine, I took my first networking plunge and called the president of a major New York publishing house. I had a way to that top rung of the ladder.  Here I was a new writer with an acquaintance in the business, one who I was on a first name basis with, and even he didn’t realize I was a writer. So I organized my thoughts, dialed his number and enjoyed a lengthy conversation where he told me, in polite terms, to scream like that blasted bird. Start marketing myself before I ever got published and I would be a leap ahead of the game.

He was right.

Why do unpublished writers hide in shadows cowering from industry professionals? The best thing an unpublished writer can learn is that published authors love to chat about their books and the journey into the trade. Owners of small presses are eager to discuss marketing. Presidents and CEO’s are not as unapproachable as one might think, and agents are on our side.

So what’s the first step in learning how to network correctly? Understand your GMC’s and know how to roll them off your tongue. No matter who you chose to network with, introduce yourself and ask a well-constructed question that is not only specific to their house need but your writing career as well. Don’t give them a reason for not replying; wow them with your professionalism and drive to write. Find your favorite author and contact them. It may take some time, but they may respond. List your credentials. Toot your horn. Tell them something you admire about their writing and ask that specific question. It has never failed for me. The key there is presenting yourself as someone who understands where they are going with their career and are professional about doing so. It separates the writers from the fans.

Don’t limit yourself to authors or publishing professionals. Think outside the box. Do you have your blog up yet? Your website? Establish a following with an excellent blog, and you will establish readers. I started mine with the idea of being the punching bag and guinea pig for new writers who wanted to know the dirty details of trying to publish. I promised readers I would list every triumph and every failure. It seems like a million years ago now. I was like that bird, not afraid to shout my name and admit what I was doing. My blog led to my first full request by an agent.

All it takes to market yourself correctly as an unpublished writer is a bit of confidence and the understanding that those big-wig bestselling authors were once greenhorns too. No one will get in the way of your writing career but you.

And if you love pink pants, wear them with a smile.




Punjab Lasso vs. Hangman’s Noose

It’s pre-order day!

This is the time I get excited for my readers. I love hearing from them before a release and learning about their excitement for their favorite story to be continued. In honor of Pursued By The Phantom’s pre-order. I thought I would do a quick Phantom related post.

Not a nice way to go, but not a Punjab lasso either…

This… is hangman’s noose.

It is not the “Punjab lasso,” at least not in this author’s book.

The lasso is Erik’s signature weapon, and I use it frequently throughout my books. Through the years and the many interpretations of Leroux’s Phantom, the lasso has changed as much as Erik’s hideous deformity (which in many adaptations isn’t a deformity at all). Webber popularized the image of a lariat and a hangman’s noose, which is very different from what  Leroux may have had in mind for his “Punjab lasso.”

In Leroux’s original novel, he emphasizes the amount of time Erik spent in India learning how to use this weapon:

Erik had lived in India and acquired an incredible skill in the art of strangulation. He would make them lock him into a courtyard to which they brought a warrior — usually, a man condemned to death — armed with a long pike and broadsword. Erik had only his lasso; and it was always just when the warrior thought that he was going to fell Erik with a tremendous blow that we heard the lasso whistle through the air. With a turn of the wrist, Erik tightened the noose round his adversary’s neck and, in this fashion, dragged him before the little sultana and her women, who sat looking from a window and applauding.

I love this cover. Just sayin’…


Leroux’s terminology  describes’s this lasso as fil du Pendjab, which means “Punjab thread” or depending on your translation, “cord” or “wire.”  In my novels, I describe it as a thin length of silk. It is in all likelihood that Leroux was referring to the Thuggee tribes in  India that killed by the manner of strangulation as described in the quote above. These “Stranglers” were feared and sensationalized in French culture during the time of Leroux’s writings.

The idea of, “Keep your hand at the level of your eyes,” would do little good against a hangman’s noose, which serves to snap the neck with the aid of gravity. I would imagine doing so may break your wrist as well. I don’t know. I’ve never been hanged….

