Something fishy about attention spans

Our attention spans are now believed to be the same as that of goldfish, which is to say, roughly eight seconds.

I was surprised to read that and was going to read the article all the way to the end, but then I saw a link on the side of the screen to pictures of “Celebrities Who Have Not Aged Well.” Click, right?

I do remember it said – the article, not the aging celebrities – that we can’t sustain – hold on, my cell is ringing.

Well, I can hear it, but I can’t find it. Where’s that coming from? Is it upstairs? Why are these shoes still sitting here? I’ll just run them up to the closet.

The phone stopped ringing. But now the dryer is buzzing. Oh there’s my purse, sitting on the washing machine.

Got it. Whoa. I can’t believe this. That load of white clothes still isn’t dry.

Two missed calls. Three texts.

Anyway, the article says that by flitting from one thing to another, we develop a chronic sense of boredom – do we have anything for dinner? Maybe we have leftovers. Nope, not much in here. Looks like we need milk. Hmm—I started a list somewhere.

I’ll just add milk to notes on my phone. More texts. Not sure about this one. I could be free on Tuesday, I need to check the desk calendar.

Where is that calendar? Maybe it’s with that old address book. I really ought to check to make sure I’ve transferred all those addresses to my computer.

What a cute “Thinking of You” card. Wonder who I was thinking of?

We need a card for our daughter-in-law who is having a birthday soon. Is it the 14th or the 9th? If hers is the 14th, our son-in-law’s is the 9th. Or is it the other way around? The husband sent a picture of a chart he made of all the family birthdays to my cell. Where is that picture? Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling.

Hold on. News alert. Interstate closing due to a semi-truck rollover.

I should hit Twitter for a second, see if I’m missing anything. Maybe I could find something that looks good for dinner on Pinterest.

What’s this? I’ve been invited to pin on a Baby Shower board. Oh, I forgot I said I’d help with that one. Fun game ideas. Look at that adorable table setting!

Table setting. Dinner. I wonder about fish. Not fish for dinner, although we really should eat more fish. I wonder about the attention span of fish. How did they determine fish have an attention span of 8 seconds?  That’s not even long enough to update their status on Fishbook. (Social media humor.)

I have a hard time believing we have 8-second attention spans. Personally, I think there are days when I can focus on something as long as 10 or 12.






Know thy neighbor as thyself

Every week it seems there is a new way to check out your neighbors online. It’s a lot easier than walking over and talking to them. Besides, talking requires personal communication skills and who has those anymore?

Not that I’d look up my neighbors online, but — hey, I can see our house, too!  There’s our front yard! Our garage door is open!

In any case, if you are so inclined, you can enter an address and find out the name and age of everybody who lives at a particular residence, cities where they previously lived and, if you’re an exceptionally dedicated sleuth, you can set up an account and find out if the neighbors have ever filed bankruptcy or had a lien or court charges filed against them.

Yet another website will tell you if your neighbor is a Democrat or a Republican. (As if their yard sign wasn’t indicator enough.)  You can also see which political candidates they’ve supported financially.

Please. I’d rather not. I’m happier thinking we’re all on the same team. Sure, it’s delusional, but life is sweeter that way.

Of course, everything you can find out about your neighbor, your neighbor can find out about you.

Yes. Let’s just pause a moment and let that sink in.


If I want to know neighborhood news, I get it from my walking buddy around the corner who belongs to our neighborhood Facebook page. She’s faster than a website and more detailed.

Last week she informed me that multiple neighbors continue to have problems with stink bugs. Precisely the sort of news inquiring minds want to know. Oh, and complaints are still flying about a somewhat eclectic house on a corner that leads into the subdivision.

Personally, I believe the more yard ornaments they collect and the more vehicles they have for sale, the greater chance the house may serve as a deterrent to crime for the whole subdivision. People should stop complaining and thank them. Or at least drop off an old lawn chair or two.

Maybe it’s inevitable that we will one day all be virtual neighbors spying on one another in cyberspace and greeting one another with clever emojis on social media.

But a virtual neighbor will never watch two of your kids at 3 a.m. while you race a third one with appendicitis to the hospital.

A virtual neighbor won’t lend you a car, take in your mail, water your hanging baskets, or bust into your place with a spare key because you think you left the iron on.

No website will tell you that the elderly man at the end of the block who lost his wife to cancer got that big hairy dog to ease the loneliness.

Nor will a website tell you that the young gal helping do yardwork alongside your neighbor across the street is her 25-year-old granddaughter. Or that they’re all eating less meat (no beef or pork, just chicken and fish). Like the internet could tell you any of that.

There’s something about the word neighbor that implies personal—both for better and for worse. Virtual neighbors offering virtual banana bread will never replace the real thing.

