Smart Phones: Friend, Foe, Freedom

Kids and phones are and have seen the best of times (I mean, really – sitting in a germ-infested doctors office is MUCH less stressful with a kid’s hands occupied rather than free to the room) to the worst of times. We could probably fill the page with the latter.

  • social media pressures
  • seemingly unavoidable access to damaging apps
  • argument inducer that accompany almost every limitation setting
  • even addiction

There’s also a new term, “nomophobia” meaning NO MOre PHone phOBIA – as in debilitating fear when the phone is gone. Seems a stretch, but who can make this stuff up.


Of course none of that is limited to kids. But it’s always easier to see others’ issues before our own. Or maybe it’s the major warning signals flashing brightly, letting us know that something is off, something is stealing from us, something threatens harm that has smart-phones in the headlines and at the top of social media feeds weekly, if not daily.

But there are Apps (may the irony not be lost) for that – dealing with cell phone addictions as well as legitimate forced limitation for families. I had a friend over yesterday who recently put OURPACT on her phone to help manage screen time and stop naggy push-back with her teenage boys. The app a free but has a fee for increased ability to customize. She’s not trying to over-insert herself into their lives, but is trying to help them find balance and adhere to boundaries – so they can finish their work or actually participate in life – as in live conversation.

Because, honestly we sometimes/often need help. I wish there was an App to stop me from finishing off that last piece of pie. Or an app to stop me from saying that one little extra piece of info that just didn’t need saying.

My kids still won’t let me live down a moment when we were all in the car passing through a security gate. The guard asked for our name, then searched and searched through his long list. We’re accustomed to waiting since our last name is Wyma. So I lightly joked with the kind gentleman about our being last. Even went to far with telling him that my maiden name is Wills and that I went BACK in the alphabet. Then went further by saying I dreamed of being a “B” or an “M” as a child. He didn’t need to know that and certainly didn’t care. But I totally blew it when – after he had smiled, raised the gate & waived us on – I stopped the car while driving off and yelled back. “We carry up the rear.” Why do I do that? It’s horrifying. I’m sure he heard the moans and groans of our entire car, “Mahhwwmmm!! That’s so awkward! Just stop talking.”

Yeah, where’s the app for that?!

I was just talking with someone yesterday who thought parents should agree to ban phones until kids are in 8th grade. I’m not sure that could even happen; but she had a point. The conversation stuck in my thoughts. Then as if on cue, I heard this piece (A School’s Way to Fight Phones in Class: Lock Them Up) on the radio while racing from one place to another. It’s about a product called Yondr – a little pouch that literally creates phone-free spaces.

Graham Dugoni founded the company Yondr four years ago, after he was annoyed by people using their phones at concerts. Turns out performers were, too, and now, hundreds of them, like Chris Rock, Alicia Keys and Ariana Grande have been forcing fans to lock up their phones. Or, as Dugoni would put it, freeing fans to really enjoy their shows.

It really is forced freedom – which seems crazy, but it works and is now being tapped by schools to create classrooms for learning and communication and contemplation – free from phone distraction, kids able to engage.

At the City on a Hill Circuit Street charter school in Boston, students entering school in the morning are met by administrators fanned out at the front door with their hands out. One by one, they take students’ phones, slip them into a soft pouch, and lock them closed with a snap that works like the security tags you find on clothing at department stores. Students take their pouched phones back, but can only unlock them with a special device at dismissal time, nearly eight hours later.

Of course kids are outraged and have tried just about everything to open the pouches and retrieve their phones. But the positive upswing has been undeniable. There are even some students who admit it. One said that with her phone gone during the day, she forgets about it completely, finding herself less attached to it even at home.

Senior Yalena Terrero Martinez went on to tell the reporter, “I don’t reach for my phone as much,” Martinez says. “Because if you don’t feed into the habit, the habit eventually slows down.”

Martinez says the pouches are also making a big difference socially.

“Oh my gosh, all my friends would be like on their phones during lunch, and I was just sitting there staring out the window, waiting for a conversation to spark up,” she says. “But now, like, we talk a lot more.”

That’s exactly what the folks who make the pouches were hoping for.

Interesting stuff. Would love to know your thoughts.

As always, thanks for walking the road with me!


Great News in Today’s culture

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas! We’re still working on addressing cards and delivering a couple of neighbor gifts – hot chocolate, better late than never, right?!. And, I might have even found a gift or two that got lost in the mix. The still unwrapped items just might be saved for a later since their absence never mattered to begin with.

As expected, the most special gifts were the ones the kids picked out and payed for each other. The best was probably this math equations nerd-shirt. The kid instantly put it on then chuckled throughout the evening at a couple of the equations. Apparently they’re real – and funny. Who knew?!

Returns have already commenced. Especially since I accidentally ordered 2 (TWO!) beanbag chairs – the special gift for 1 (ONE) kid – oops!

I thought I share a little something special with you today, too – thoughts on how Christmas informs not only a celebrated holiday, but also every day.