However, the hand at the level of the eyes defense works wonders against the Punjab lasso:

 My pistols could serve no purpose, for Erik was not likely to show himself; but Erik could always strangle us. I had no time to explain all this to the viscount; besides, there was nothing to be gained by complicating the position. I simply told M. de Chagny to keep his hand at the level of his eyes, with the arm bent, as though waiting for the command to fire. With his victim in this attitude, it is impossible even for the most expert strangler to throw the lasso with advantage. It catches you not only round the neck, but also round the arm or hand. This enables you easily to unloose the lasso, which then becomes harmless.

So, there you have it. A bit of gruesome insight into the way our beloved Erik preferred to kill.

Ah… Happy Valentine’s Day? Speaking of Valentine’s Day, if you are new to my series, pick up a copy of Desired by the Phantom at a special price for a limited time only!

Vulnerability looks like a cat scared s***less.

You know the look.

I once got“the look.”

You know… the look you get when you may have over shared. I’m at a place in life where I can be open about my OCD, my faith and the history that created their journey together.  It’s my hope by doing so I can help someone else overcome the stigma of saying they are afraid to be vulnerable and authentic and overcome the fear of having a silent illness, whatever theirs may be.

I’m versed in emotional intelligence. I take a lot of training on it for the work I do; however, not enough to make me any sort of expert but enough that I can use it daily.   After being in a training for awhile, I shared a thought with my workshop partner, a total stranger until this class. We were speaking on how personalities can get in the way of critical conversations and brainstorming strategies to overcome that roadblock. I shared that I’ve been told that when people first meet me I seemed cold.  Once they came to know me though, they shared they were happy to find I was the complete opposite.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.~Psalm 34:4-5

What they didn’t know upon their first introduction to me is that I have a mental illness. My silence is nothing more than finding a safe place for my mind to be. I have to study people and new situations to make sure I’m comfortable with all of it.  The last thing I want is to be triggered into a state that has me in tears and a cycle of obsession. My workshop partner looked at me as if to say, “you’re mentally ill?” I could tell by his expression and body language that he was trying to figure out how he didn’t know that from day one.

It doesn’t work that way with the silent diseases. I lay odds that society has no idea how many people suffer from mental illness because it is not always obvious, especially with Pure O.  Frankly, it’s not always comfortable to be candid and admit my OCD diagnosis.  But I think it’s vital.

Later my partner asked if I thought the seating assignments would be rearranged for the next class. I said I hoped not because I’m not a huge fan of change once I get things organized in my mind.  I’d have to get used to the differences and spend time getting comfortable all over again.

He laughed and said, “I hate it too. Things like that are what really stirs up my–”

GASP! She is NOT blogging about THOSE topics! The horror

…. and it’s that pause that is so essential. The odds are he was going to say “his OCD” for it looked like he had it perched on his lips and the tell- tale emphasis he placed on  “my” is usually a dead giveaway.  If I had a dime for every time someone used OCD as a designer term for a quirk or a preference, I’d be a millionaire. Only on a rare few occasions have I met someone who legitimately shared my struggle. Instead, he stopped, regrouped, and said it “bugs” him.

I’m left to wonder…. was he one of the millions out there suffering and unable to trust vulnerability enough to share it? Or was he one of the few to learn that this is a serious illness and deserves respect? If it’s the former, I hope my vulnerability helps him find the courage to speak his story. If the latter, kudos and thanks for rephrasing.

I show my vulnerability to helps others. I’ve seen the power speaking out can have in finding a path to healing. I show my soul to prove what abilities hide in the weaknesses we THINK we have. Shame can be turned into a strength if all trust and faith are placed in God.  I’m vulnerable here on my blog, using a platform that is for my career as a writer to speak about OCD and my faith. There are some out there that would say I am wrong to do that here and I’d alienate readers by not being “PC” and mum on such topics.

I’ve my corner of the web and I intend to use it.

Let’s speak honestly and say that all struggles come with a healthy dose of shame. Stepping outside of that prison and sharing a story can open doors.  Just… share it truthfully. Don’t hide behind false social media profiles, phony pictures of yourself or bogus stories about your life. Leave your story to be yours sans embellishments to hide your shame or fear.  I believe we need to be in authentic relationships with our neighbors in the hope that ignorance ends and awareness begins.