Easter breathes new life

A friend asked for prayer for an extended family member who was about to undergo a lung transplant. While such things now happen with some frequency, and even a measure of predictability, they are nonetheless mind-boggling. It is nearly impossible to comprehend the entire picture and the complexity of all the elements converging—from the death of one that yields life to another, to the messy array of grief and joy, the magnitude of the gift and the phenomenal skills of the medical team.

Contemplating the marvels and dimensions of a lung transplant, I remembered a paper I wrote for a biology class in college, which is about the only thing I remember from college biology.

The paper was about the first breath a baby draws upon birth. We talk about the miracle of birth, yet often overlook the miracle of breath.

The first breath a baby takes within seconds of birth may be the most difficult breath of a child’s entire life. A baby’s lungs are filled with fluid during pregnancy and upon delivery the lungs must fill with air. Millions of alveoli, microscopic air sacs in the lungs, must inflate for the first time. Like the ignition of a jet engine that readies an aircraft for flight, that first breath ignites the entire cardio-pulmonary system. Inhale, exhale, buckle up and prepare for takeoff.

The lung transplant surgery went well for the woman. She shows no signs of rejection and is on the long road to recovery. Mornings begin with a cocktail of several dozen pills for breakfast. Oh, the many wonders we take for granted—the very act and gift of drawing breath.

The woman with the new lungs described her delight upon being wheeled into a garden adjoining the hospital a few days after surgery and seeing the first signs of spring. It is easy to picture a woman with new life enjoying the new life of creation.

It is no coincidence that Easter nestles in the cradle of spring. The remains of winter, all that has died and decayed, sleeping beneath soil, layers of thatch and crusts of bark, stretches, yawns big and awakens, signaling the long-awaited arrival of new life and new breath.

For Christians around the world, Holy Week culminates in the celebration of new life. Just like an organ transplant, the death of one has given life to others.  Those who recognize that the life systems of their hearts and souls were on the critical care list celebrate Christ as the one who sacrificed to give new life and new breath.

Tiny grape hyacinth sway in the wind. Pink blooms on the crabapple sprinkle the sidewalk like flower petals lining the way for a bride about to walk down the aisle. The promise of life and newness permeates the air.

On Easter morning, Christians in sprawling suburban churches, inner-city buildings with leaky ceilings and hard wooden pews, as well as those around the world whose houses of worship have been bombed and are littered with rubble, will again breathe deep and hold tight to the promise of transplant—despair in exchange for hope, grief in exchange for joy, death in exchange for life.

Inhale, exhale.


Fans scramble to the “grand” attraction

For years now, experts have been saying that career-minded people should plan on having more than one career in a lifetime. Good thing I listened to the experts, otherwise I might have been caught off guard to find myself suddenly married to a rock star.

The husband didn’t start out as a rock star. Oh sure, he played drums for a band in high school, but they mostly played in a friend’s garage. He has been a journalist all his working years and did not become a rock star until about seven years ago.

These days, fans yell and scream and jump out from behind doorways, bushes and even furniture whenever they spot him. They run at him, charge him and nearly knock him down. If ever a man needed a security detail, it is this one.

To be clear, the husband doesn’t have millions of fans (more like nine), but they are loyal fans. They don’t follow his every move on Facebook or Twitter, but they do follow him through the house, the backyard and a nearby park. His fans also tend to be short—and young (ages 7, 6, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 18 months and 15 months).

Like the other celebrities and stars that get so big they go by one name, he does, too – Grandpa (scream it like his fans do!). What his fans lack in number, they more than make up for in volume.

How does one shoot to rock star sensation level overnight? You become a human jungle gym. You let one kid ride on your back and carry one in each arm. You give horsey rides to two and three fans at a time. You let fans play with your reading glasses. Sure, you may have to buy them in packs of three, but such is the price of fame. You let your fans sit in your lap when they eat dinner (to their parents’ chagrin). You let them play with the comb in your back pocket (and lose it). You let them take pictures on your smart phone (hundreds at a time).

You become an overnight rock star by sheer charm and personality. You hold mini-pretzels in front of your eyes like they are glasses. You achieve hero status with a foray into the thicket to retrieve the ball. You courageously declare that anytime is a good time for ice cream.

You become a rock star by drawing funny pictures and reading books. Book after book, sometimes the same book after book—books about crocodiles, birds, bears, mice, machinery and talking vegetables.

Being married to a rock star has its challenges. Somedays the fans pass me right by as they sprint to the main attraction. But it’s OK, because somebody has to stay grounded. Somebody has to be responsible, pay attention to safety, nutrition and assess what bones might break if a small fan were to fall from a particular height.

The fans are gone now. The rock star is recovering on the couch in a deep sleep. He’ll probably want dinner when he regains consciousness.

Mine may not be a glamorous job, but somebody has to manage the talent.