Confessions of The Original Online Junkie Ink Slingers Martina Series

Confessions of The Original Online Junkie: Calming Cyberspace Cravings

You know the drill. You sit down at the computer {or tablet, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, Android, laptop, etc.} with a hot cup of joe in hand – to check your e-mail. You tell yourself calmly & firmly what is about to happen.

I will check my e-mail. I will do nothing else. I own the Internet, it does not own me. I will not get sucked in…

::enter social media vortex::


BLAMMY! That’s the sound of you losing the interwebs battle, yet again, you well-intentioned cyberspace user! Before you know it, you are headlong into an online game of Chutes and Ladders – and, no, I’m not talking about the actual online game – you climb the ladder from e-mail to check your Facebook  account, by clicking on the perpetually open browser tab {don’t lie, you know you do this!}. You hop on over to Twitter to see what the haps are before sliding down to grab your smart phone – OOOOOH, I haven’t updated my Instagram in a while – let me see what’s going on there…check out the photo-a-day challenge, look around the house frantically to find something to snap, gussy up picture, write snazzy caption and #lotsofcoolhashtags, exit. Take a sip of your now cold coffee.

Wait. What was I supposed to do? Oh, yeah. Pinterest!!

::an HOUR later…if you’re lucky::

Wait. What was I supposed to do? Eeeeee-mail.

Is this you? Do you do what I like to call social media dominoes where you start off with an honest-to-goodness task that involves productivity, such as responding to an e-mail or sending out a few messages you’ve been meaning to only to find yourself moving around from one social media platform to another to another to another – oh, you get the point! Or maybe you’re like me and you run your apostolate on a platform. Apart from the actual blog, all communication is housed on one social media platform, which is good and bad. Good because everything is in one spot. Bad because EVERYTHING is in one spot – uh hem, Facebook, I’m looking at YOU! I get constant notifications regarding the blog along with my personal notifications and, also like a domino affect, my laptop dings, my web browser pulls up the notification with a ding, my phone buzzes {because I NEVER have the ringer on, thankyouverymuch}, and my new iPad mini dings, too.

Even though my apostolates force me to prioritize my time more efficiently, I have to constantly exercise restraint and self-control while online lest my day be wasted playing Candy Crush or MahJong {and, great, I played a game of MahJong just looking up the link – I had to make sure it was a good link, dontchaknow!}. This is not a perfect process, some days I do a good job and other days I fail before I get out of bed.

Temptations will always be in the background of the things that are truly worth our time. When the time suck wins, noteworthy and even spiritually beneficial projects, communications, and ideas lose. How can we conquer the temptation to play on platforms all day instead of doing what we need to do? Here are some tips I’ve come up with for you – and me – to tuck away, print up and stick on the fridge, or maybe glue to your forehead – ermm, your computer screen to help you allocate your online time just a weeeee bit better.

Your Handy Dandy Guide to Getting the Most Out of Your Online Time – or YHDGTGTMOOYOT
  1. Start your day with prayer. This one seems obvious, but how often do we start our day in prayer, whether it be rote prayers, thanks and praise for God’s blessings on a new day, Lectio Divina, Scripture reading, meditation, contemplative prayer, rosary, Diving Mercy Chaplet, or take your pick? Father Uche made an excellent point last week in our Adult Faith Formation class while teaching about Lectio Divina. What stood out to me was his simple assessment of how we treat our spouses and related it to our time spent with God. Would you ignore your spouse all day? Likely not, if you know what’s good for you! And, yet, can we be really surprised that our day is already off kilter when we don’t start our day with a daily dose of God the way we do {or should} with our spouse, someone whom we have committed to love and who loves us despite our shortcomings? Is it hard for you to carve out time to pray? Make a pact with yourself that before you get out of bed, you will, at minimum, say a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, sharing with God all the abundant blessings He’s given you. The petitions and begging can wait for later.
  2. Use paper notepads and planners. I think it would surprise people to know that most of my planning, brainstorming and general storing of ideas is on good, old-fashioned paper. Why? For me, it’s because I prefer paper in some situations to always storing my thoughts and ideas in my phone, or in a Word document on the laptop. Don’t get me wrong, though. My notes section of my iPhone is pretty dang “full up.” The idea behind jotting down notes on memo pads is to minimize the distractions. It’s hard to pull up your e-mail, check FB, “Instagram,” pin, or tweet if you’re scribbling away on actual paper. You may find your stream of consciousness is actually more of a purposeful stream vs. a hose gone wild when you don’t stop eleventy billion times due to all of the notifications popping up on your phone or computer.

