Want to connect on my new site?

Hey everybody, guess what? I’ve got a new website! I broke up with WordPress.com and am now over at Cara Meredith.com. I won’t be updating this old WordPress blog anymore, but I’d sure love to connect with you via my new blog!

Please check out the new CaraMeredith.com site here and subscribe by email to stay connected!

Thanks!

Cara

summer reading, yo.

Here ye, here ye: summer reading is here!

And friends, the possibilities are endless. The pages are infinite. The places with which we can curl up and read – with a worn paperback, under the covers with our Kindle, with earbuds in while we wash the dishes – are divine. 

So, what are you reading?

Here’s a look at eleven books I’m eager to devour this summer:

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And you know what? I didn’t even mean to strategically place my wedding picture next to the stack, but since you asked, here’s me and the HBH (Hot Black Husband) straight up now tell me, marriage-style:

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We’re pretty fierce. (See also: I am so good at doing The Robot, face included. See also: so is he. He’s just a super smiley, posing robot).

But, the books. Back to the books.

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: hailed by Hollywood Housewife as one of her favorite books on parenting, I’ve had it on my list for awhile and now find it highly appropriate given the number of Batman Band-Aids we go through on a weekly basis.

Vinegar GirlI’m actually reading this for the Englewood Review, which is utterly delightful to my book nerd brain. And even better, it’s a rewrite of The Taming of the Shrewwhich is one of my favorite Shakespearean plays.

Ethan Frome: This is my reread of the summer, which is a Really Big Deal, people. I don’t usually reread books, but once upon a time I remember loving Edith Wharton’s book, so I’m going to cozy up with it again soon.

The Real Thing: Originally a pick for the Shalom Book Club (which we later changed to The Knockoff)I’d already purchased it and then got all gushy about reading it, given all the weddings we’re going to this summer.

The Color of WaterThis has been at the top of my list for awhile now, as it’s a black man’s letter to his white mother. I can’t tell you how many people have recommended it to me, and given (my own) book content, I have a feeling it’s going to be rather influential.

Stiff: I know, random. I am generally not one for dead bodies, although I did watch a fair amount of Law and Order: SVU in my (knocked-up) days. But my cousins told me to read it, so when the cousins say you should do something, you do it.

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Roadmap to Reconciliation: Technically a fall pick for the Shalom Book Club, I heard Brenda Salter McNeil speak a month and a half ago in town, and I tell you what: I cannot wait any longer. Powerhouse, y’all. Please join me.

America’s Original Sin: I also got to hear Jim Wallis speak in San Francisco a couple of months ago, and he too is changing the way America talks about race. This is particularly fascinating given that, well, he’s white.

The NestOne of Modern Mrs. Darcy’s top five minimalist summer reading recommendations, I was originally going to read this on Audible but could not get enough of the cover. It’s gorgeous, y’all.

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I mean, it’s so gorgeous you could display it on your mantle.

[What? You don’t display books on your mantle? Too classy for such book wormery? Also, spell check keeps telling me that “wormery” is not a word. For purposes of this post, I choose to disagree.]

The Knockoff: as mentioned above, this is one of our Shalom Book Club (the book club podcast) summer reads. If you liked The Devil Wears Prada , I hear you will LOVE this pick. Join us!

The Pocketknife Bible: And this one is just for fun. For kicks. For giggles. It’s from the best friend, and it’s full of pictures, and I hear I might just get something out of it. (You may now equate “cousins” with “best friend”: I take my recommendations from those who know me best quite seriously).

So, that’s it. My Audible queue is packed with additional reads and I just requested a bunch of books in Overdrive (the library’s borrowing system), so I can keep my Kindle full of mostly fiction reads. I’m also reading several books for review, so be on the look out for further thoughts throughout the summer.

Finally, if you need more ideas for summer reading bliss, consider one of the following:

Happy reading!

So, what else would you add? Want to join me on any of the above books? Are you in deep hatred of any of the aforementioned books as well? Dive in, do tell!

*Post contains Amazon Affiliate links, yo!

what do you do in your spare time?