Don’t have it? Don’t own it.

Here’s the thing.  If you don’t have it, don’t own it.

This post has been on my mind for awhile now. It gets under my skin when folks mirror those with OCD, thinking that at some level their idiosyncratic ways are the same as having a diagnosis.

It’s not.

They way to relate to a person with a mental illness is just to be who you are. I respect that more.  There is zero need to exclaim how you are “so OCD” yourself.  Saying that is a dead give away that you do not have the disorder and in no way creates empathy. Sharing stories of how you prefer things neat or how stressed you may get when things don’t match, without sharing the level of devastation created in the wake of your obsessive thoughts (not to mention what your mind and body were forced to do to find relief), creates skepticism, distance, and mistrust.  I’ve met folks who toss around that they have OCD as a method to excuse away their habits or explain their quirky behavior.  They do this even though they know I have Pure O. Perhaps they have some form of anxiety, which is painful enough as is,  yet respect the disorder and the diagnosis by not tossing it around as a casual term if you don’t know—concretely—that you suffer with it.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you ~1 Peter 5:6

Help end stigma.  Mental illness, and especially OCD, is stigmatized too much as it is and using the disorder as a global label is damaging.  Diagnosing OCD is a lengthy process.  It cannot be self-assessed and it requires psychiatric evaluation and treatment.

I’m blessed. My Pure O is being controlled (it’s a daily process) and, in my opinion, mild compared to others who suffer the same. I think that is why I can stand up as I do and speak out like this.

Just be who you are. That’s far more respectable.

Flirting with Death: The role of the mother and father in Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera

Image by Greg Hildebrant in his illustrated edition of Phantom of the Opera. Find this book, find it now!

I have a confession to make that should be obvious to those who have read my Phantom series or follow me on Facebook. I am a firm believer that the idea of a relationship between Erik and Christine would not have been healthy. This stems from the original novel and the unhealthy love between Erik and Christine born from the idea of the mother/son and father/daughter relationship that Leroux crafted into this pairing.

First off let me say that the age difference between Erik and Christine doesn’t bother me in the original novel; however, it does in the stage show and especially in Webber’s movie. In both adaptations, Erik and Christine were portrayed as too young, although the stage show was slightly was closer to the novel in that. Leroux’s age difference of an assumed 50-year-old man and an assumed 16-year-old girl was natural in the mid to late 19th century. Many men, especially those of the aristocracy, did not marry until well into their 40’s and often with women many years their junior. So while historically that isn’t an issue, the moral implication it bears on a modern-day reader is. The reader sees Erik as a man old enough to be Christine’s father who is pursuing her with a need for object and maternal love.

Erik clearly had issues with his mother whether spoken or unspoken. His home beneath the opera house was not the image most in the Phandom think of thanks to Webber’s movie interpretation of it: a cluttered, cavernous, lakeside cave. In the original novel, it was a house with all the natural amenities a house has. Erik’s primary possessions were his mother’s furniture stored in a room that was nothing short of a shrine to what was left of his relationship with her. This is the very room he gave to Christine and the same room that was filled with Freudian indicators of masculinity and sexuality.

Michangelo was genius.

He tells the Persian he was moved to tears (or as some believe redemption) when Christine held him in the final “Pieta” scene. For those of you not familiar with the “Pieta” by Michelangelo, it is a famous sculpture of the Virgin Mary (here the virginal Christine) holding her dying son, Jesus Christ (here the already “dead” Erik). In the novel the position as Christine leans down to cradle Erik after allowing him to kiss her forehead, therefore mingling their tears (maternal fluids according to Freud) is very similar to the pose of this famous portrait of mother and son.

Christine associating Erik as a father figure is far more believable. The idea of a young girl hero-worshiping an older man is a theme familiar with many ideas of a father/daughter relationship. From the beginning, Christine was in love with the idea that her beloved father, with whom she was extraordinarily close, promised her the “Angel of Music” upon his untimely death. Erik becomes for Christine the living vision of her dead father. While not an actual angel, Erik was a musician with an angelic voice in addition to being a walking embodiment of death. For Christine, this translated into a reincarnation of all her father was returning in another form for her to love and worship.

