The Path Towards Thriving | Living Hands Free

Throughout 2014 I'm planning to blog about my One Little Word journey as I investigate what it means for me to thrive. I don't have a set schedule in place but will share as I identify areas, recognize strengths or weaknesses, ask questions, learn lessons, and hopefully make life-affirming choices along the way.

No. 1 | I believe that for me to thrive I need to live a less distracted life.

"You know we're going to have an intervention about that soon right?"

We were sitting on the couch after dinner, chatting and getting ready to play a couple rounds of Mario Bros on the Wii.

Darn it (that's not really the word that came to mind but you get the point). "Yes," I replied and felt a wave of shame wash over myself.

My connection to the phone and the online world is powerful. It's where most of my work-life exists (I'm on the type-A, take-care-of-this-right-this-very-minute, obsessive end of the personality spectrum), where many of my friends exist, and to be honest, sometimes some of my self-worth is mixed in here too.

I put my phone face-down on the couch next to me and turned to face him, "I know."

In my head I could rationalize it. I was waiting for him to get things set up. I was probably checking my email one more time because I'm responsible and I pride myself on being accessible and taking care of stuff immediately or I was peeking at Facebook seeing if any responses were needed or if there was a comment on a photo I'd recently posted on Instagram.

But I knew he was right.

I need a major iphone boundary check.

Another evening we had a discussion about parenting after Anna refused to put her coat away. She was exhausted and defiant. I was exhausted and not ready for battle because it seems like battling is all we do lately. During the discussion he said he thought she was mean to me. He had watched, unsure where to step in and when to step away.

It was a good talk about who we are and who we want to be as parents. I listened carefully, trying hard not to take anything too personally, listening instead for suggestions I could implement the next time an opportunity arose. It was hard and easy at the same time because I know what he was saying was coming from a loving place and that he was right.

As I reflect on how Anna and I have been interacting lately I think so much of it comes down to me being a distracted parent. Distracted by my work, distracted by the dishes in the sink, distracted by the running list in my head, distracted by pressures both real and imagined, distracted by a million other things.


I don't want to be this person. I know there are times when I've been less distracted but over the last couple of years I've become that person again and it's definitely time for a re-alignment.

I have lots of excuses for my distractions but really none of them matter more than my relationship with my kids and those closest to me.

It's time to start living that way.

I wrote out the above stories a few days ago as I started working on this post.

Since then I've taken a few steps forward and a few steps back. The simple act of acknowledgement - and for me this has been a growing acknowledgment over the past few months - is starting to result in me actually taking action.

One of the first things I'm doing is reading Rachel Macy Stafford's new book Hands Free Mama. Rachel runs a blog of the same name that you might have seen me mention or link to in the past. She's a wonderful story teller and truth teller and is really inspiring life-changes by encouraging people to get connected to what really matters. I reviewed an advance copy of the book last year but feel like I'm really reading it for the first time now. And PS - this book isn't just about creating meaningful connections with your kids - it's about removing the distractions that keep us from deeply connecting with the people we claim to care about most.

One of the suggestions from Rachel is to go public about your intention to live Hands Free so here I am.

Hi, I'm Ali and I've been living distracted for far too long and I'm ready to let go and make a very meaningful change in my life.

Tonight I started reading a chapter book out loud to both kids in the evening. It's an opportunity for the three of us to do something together that doesn't involve a screen.

We're starting with Charlotte's Web.

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  1. Kimberly C.

    2014-01-10 02:31:30 -0500

    If this is something you decide to continue...The Tale of Despereaux was a great read-aloud. I read it to my eldest right before it was coming out in the theaters. He was in Kinder at the time. We both enjoyed it very much. My second is almost 7 and it's been on my to-do list to read it to him for far too long.

  2. casie

    2014-01-10 22:11:35 -0500

    Thank you for your honesty and openess to change. I am currently struggling with the exact SAME thing! I use my phone as an escape when life at home with 2 little kids becomes boring and mundane. I am far more distracted with chores and my own goals and projects. I am making this part of my relationship intention in my OLW2014 project. I too have been arguing constently with my 3 year old and this could be a big reason why!
    thank you Ali for continuing to inspire me to make myself better and reflect on my life instead of just going through the motions!

  3. Josephine Bautista

    2014-01-13 02:44:35 -0500

    Thank you for this. I am definitely distracted too. It's especially hard when my work is connected to my iPhone. And I work for an online company too. So you can imagine I am online most of the time and I go nuts when the internet is down. I sometimes wonder why my son prefers to play with his nanny than he does with me and then I realize she engages with him. She is not just there physically with him but she engages. So with this realization - something I should have known but didn't till recently - and I admit this, even though we are still online - we are playing games together. Our favorite is Papa's Hot Doggeria and we take turns "cooking" the hotdogs. And there are minigames in between and we take turns with that too. I've found a way to actually combine the love of the internet and the need for quality time with my son. Now he plays with me more and I love that.