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This is my friend Lily. She doesn’t normally look that good in pictures, but then again, I don’t either. But one thing I love about this woman is that she’s really, really good at setting boundaries. She’s good at not making work her life, and she’s good at having an answer to the simple question, “What do you do in your spare time?”

So I wrote an article about this question of spare time, and I happen to feature Lily in it. Click here to read it in its entirety!

A couple of weeks ago, I sat with a friend on my couch, a steaming pot of peppermint loose leaf tea on the coffee table in front of us. It was our first meeting as mentor and mentee.

“So,” I asked her, “what do you do in your spare time?” She looked at me and laughed.

“Spare time? What spare time? I hang out with kids—that’s what I do in my spare time!” She smiled and nodded, eager for affirmation, I suppose. Maybe she thought I’d be proud of her choice to knock it out of the ballpark for the kingdom of God. After all, she not only worked in full-time youth ministry, but also volunteered all her extra hours for the same ministry. This was the expectation she placed on herself and on her volunteer leaders.

“Yeah, I get it,” I replied. “But I don’t think it’s the best choice.” The smile faded from her face. I mulled over how best to explain the can of worms I’d just opened. How could I let her know that I’d been there before, that I’d let ministry not just be a lifestyle but my life?

It’s so important for all of us (whether we’re in ministry or not) to have a life outside of work. We need to be able to answer that spare time question. Click here to read the rest of the article!

I’ve got one question for you: what do YOU do in your spare time?

 

where in you promise not to hold the world in your head, any longer.

Sometimes I think I can keep it all in my head.

“It,” of course, meaning doctor’s appointments, book interviews, chapter ideas, middle of the night epiphanies, babysitting hours, friend dates, dinner dates, wedding dates, wedding shower dates, birthday parties, camping trips, article deadlines, blog post ideas, blogging “next step” ideas, writing air dates, places to query, podcast ideas, books to read, needed Target/Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods items …and on and on the list goes.

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Until I can’t.

Take today, for instance. I had a sitter lined up from 12-5, so the day started with a lunch date at Cholita Linda’s (in which I brought my own lettuce and dressing to go with their carnitas. I’ve become that person. I am not ashamed). After lunch with a friend whose words I could take notes on they’re so good, I headed home to write. Because sometimes, even when I can get out of the house, I don’t want to spend money on an overpriced cup of tea and $2 an hour parking meters. I don’t want to sit in the Target Home & Garden section, pretending fluorescent lights aren’t luminescent above me while I write on my laptop.

So it’s kind of nice to drink a free cup of tea in the leather chair in your bedroom. It’s kind of nice when other people watch your shrieking children in the next room over. It’s kind of nice to feel normal and grown-up and adult in your own space.

But sometimes all that adulting takes its toll. 

You think you’re on top of it. You think your acupuncture appointment is at four o’clock, like it’s been for the past three weeks. You think you have time to read a chapter or two in the book you’re reviewing, and you think you may even be able to respond to the hoard of emails you’ve fallen so desperately behind on.

So you read and you dilly dally. You relish in this time to yourself, even if you should be stepping out into the sunshine, at least writing at the coffee shop down the street.

But then you shake your head for shoulding yourself, and you tell yourself that you’ll never, ever be someone who shoulds – not to yourself, not to others, not to your family.

(Insert Tina Fey meme into the blog post, now…)

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(Carry on, please). 

And you even have the grand idea, at 3:45 pm, to ride your bike to the office, because wouldn’t that be glorious? Wouldn’t a six minute ride in the sunshine be glorious? Wouldn’t the acupuncturist be proud of you for partaking of exercise and general feel-goodness of it all?

You pat yourself on the back. You ride your bike. You take the elevator, with said bike, up to the fourth floor. You walk into the office, ready to own all those miniature needles stuck all over your body to help with that middle of the night back pain you crave might end. And it’s true: you own it, you do, you do!

You are on top of the world, rockstar!

You are woman, hear you roar!

You ask the receptionist where you should park your bike (because, of course, you didn’t remember to bring a bike lock, but let’s go back to point A: you look good walking your bike into the acupuncturist’s office!)

And she gives you that millennial look: you know, the one that’s half disengaged, half uncaring, half annoyed with your general existence.