Some may think it a stretch to believe that anyone would love a walking corpse or even yearn for a physical and sexual connection with it, especially if it reminds us of our fathers. In art history, “Death” plays a major role as both a father figure and a sexual seducer of young women. Many paintings and sculptures depict Death either teaching or luring maidens with enticing gifts, music, or just good ‘ole seductive looks. Death was the ultimate and attainable, albeit unwanted, element to life. Even today you hear of people “flirting with death.” Why? Is it so alluring because they want to actually die, or because the idea it conjures up of being able to conquer and overpower death?

Christine being seduced by the reincarnation of her father and being lured into a quasi-incestuous relationship was, in a way, “flirting with death” and the power and control it portrayed.

The Violence Question

Horrible events have occurred here in the United States in the last few months in such rapid succession it is hard to comprehend. From a mass shooting in Las Vegas, to an ISIS driven attack in New York City to the most recent mass shooting at a small town Baptist church in Texas and a school shooting in California. While I know this blog is usually about updates to my books, it is also about my life and thoughts. Authors are not immune to the sadness and fears of the world even though we spend so much time in fantasy. It leaves me thinking of my huge church where inside hundreds of family members gather weekly and daily to serve Christ. I fear for our safety, yet then I remember how many times in the Bible God tells us not to fear.

Its 365 times. By God’s design there are 365 days in a year. Not a coincidence.

Times like this lift up the question, “Why does God allow such horror?” If you’re like me and a Christian, you’ll get asked that in your lifetime. So I remember that in times like this…. God weeps.

God isn’t allowing this suffering to happen. This horror and pain entered the world on the back of sin in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve chose sin over God’s loving guidance. The next question that will come flying at a Christian is, “Then why did He allow sin into the world?”

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. ~John 16:33

That’s when Christians tackle the tough task of explaining how God loves us and how He wanted us to have free will. In order to be in a unique relationship with every son and daughter He has, He gave us individual choice. Without that, we’d be carbon copies of one another, marionettes for God instead of children of God. With our freedoms we have the ability, daily, to choose God’s love or to choose not to love.

“Then why can’t God just stop it all?”

The truth is, in my opinion, God surely can. Just as He opened his mouth and spoke light into existence He can speak sin out of existence. But then… when would God be able to stop? Take away one sin there is still another to deal with, then another, and another, and soon a world of sin to discipline. Pretty soon humans are nothing more than those marionettes with God constantly intervening to correct our thoughts and movements, instead of humans learning from our free choices.

Look at it this way, as children didn’t we learn from our mistakes? A parent who constantly scolds and corrects the bad action of a child isn’t teaching in my opinion, they’re merely controlling the child’s actions. If children behave there is no need to correct them, yet once they misbehave then the correction must occur. It’s a learned process to do the right thing. Had sin not entered the world when it did, learning right from wrong wouldn’t be an issue. The world would have known only right, good, and love.

God’s world.

Now I consider the fallen world I live in since sin entered and look at my neighbor. Would I rather be exactly like them, in all ways, the good, bad and ugly or have the ability to choose how I want to behave? Would you want to be controlled, or free?

“But He took care of getting rid of sin early in the Bible, so why not now? Answer that one!”

When the world was created, when Mankind was just taking its baby steps, there were a lot of miraculous ways God showed His power. He had to. In order for the race He created to understand His great love, and their mistakes, God had to perform many signs of His power, even if it meant things like the Great Flood. Today… He doesn’t have to. His great faith is evident in the millions of followers of Jesus worldwide.

