One year ago this Saturday, the nation and the world were rocked with another gun-violence tragedy: 26 students and staffers were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
I first heard the news from Facebook and turned on NPR for the latest updates. I was alone at the office that day, a quiet winter Friday, and the reports, the photos, the tweets were devastating. I sobbed. I thought of my children, then in fourth grade and kindergarten, and I wanted only for the work day to end so I could pick up my babies and hold them close.
Just some of the countless school shootings in United States history -- including two, Rocori and Red Lake, from right here in Minnesota.
Columbine, in April of 1999, occurred during a huge transitional period in my life. I had just started dating my future husband and was enjoying a fast-track retail management career with a large Minnesota company. But I had decided to leave all that behind to follow my dream and return to grad school in a town where I knew exactly two people. I was nervous and excited and felt very grown-up.
Columbine shook me. I was only eight years out of high school myself. That kind of thing was not supposed to happen. It shook me and it terrified me and it validated my decision to move to Mankato to study creative writing, to become a real writer, as I'd dreamed of doing since I was very young.
Fast forward to December, 2012, a bitter cold day just before Christmas.
Here is the truth of that day: That person crying at her desk, listening to public radio, missing her own little ones as she heard about the children who had been killed in their classrooms, of the staffers who put themselves between the gunman and the students, was not the best person she could be. She was not the best mother she could be, she was not the best wife or daughter or friend or writer.
That day, I decided to be better. For my kids, for my husband, for the rest of my family. I wanted to slow down the pace of our lives and be more present. Christmas was fewer than two weeks away and I hadn't taken the time to enjoy the season - or to help my kids enjoy the season.
I decided to disconnect. I decided to spend less time interacting electronically in order to be present in the moments of our lives.
I did and we had a wonderful holiday.
It's time to disconnect again.
Ours is a technologically-dependent world, it would seem. We rely on the internet and social media sites for news and connections and for the latest photos of long-distance family and friends. And it's a wonderful thing. In April of 1999, we turned to our televisions for special reports on the Columbine shootings. I had a cell phone but no text messaging. I used AOL and a dial-up modem and many nights was unable to connect to even check my email.
Today, the world is at my fingertips. I can access anything from the thin, high-tech device that easily fits in my back pocket. Email, news, NFL scores, recipes. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram.
We are constantly connected.
A year after Sandy Hook and my attempt to be more present, I am still not the best person I could be. I am not the best wife or mother or writer. I get impatient and frustrated with my children, with my job, with the current stage of my writing career. My family is busy and over-scheduled and overwhelmed by life and laundry, by activities and commitments and daily routine.
I'm going to try again. I'm going to limit my online activities this month so I can be more active, more present with the three most important people in my life - my husband and two awesome kids. We're going to watch White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life and Elf and drink hot chocolate and put together a jigsaw puzzle. In honor of the victims of Sandy Hook, we're working on 26 Acts of Kindness in December and January, starting with a donation of 26 books to my daughter's classmates and classroom library.
I'm going to try to be more present. I"m going to try to be better, to reconnect with the best version of myself.
This month, I dare you to disconnect. Limit your online activities as much as is comfortable for you. Turn off your phone. Read a real, physical book instead of the e-book version. Call a friend on the phone with an invitation to coffee. Give up Facebook or Twitter or blogging or Pinterest or whatever takes up more of your time than you'd like, takes you away from the people you love.
Maybe you'll want to tell us about. And maybe you won't. And that's totally okay with me. It's not lost on me that I'm using a social media outlet to dare you to disconnect from social media. If you do wish to share, you could win an autographed copy of ALLEGIANT by Veronica Roth. Here are the details:
SHARE AND WIN
Share your personal dare in the comments for one entry in this month's Truth and Dare giveaway. Use the Rafflecopter form to enter. Earn more entries by:
Posting your dare experience on your blog (be sure to link to your post in the comments), +3
Sharing your dare via Twitter (use the hashtag #idareyou and mention @YABuccaneers), +1
Sharing your dare via Facebook (use the hashtag #idareyou and mention YA Buccaneers), +1
I wish you much happiness and togetherness and all the blessings of this holiday season.