(Insert the trailer for The Great Indoors, coming to CBS this fall). 

(Resume).

But there’s something else she wants to say. Something you can’t quite read as you look for a place to park your gargantuan (but really, really good looking) red beast of a bike.

“Um, did you get our message?” she asks you.

“Huh?” you say in reply, for you’ve been riding your bike! You’ve been basking in the sunshine! You’ve been keeping it all in your head!

“Your appointment was at 3:20. It’s almost four o’clock.” She pauses. “And there’s a fee for missed or late appointments.”

You look at your phone, which holds your schedule, which you didn’t dare consult because why should you? It’s all in your head. You know your appointment’s at four o’clock, like it’s been every other week.

Until now.

Until it wasn’t.

Until the acupuncturist has a previously scheduled four o’clock appointment.

You look at the millennial. She looks at you. You put your helmet back on your head. She asks for your credit card. You shake your head, no. You’re not gonna do it. You’re there. You showed up. You just had a different time written on the calendar in your head.

She looks at you. Her jaw hangs open, like the dentist is straight-up looking at her teeth.

You walk out the door and hit the elevator button so you can journey back down four floors. You wonder if you made the right decision – refusing to pay, that is – but then, when the acupuncturist personally calls you a couple of hours later and offers you grace, grace, grace by way of waving the fee, you heave a sigh of relief.

Not because you got your way. But because this is one last thing you have to hold.

(And then you do what you should have done all along: you promise to consult your calendar every day. You promise not to hold the world in your head. And you promise to do unto others as others have done unto you: you promise to offer grace and extend kindness, both to those who deserve it and to those who don’t). 

Like me.

So. What say you? Have you ever tried to hold the world in your head and then failed miserably? I’d love to hear your story. Do tell!

esperanza rising (book club podcast #3).

Book club podcast, book club podcast!

What fun to read Esperanza Risinby Pam Munoz Ryan with many of you this last month. Even more fun was to discuss it with my favorite book club partner last week on the podcast.

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So, did you read the book with us?

What parts of this YA/middle grade book did you love, and what drove you crazy?

And how did reading a children’s book enlighten you in issues of immigration and migrant workers and those you may have “othered” in the best of ways?

Click here to listen to the podcast and view all the show notes, or (better yet!) head over to iTunes and subscribe to Osheta’s brainchild, the Shalom in the City podcast. Otherwise, if you have further thoughts, join the conversation and leave a comment below.

Finally, join us for the June book club podcast by reading Lauren Winner’s Wearing GodY’all, Winner is magical. I want to carry a little bit of her brilliance and wit around in my pocket, so do join us in reading her latest book in the coming month (especially, I’d add, if you practice the Christian or Jewish faith). Also, be sure to check out the updated book club books for July and August, as we’ve made some changes to the reading schedule.

Happy reading!

So, Esperanza Rising: did you read it? How did Pam Munoz Ryan’s words change you from the inside out? What other children’s books have you read that have had a major impact on your life? 

 

getting my omnivore on.

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I’ve been rather omnivorous lately.

Omnivores, as you may recall from seventh grade Life Science class, feed on both plants and animals. While someone might be omnivorous and be known to feed on just about anything in sight, omnivores aren’t likely to gorge on margherita pizza.

Or drink a glass of wine after dinner.

Or relish in a plate full of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, fresh out of the oven.

Ugh. 

My own adventures in omnivore-like eating have stemmed from participating in the Whole 30 elimination diet this past month. By the time some of you read this post, I’ll slowly be reintroducing dairy and alcohol, grains and legumes and sugar into my diet. Hopefully, I’ll continue with the eating habits I learned during the 30-day period. And hopefully, selfishly, pretty please little baby Jesus, I’ll find that I can continue to eat my three favorite food groups (bread, cheese and wine), when the reintroduction phase passes.

But more than anything, I want not to forget the renewal I’ve experienced through food this past month.

do not fret, there’s more, there’s more! Head on over to The Mudroom to read the rest of this post. Otherwise, how have you recently experienced renewal, through your body, your soul, your heart, your mind? Do tell! 

an interview with author kristalyn simler (& win a book!)