I sadly heard one morning that someone somewhere said loud enough for the news to pick up on it, that praying at times like this doesn’t control or change anything so why bother. I’ve even been told myself that God can’t change things. That was one of the saddest statements ever said to me, and I disagree. It doesn’t make tragedies easier to endure knowing about free choice. But understanding that God gave me a will of my own can help me, and others, pray over tragedy. Pray that those impacted have hearts that remain rooted in the love of God, and that God’s spiritual warfare is present in their lives so that Satan doesn’t get a grip on them in the wake of their sadness. Just as the horrible choices of one person changed the lives of the victims and their families and friends forever, their individual choices after a tragedy can have impact good or bad too. Do I  want them to fall prey to all the horrible feelings Satan wants them to experience in this time, or do I want a hedge of protection to envelope them to know God’s loving guidance even more? I think many would agree with me over which is the better choice.

God wants us to use our free will to make the right choices. He wants us to choose to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples. We have the choice to pray for the sinners of this earth to turn to Christ so other horrific events don’t happen. So, praying in my opinion changes everything.

When we weep, God weeps too. Spiritual growth occurs in the valley and in that sorrow His love endures.

Something to ponder as I write.


Really… stop looking at your phone and make eye contact!

“Literary fiction exercises a reader’s imagination in matters of character and emotional nuances.” ~Sherry Turkle

When was the last time you noticed emotional nuances? The reply should be just now, or two minutes ago, or whatever is the last amount of time you spent in the room with another person. Every second we stand before another person we are giving off emotional cues about our inner, unspoken feelings that add to the conversation and our ability to build empathy. That is totally lost in the digital age.  By spending so much time with screens in front of our faces we lose out on the nuances of body language.

Imagine  this: Lets say we are sitting together in a room and you declare  “Let’s go see The Shack!”   I slap my hand down on the arm of my chair, point to the ceiling,  nod and say “Great. Lets do that. What time?”  What feeling do you get? Lets say instead, I reply by rolling my eyes, hanging my head to my shoulder, stare at the floor, then say “Great. Lets do that. What time?”  What feeling do you get?

In the first instance, body language would show enthusiasm and engagement; in the second disengagement, boredom, maybe even disgust.

Now imagine a screen in front of you and you type the same question to the person on the opposite end. All you see are letters forming the words, “Great. Lets do that. What time?”  Sans any visual clues you have zero idea of what is really being thought and felt. Without this type of engagement, where we get to read another person’s body cues, there is only so far empathy can build. It’s common knowledge that using all caps means someone is yelling at you–but are they really angry? Can you see their pupils dilate or their fists clench? If you type something funny is the person really “ROTFL” or are they sitting there stone-face, bored and saying that to humor you?  A problems existing in today’s world is that folks are forgetting the importance of being together. What suffers is empathy. Reading body language builds connection.

Turkle wrote of something called “disconnection anxiety.” That’s a phenomenon of when people who are always plugged in to there phones, emails, or computers finally get to be alone–they can’t handle it. Concentration suffers, boredom sets and the fear of falling off the radar becomes too much. Alone–is the worst thing possible. When there is a constants stream of  blogs to read, emails to check and things to like on Facebook or Twitter, there is little time being spent on just being quiet enough to understand the benefits of true solitude.

Too much time spent focused online or on phones leads to an inability to take time for oneself. And, if one cant take time for oneself, how can they take time for another?

Something to ponder as Lent continues….

crossposted over at Strong Finds Power

The Shack Weekend

I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for a long while. The Shack has finally released.

I can testify that there is no relationship on earth quite like the one we have with God, through Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit.  When I first read The Shack I thought it was a good book, but didn’t really understand it. The ideas and concepts confused me even thought I grew up in the church. I wasn’t ready to hear what the book had to say. I was reading it for the wrong reasons. It was something trendy to do, since Oprah recommended it. It wasn’t until 2015 when I needed  and turned to God the most, that I re-read it…. and it made more than sense, it made the way to understanding my faith easier.

I was once told God didn’t have “time” to listen to prayers when I prayed for my needs, only when I prayed for the needs of others. I know this is wrong now for I know where to find my support first and foremost in the scripture. Matthew 7:7  says: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” The Shack helped me see that God has time for every prayer. I turned more away from misguided thoughts and more to opening my heart and mind to understanding my relationship with God, through prayer. He wants to hear from me and I from Him.  He is always speaking…

I hope everyone welcomes this book into their lives.  It may be the start to a new understanding…