John Stonestreet carpool-diemed with our SaySomething crew a few weeks ago, but we saved it for Christmas. John is president of the Colson Center, cohost with Eric Metaxas of BreakPoint, and the coauthor of several books – the most recent with Brett Kunkle called: A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World.

As we celebrate the day that Hope arrived alive and well on the scene, John shares how Hope informs today and every day. Especially when things like technology, social media platforms, political impasses, strained relationships and so much more seem to be so powerfully on the scene.

“To take seriously the cultural moment without losing hope is to realize that this moment is part of a larger story. And that story ultimately is culminating in the fact that God will, in Christ, make all things new.”

I hope you enjoy his message as much as we did.

THANK YOU for joining this and so many of our other conversations! Praying many blessings for you and your family today. I SO appreciate traveling the road with you.


Gift Guide – Simple Rules

“What are you getting the boys?” a friend of mine asked. We bumped into each other at the pharmacy. My fingers are still crossed, hoping we’re done with the flu!

“That’s the question of the hour,” I shake my head. “Funny thing,” I started in, “I was in Tuesday Morning last week picking up a lamp for my mom. Our rearranging of her furniture opened the perfect spot for a lamp by her chair. And I totally scored with the perfect lamp for that spot.”

“I love Tuesday Morning,” she sighed. “It can be hit or miss. But when it hits, it’s a home-run for sure.”

“I know. So happy.”

Birds were singing, we smile-nodded, all was right in the world.

“If only all shopping could be as quick and productive as that lamp-run,” she said.

“Fact,” I shuh-replied.

Yeah, my friend looked at me weird, too. Sometimes my thoughts travel right through my head and out my mouth. I still think about Amena Brown’s chat with us on SaySomething. She was SO cool. And I just loved her phrases. Apparently, I’m trying to capture some of the cool by adopting her swaggy “FACT” response as a nod of agreement. Works beautifully for her. Me? – not so much.

I quickly move on.

“While I was looking for the lamp-aisle, I saw the rows of toys. An end-cap had tubes of Match Box cars. Those would have made my boys’ Christmas not so long ago. I stood looking at them, remembering, maybe even a little longing for, the simplicity of those days when the smallest item could capture their attention for days on end.”

I keep going, “Granted, those days were physically exhausting, but looking at those cars reminded me of how un-complicated they were compared to now. Until I remembered so much of the stress and pressures on deck then, that just aren’t now. And I found myself telling myself, don’t let the worries and pressures of today take any ground or steal a single moment – even if it comes in the form of getting the right gift.”

All of it reminded me to savor and to enjoy and to not worry about much – especially the gifts. Of course I want to get them something, but maybe BIG isn’t the thing. Maybe a little more meaningful over trendy-cool is the way to go. Why not search for and find whatever it is that will help them remember how they are seen & known & loved.

It’s true.

For my mom, just spending time with her and moving the furniture that she would have whipped around the house and moved herself not long ago was a bigger gift than I could have imaged – to both of us. Because she can’t do that anymore. What an unbelievable blessing and treat it was for me to stand beside her, to be her hands and feet, to struggle through putting together a World Market end table together. I already cherish the memory, even though it was only last week. (Sap Alert!)

For my kids – just watching their thoughtfulness toward each other has been inspiring. One of the kids got her brother a wallet ($11 on Amazon) in which she put 10 crisp one dollar bills for him to use in the school’s vending machine. Things like that mean SO much more than a “big” gift. He’s going to LOVE it. Another is giving her sibling a couple of tiny blank-page notebooks since she’s been watching him doodle on note cards. And a brother wiggled with glee as he sat me down to find exactly the nerd-fest t-shirts he and other small sundries he wanted to get his siblings – heart-warming. (Don’t say anything! – banking on them not reading this – eek!)

The truth is – they know each other. They belong (though it’s far, very far, from a perfect setting – there’s been a lot of crabby amidst all the test-stress.) They are seen. Which honestly, these days goes a L O N G way toward much needed grounding in this ever-shifting landscape.

I don’t know what it is in your house, but I think as far as gift-giving goes, exciting-big is fun – no doubt – but, it’s the simple stuff that lingers. Simple stuff reminders: I know you, I love you (even if/when we fight every day), I see you.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

– Kay

The Overwhelming Nature of the Season

I have a tiny vendetta against pressure/stress/circumstance-laden Overwhelmed. I’m tired of things stealing from me, from us – the kids and my friends and people in general.

There are so many examples.

  • Huge things like the legitimate uproar over kids and smart phones. Jean Twenge recently authored a study/book on the dangers of smart-phone use, specifically to the point of destroying a generation of kids who are “on the brink of a mental health crisis.” I see the articles. And my heart aches at all the repercussions and the enormity of the situation.
  • Medium things that look huge since we live in the days of instant (instant gratification, instant results, instant judgement,… ) like grades. It’s the end of the semester – a few low numbers threaten to make that fragile, yet powerful GPA an indictment rather than a golden path to the Land of I’m Okay.
  • Smaller things like the flu – that school-nurse phone call we all dread: you need to come get your child! At least it’s not lice. But the announcement brings with it change of plans and some legitimate fear into the house. I don’t want it.