    I've also tried to do something just offline with him too. Recently, he was being naughty so I took him offline for the night. Which meant I had to be offline for the night too. This includes television by the way. And wow, we did well! All we had to entertain us was a sketchbook, crayons and colored pencils. And he and I went through about an hour an a half, simply drawing, coloring and writing out "quizzes" we had to answer for each other. Though this came because he was being punished, I proved to myself that we can actually be entertained without any electronic devices present. And what's more because we had no distractions as such, he and I were able to bond even more. I loved it! I will definitely have to try that again very soon - and this time just because and not because he is being punished! :-D

  4. alexandra

    2014-01-13 11:01:06 -0500

    Honest, brave and beautiful... this post and you.
    thanks, Ali.

  5. Jennifer

    2014-01-14 02:05:41 -0500

    Ali, we listened to Charlotte's Web in the car during a road trip last summer. It gave us some wonderful memories, and so many things to talk about. Enjoy that time with your children. Thanks for sharing.

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  7. Anna Aspnes

    2014-01-15 12:33:04 -0500

    Making some changes too with Eric leaving next week and not knowing when he'll be back...Thanks for the book mention. It might help me too as I try to manage it all alone.

  8. pamela

    2014-01-16 14:35:13 -0500

    I found your blog through Lindsey's and I am SO glad I did. My word of the year is "Quiet" but it could also be "Un-distracted." Yes to all you said: dishes, work, friends, etc. I get overwhelmed will the immediacy that everything needs but all of those things take me away from my kids. Thank you SO much for writing this and for your resources.

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  10. Jen

    2014-01-18 22:24:07 -0500

    Lovely post Ali. I have been struck that even though all 4 of the people I know who are connecting with OLW this year have selected DIFFERENT words, we all seem to be searching for the same thing - a less distracted existence, where the people and things that truly matter come first. It's a lofty goal.

  11. Jamie Fisher

    2014-01-20 23:34:00 -0500

    Beautiful. You are beautiful, your words are beautiful, you make life feel beautiful. I wish I could have an "Ali" in my neighborhood. :)

  12. Around Here | January 2014 | Ali Edwards

    2014-01-21 06:00:33 -0500

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  13. Kate

    2014-01-22 09:58:21 -0500

    I've always admired your authenticity from afar over the years. One place that I have a suggestion to visit from how I've seen your beautiful open and committed heart is the Conscious Discipline website-aka Loving Guidance with Dr. Becky Bailey. Her work aligns with the values you constantly journal about. She is working to help parents and teachers work on discipline as a practice (not a punishment) and with a Conscious present state of mine in our adult brains. After 25 years in the classroom this revolutionized my teaching experience. Good luck. Piaget calls the four year old stage (Your Four Year Old--Wild and wonderful).
    Wishing you well and looking forward to this year of reflection as I renew.

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  15. TracieClaiborne

    2014-01-24 23:19:52 -0500

    Ali - thank you for sharing "Hands Free Mama' and her blog. I have just read several of her posts and pretty much cried my face off. I loved her post about the day she stopped saying "hurry up." Oh my heavenly love I am HORRIBLE ABOUT THAT! I do good about staying off my phone with my child but I spend entirely too much time overall on the computer. I often wonder if I will look back and realize I wasted entire years just staring at the screen. I'm going to continue to follow your journey and read the Hands Free Mama blog and I'm going to do better. When you know better, you do better. Thank you for being transparent.

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  17. lindsey

    2014-02-01 17:55:44 -0500

    very brave post. beautiful. just what i needed to hear.

  18. Renee V.

    2014-02-02 17:26:24 -0500

    Good luck to you. I need to do the same thing. It's so hard these days. I like the book idea, especially the excellent story of Charlotte's Web!

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  20. Kaly

    2014-02-03 03:51:49 -0500

    Thank you so much for this post. Exactly what I need to hear. December was really hard for my little boys and I. Lots of fighting and butting heads. Little did I realize, until all the stress was over, was that all they wanted was me- a lot less distracted. This is perfect and I will look into Hands Free. Thank you.

  21. Narelle

    2014-02-08 06:36:28 -0500

    Amazing, and just a little challenging, thank you Ali! As the working mum in our family, (my hubby stays home with my two little ones) - it's definately a reminder that I need and need big time right now.

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  23. Gail

    2014-02-14 12:01:44 -0500

    What a lovely and authentic post - thank you for sharing!

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