As you may have come to realize, Tuesdays are days for guest writers on the ol’ blog. And today is no exception. Although it’s not technically about this year’s theme of “holy curiosity,” it’s a holy curiosity in and of itself that my friend and newly minted author Kristalyn Simler has a book to share! So, read this interview with her, then leave a comment below to win a copy of Send me a Postcard. Enjoy! 

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Kristalyn, I’m so glad you’re here today! Tell us a bit about yourself, will you? I’m 5’4″. I’m married to a real cool guy and we’ve got two snazzy kids. My favorite color is brown and dessert is my favorite meal of the day.

And what then is Send Me a Postcard about? Gloriana Lopez and her travails of living in a small town, falling in love, kissing, heartbreak, friendship and redemption.

What was the inspiration behind the book? My half-sisters, Mexican food, and teen angst.
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Kristalyn & her half-sisters.

What do you hope readers will come away after reading your novel? A little more empathy, a lot more hope and perhaps a hankering for tamales.

How is it that you landed in the YA (young adult) genre? I’ve had the crazy honor to work and volunteer with teens and tweens since college. They have a special place in my heart.

What about the writing process gives you life? All of it, except maybe editing the 22nd time around. I get giggly when I get to sit down and write.

Any tips for new writers, or for those who haven’t published before? Be patient, give yourself grace, don’t get your identity from anyone else (especially agents that reject you), ask questions, drink chai or horchata (has just the right amount of sugar to keep you going), write fast and spell check later.

How do you fit writing into your everyday life now? Very creatively. I’m a flight attendant (for my “real” job) so I keep a journal in my luggage – I have a lot of ideas and character inspirations, so I need to write them down so I don’t forget them, and computers aren’t allowed on the jump seat!

Better readers make better writers: what are you reading right now? Everything – just picked up Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave and Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley from the library. I love the library.

And do you have any inklings toward your next book that you can tell us about? I want to flesh out a few other characters in “Send Me a Postcard” – so perhaps a few novellas – Jose, Teresa, Katina, Pili, Luca… There’s also a good chance I’ll be writing about some of my adventures in the air.

Anything else you’d like to say to the studio audience? Thank you for supporting a debut author!

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Here’s a picture of Kristalyn and her darling family …and I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that they’re some of my favorites! So, how did Kristalyn’s words encourage you today? Leave a comment and win a copy of Send me a Postcard. Winner will be picked on Monday, May 30th. 

 

doing the only thing we can do.

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I used to climb mountains in my spare time.

My best friend Lizzy and I would load our dogs, Bruce (hers) and Mr. Darcy (mine), into her Forerunner. Driving into the middle of the forest we’d scour sides of the highway, looking for mile markers, for any indication to confirm we’d finally arrived.

We’d lather ourselves in sunscreen, in case there came a break in between the gargantuan Douglas fir covering, and then we’d set off. At first we kept the dogs on leash—after all it was what we were supposed to do in the middle of the woods—but soon the packs we carried on our backs would begin to wedge into our sides, and between pulling dogs and wedging packs, we’d look at each other and nod. It was time to let the dogs free.

Soon, our canine bosom buddies would be chasing each other up and down trails and ravines and creeks. As for me, I’d be free of one entanglement for a few more minutes—until my skin grew raw and my breathing turned heavy and my legs felt like clod-hopping dead weights somehow still attached to the upper half of my body.

And we weren’t even a quarter of the way into the day’s hike at that point.

That’s when it would happen: I wouldn’t know how I could go on. Letting my imagination wander (as it inevitably always does), I’d wonder how whether or not I’d even get out of the forest alive. I’d thank the Good Lord Above for this time I did have on the earth, for this adventure I did get to journey on in the middle of creation.

“Woe is me!” I’d lament dramatically between labored breaths, to anyone—namely Lizzy, the only one there—who’d listen

She’d laugh, and then she’d do and said what she always did and said:

“Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Just keep moving forward.”

I’d love for you to continue reading the rest of the post, for you KNOW there’s more. Click here and head over to She Loves Magazine for how Lizzy’s advice don’t just apply to the top of a mountain. Otherwise, when have you needed to just keep putting one foot in front of the other? 

holy curiosity: everyday questions (kristen rudd).