And don’t get any of us started on all things newsy, politics or international relations. My word, just mentioning it could make the heartiest soul curl up into a fetal position ready to quit.

But we can say No. Seriously – NO. These overwhelming things don’t get to win or steal moments. Sure, the warrant attention and some schooling, but they don’t wave a victory flag. And, from a faith-perspective, not only do they not get to win, they’ve been defeated. Finished. The whole reason of Christmas.

So why not be overwhelmed by that – Truth – rather than give any ground to overwhelming stress or pressures or circumstances. Why not be overwhelmed by Love, the kind of love that defines our identity, the kind of love gave its all so we could have it all.

One of my kids this morning asked about forgiveness – the gift that Love gave. A song on the radio comparing forgiveness to drops of water in the ocean prompted wonder. “You’d have to know how many drops are in the ocean,” he said “to be able to know how many times you can be forgiven.”

That’s pretty heavy – to have to somehow know the amount of times and to actually ask.

“Sweetheart,” I looked over at home. “Forgiveness is immeasurable. You’ll never know how many times to ask forgiveness. Sometimes we know we’ve done wrong, sometimes we don’t. That’s the whole point. You’re forgiven. All of it. That’s actually the reason for this season – celebrating what God did through Jesus, the enormous offering of forgiveness.”

“Okay …” he contemplated. “So, why ask for it, then.”

This kid. I’m telling you. His deep spiritual contemplation, even in the morning on the way to school, makes me wonder why he got me for a mother. He could use a Theologian who has studied and knows.

But I’m what he’s got, so I answer. And, honestly, I love Scripture, asking & contemplating – it’s actually fun thinking aloud together.

“From what I gather, the asking for forgiveness is for us. Asking, saying out loud, or even silently, where I’m off helps me. It helps me realize I’m off. I admit I’m wrong. And I’m now aware. And, awareness is one of the paths to change. Which leads to freedom – freedom from justifying my wrong-actions that can sometimes be justified; freedom from blame – which usually keeps my eyes anchored on me; freedom from judgment – usually of others. Asking for forgiveness seems contradictory, since I’ve admitted being wrong, but it’s actually a gift. The freedom thing is huge, and so is compassion and empathy that comes in the package. When someone else hits me with wrong – I’m a lot quicker to get it since I do the same thing.”

“Like yesterday?” He asks.

“What do you mean?” I say.

“When y’all told me to stop playing on the iPad and I didn’t.”

“Oh, that.” He’s so cute. I love how he runs toward honest discourse. “It took you a while to admit that one.”

He sheepishly grinned.

“Why didn’t you want to let go of it?”

“I didn’t think it was fair that you and Dad asked me to stop. I could do what I was supposed to do and play at the same time.”

“Okay. But how did you feel while you were doing it.”



“Yes, I didn’t think about the disobeying part.” Then he looked straight at me. “Until you asked,” he tease-grimaced. “And totally spelled it out.”

“So – how did you feel when you came clean?”

“Better. But not at first.” I could see his thoughts running through the entire scenario – even the subsequent consequence: sweeping, raking and picking up some of the gazillion acorns that can’t take a break from dropping. His Tim Conway, old-man, slow-motion sweeping & bagging effort was on display for all of us to see. But so was his dad who quietly went outside to join the sweeping without so much as a word. Because he loves him. Because any boundaries or discipline aren’t to show who’s boss or to be mean, it really is out of love since no one is genuinely happy or at peace when left to our willfull-selves. Even if its something as mundane as playing an iPad when your parents have said not to.

“I think that’s how forgiveness from God must be,” he added.

We’re pulling into the school, so this one has to end.

“What do you mean?”

“So much good. Too much to imagine.”

“Yeah,” I add. “Forgiveness so vast, it’s immeasurable – like drops in the ocean.”

The carpool monitor waves us into our lane. We both chew on our conversation. I for one am overwhelmed. Not with all I need to get done. Not by the doomsday environment. Not with the tests that are on the other side of the door that will absolutely beg to define the self-worth of the kid about to take them. Not with my throat that is starting to hurt and dread of possibly getting the flu that has been running through our house. Not at the news I listened to this morning that seems filled with discord, bombings, sadness.

No – I think we were both overwhelmed by love.  Love in the form of forgiveness. Overwhelmed by the gifty-ness of confession that looks like indictment on the outside, but is so filled with freedom on the inside. Victorious love. The patience and enormity and endlessness of it all. Why would God do it? And in such a humbling manner – a baby, God living a human life, sinless taking on all of our sin.

Overwhelming love.

Our little chat certainly frames the day differently. With thoughts of love-induced immeasurable forgiveness filling our minds, freedom takes Center Stage – basically freedom from ourselves and all the efforts (whether in the form of Instagram pics, Christmas cards, grades, and so many things) to prove-worth. With our eyes freed from ourselves, we can sure see better the folks walking alongside who could use some love and encouragement about now.

Thanks for walking it alongside me.