Oh friends, today’s post on holy curiosity really gets to the simple heart of it. The educator in me loves Kristen’s words, and the lover of snarky, sassy side comments loves the way her brain thinks. Read, enjoy and show her some love below! 

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“Only the careless and unskilled teacher answers questions before they are asked. The teacher’s chief task is to provoke the question, not to answer it; to cultivate in his students an active curiosity, not to inundate them in factual information.” David V. Hicks, Norms and Nobility

There are not many things that instill terror in me more right now than the thought that I could be a careless or unskilled teacher to my students. Full disclosure: I teach my own kids; I’m a homeschool mom. I know.

We can teach our students three things: truths, skills, and content. It’s easy to get caught up in teaching the content my kids should know, or the skills they need to acquire, and therefore answer questions they aren’t yet asking. This actually misses the most important part of educating them — getting them to perceive truths.

When I start with content or skills, they ask questions, for sure:

Do I have to learn fractions?

Do I have to study Latin?

Do I have to read about Napoleon?

Do I have to memorize Shakespeare?

Are you sensing a pattern here? Because I am. The answer to all of these questions is, obviously, “yes.”

But.

These are the kinds of questions they ask when I have started by inundating them with facts without showing them the point — to perceive the truths those facts point to. How do I know if I’m provoking questions — and more importantly, provoking the right ones? Pass me a paper bag to breathe into, please.

These are the questions I am learning to ask them every day:

You tell me, why do we learn fractions/study Latin/read about Napoleon/memorize Shakespeare?

What do you think?

What should we study; what should we place in front of ourselves to ponder?

Is there something more important about these things than the use we will get out of them?

Is there something good, beautiful, and true about those things?

Do they show us something about the world? About God?

How can we allow these things to transform us?

Do they discipline our minds?

Do they order our souls?

How do you know?

Should Helena have run after Demetrius (who was running after Hermia) when he didn’t love her and was so cruel to her? Should Oberon have tricked Titania, his wife, and caused her to fall in love with another? Was that a wise thing to do? Yes, OK, it was funny — Bottom’s an ass. Yes, I get the joke. Yes, you can say “ass.” But was it wise? Do you agree with Shakespeare that love is a fickle thing? Should it be?

I cannot teach my children to be curious and have a yearning to know truth if I do not have those attributes myself, and more so, if I do not model it for them. They will only learn when the way is shown to them, imitated for them, a path laid out for them to follow. They need to be shown the way.

If we are made in the image of God, if we are the very reflection of the Creator of the Universe, then we, too, should put ourselves forth as something to imitate.

Terrifying prospect, I know. Daily, I model — both the good and the bad — of what it means to be a human and to live into my full humanity, my Imago Dei. I strive, I struggle, I ask forgiveness, I reroute myself.

It is my job to cultivate a holy curiosity in my children, to get them not to just ask questions, but to ask the right ones, the normative ones, the ones that will mold their hearts and shape their souls. If I’m doing my job well, I will guide my children to a desire for truth, knowledge, wisdom, and virtue because I will be doing it first. If I can do that, bumbling my way through as it may be, then they will be truly educated, and truly human. Fully in the image of God.

Really, they already are.

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Kristen Rudd lives in Cary, NC and is a homeschool mom by day. By night, she’s exhausted. She gets up at ridiculous hours of the morning to plug away at a novel that will, one day, be finished. Kyrie Eleison. You can follow her on Twitter at @kristenrudd, where she is absolutely hysterical. And friends, it’s true: Kristen IS hilarious on Twitter. Do follow her if you haven’t already! Otherwise, how did this wise and sassy mama’s words touch you today? Leave her some love! 

 

 

6 reasons why you need to just say no to social media, once a week.

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As you may recall, I ditched social media for Lent.

It was a powerful experience, mostly because I learned (again) that I don’t need to be as tied to social media as I think I ought to be. After the experience was over, I refrained, for awhile. But then, life happened. Excuses happened. I reinstalled Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest on my phone, and even though I turned off the notifications button (much to the dismay of Facebook Messenger which annoyingly reminds me every single time I get into the application that I MIGHT MISS OUT ON VERY IMPORTANT MESSAGES FROM MY FRIENDS), social media was still an ever-present reality in my life.

I blame it on my work: I write a piece and I need to promote it (or so the gods of today’s writing world tell me I should do). I need to make sure I follow up with comments, and like all the shares, and do all the things I think I’m supposed to be doing.

But it makes me dizzy, man.

And it’s no way to live. 

So, there’s a new way of doing things in the Meredith household that seems to be working for this season: I’ve ditched social media (and technology all together) on Sundays.

As I should. As I should have been doing all along.

Sabbath is necessary for all of us, whether or not we find ourselves adhering to a Christian or Jewish faith (where the term originated in Genesis 2). God rested from all that he had created. And then he instructed us to do the same, even when the buts come.

So, here follows Cara’s handy list of six buts you might encounter were you to do the same. Enjoy! (Then do it, please).

1. But I only get so many hours in the week to write/work/play/do whatever it is we think we need to do on the internet! And that is exactly why you need to take a break. A professor of mine once said that in the midst of his dissertation, even though he was reading thousands of pages (and writing hundreds more), he always – always – refrained from writing for one day a week. He knew his writing would be better if he rested, instead of trying to get it all out, day after day after day.

2. But it’s impossible to avoid social media for 36 whole hours. Actually, it isn’t. And actually, this is exactly what Facebook would like you to believe. Did you know you can turn off notifications on your phone? Did you know you can leave your phone in the other room? Did you know that you don’t even have to open your laptop if you don’t want to? I know. Crazy.

3. But what if I miss out? See again, other lies social media wants you to believe. So, you’re scared you’ll miss out on what other people are doing by not scrolling through your newsfeed? Now here’s an idea, and it might sound a little scary to you, but what if YOU did something that’s worthy of not missing out on? And, better yet, what if you participated in said life-giving activity and then DIDN’T EVEN POST A PICTURE ABOUT IT ON INSTAGRAM? (Would it have even happened?)

4. But what if inspiration comes, and I’ve no way to type out my thoughts?  I’ma tell you a story: once upon a time, in the olden days, there existed something called PEN and PAPER. A pen was something with ink in its tip that you held in your hand, and a paper, was a very, very thin piece of TREE that you used to write with the pen on. I know, it’s all very complicated to take in. But when said inspiration comes, scavenge your house for these two items, and then use them for good. (I still tend to have a million thoughts running through my head of Everything I Need To Do come Sundays, so I write it down on Monday’s to-do list. Hence this post. And you’re welcome).

5. But what am I going to do with myself? See also “But what if I miss out?” There are actually infinite possibilities to this question. Yesterday, I went to church and to the zoo with my boys. I read Esperanza Rising, our book club podcast pick for the month of May. I seared shishito peppers in sesame oil and I roasted a pan full of vegetables. I made a bowl full of guacamole and I lamented not being able to dip my corn chips into it. I talked with the HBH (Hot Black Husband). I cleaned house, a little. I supervised our master gardener, Cancan, as he watered the vegetable garden. I did not even run out of things to do, not once.

6. But what if people need to get ahold of me? I have one more story for you: back in the day we had these things called land lines and answering machines. (I know, along with the above thoughts on “pen” and “paper,” this is a lot of new information for you to take in). If you weren’t home when people called your house, they left a message. [“Leaving a message” is when you talk into a tiny little box and hope that your voice doesn’t sound too high to the person listening.] Then, when said friend you called got home, they’d listen to your message. And they’d call you back, if they felt like it. But sometimes you’d have to wait days or weeks even, if they went on vacation or something. So, wait. If you establish a routine of not being available one day a week, people will eventually learn that they too can wait (and that they don’t have to try and reach you through 12 different modes of communication to do so).

That’s it. Ditch technology for one day a week. It just might do your body good.

Good luck, superheroes-

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So, what do you think? Yea, nay? Do you participate in a weekly Sabbath, and if so, what does it look like for you? 

*Amazon affiliate links, yo.