    My paper planner
  3. Be mindful of where you spend your online time. Ask yourself through the day, is this the best use of my time? Sometimes we need to be in work mode and other times we are in play mode and there is nothing wrong with that! The reason to be mindful is to make sure the time you designate for work is allocated for…dun dun DUN!!! work! The same goes with down time. If you need to unwind with some MahJong, by all means, unwind! But, if you are truly off the clock for work, then avoid e-mail after a designated “off” time – 7 p.m., for example and stick to it. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you have to answer work e-mail while in your jammies and brushing your teeth. If you need help with this, pretend it’s Lent and you are enforcing these rules, by golly!
  4. Avoid fruitless confrontations. I will be exploring this particular point in more detail in an upcoming post, but suffice it to say, if a conversation, topic, person, hot button issue, or news article gets your dander up, walk away. I know, I know, easier said than done, but if it’s something that causes you to waste your day slaving away in comboxes at the expense of your vocation, or rents too much space in your brain, or, worse, makes you a nasty growly person to your family and you try to bite off your spouse’s head, it’s good to know trigger points and how to walk away to save yours and everyone else’s sanity. More on that later, friends.
  5. Get your rest! This one also seems a bit obvious, but it’s amazing to me how many people stay up online WELL into the wee hours of the morning surfing the interwebs. Well, by amazing, I mean, I remember doing that, too, back in the day. Staying up all night chatting online with strangers seems so foreign to me now, but that’s what I did as a teenager and young adult. These days, and maybe it’s because I recently celebrated a birthday that tips me into the closer to 40 than 30 age range that helps me with this? I am such a crank pot if I don’t get enough sleep and because of that, I am more committed resolved anxious desperate to get myself to bed at a decent hour. If that doesn’t happen one night {for one life reason or another}, I make sure to get to bed earlier the next evening to reset so I can function. You know the phrase, if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy? Yeah, that’s me. A nasty little spitfire of fun when I’m tired.
  6. Your bedroom is your sanctuary. Store electronic devices in rooms that are NOT your bedroom. This one might be a bit trickier since some people do work from home and double their bedroom as their work space…or, there are other reasons they might have them stored in the bedroom. The point of this is to create a space for yourself – away from…mind clutter. Reduce the temptation to check e-mail and the inevitable social media dominoes that comes with the one task you really meant to do. When in doubt, ask yourself Can this wait until later/tomorrow/after my chores? you’ll find the answer is usually yes – the world won’t spin off its axis if you can’t do whatever at that precise moment. My own downfall was bringing the laptop into the bedroom to work on email, projects, lining up posts, writing posts, etc. Why not? It’s portable, I was comfortable under my covers, I was productive…wasn’t that supposed to be the point of having a laptop? Not being tethered to a stationary setting? The problem was it overtook the one daggone place in the home that should have been my sanctuary, my refuge. About six months ago, I made the decision to only work on the laptop at the dining room table or on the sofa with my feet kicked up. It works because when I put it away, it’s PUT AWAY. The only caveat to this has been my phone {which doubles as my alarm clock}, which sits on my night stand. I justify its location by doing #1 first.

So, there you go! I’ve solved all your online problems. Or not, lol. Sound off in the combox and tell me what you’d add to the list. What’s worked for you? Let’s talk! Until next time, friends!

Confessions of The Original Online Junkie Faith Formation Ink Slingers Martina Series Testimonials

Confessions of The Original Online Junkie: One Cannot Live Online Alone

By now you’ve got a rough idea of my history online. I haven’t touched much on the addiction aspect yet, in part because I thought it would work best for this post. If you haven’t read my introduction to the Confessions of The Original Online Junkie, part I and part II, I invite you to read them first so that this post will make sense.

I’ll wait. ::cue the Jeopardy music::

Ready? Ok.

I would say the majority of my time spent online {defined for the purpose of this post as anytime on the computer and/or video games} up until the birth of the blog was spent, if I’m truly honest with myself, piddling around. Sure, there were spells of looking things up and researching and reading, but the majority of the time was just. plain. a waste of time. I think the only two HUGE addictions I avoided were Doom – remember that golden oldie?? – and War of Worldcraft. Growing up, I played Intelevision {yes, I just dated myself}, Atari, the original Nintendo {carpel tunnel, anyone?}, Solitaire on my old PC, a friend and I slayed the guys in college playing Sega’s Mortal Kombat punching all kinds of buttons that did who  knows what, but I somehow figured out the fatality move with near perfect precision. Every. time. My poison was fighting games and race car games. And Sims…before they got all raunchy.

I could go on and on listing all the games I played over the years, but the point I really want to make is that I filled my time with more unREAL world things than interacting with PEOPLE. For me, it was almost an escape disguised as entertainment. There was always some game to play {Bejeweled} or something to read rather than do what I was supposed to do, which was parent, or cook, or do laundry, or interact with REAL people.

Two things happened in my life that jerked me into shape. The first thing happened 4 1/2 years ago when I was attending our parish pastor’s talks on Thursday evenings after daily Mass in the cry room. Father Joel would spend time reading and reflecting on Scripture and there would be some comments from a few of us. We had been parishioners at our church for a few years but I, like many parishioners I now talk to, was pretty intimidated by the sheer size of the church. We were probably over 15 thousand parishioners at that time and were it not for my love of wanting to hear Father Joel talk – I truly enjoyed his homilies – I may never have left my house to participate in anything other than Mass at church. It was the beginning of gasp! making friends…something else I really stunk at. One evening I attended the pastor’s talk when our Adult Faith Formation director, Noe Rocha, sat in for Father Joel. The group was small and I felt like I was able to open up – I shared that I had been learning the Faith online and even referred to that time period as “sharpening my knives” because I knew the inevitable next step. I explained that I felt God was calling me to get into the parish community but I wasn’t ready and I had no idea how that would play out. Little did I know…

And, like the bratty, whiny child who does NOT want to do what they are told, I resisted opportunities and chances to join various activities and ministries. Rather than listen to God, Who knows me better than I know myself, I persisted in what I thought was the best way to learn the Faith – online.

I hid behind the fact that because our parish was SO monstrous, it must also be cold and uninviting to all. But it wasn’t any of those things. I had made it to be that way in my head. Truth be told, all the people I had met to that point were warm, caring people. I equated the largeness of the parish to this impossibility that it could be warm and inviting. I was also at that time headlong into a period of time where I felt being serious about the Faith meant NOT being funny. Which, if you’ve read even one post I’ve written, you know that’s so not true. So, most of what I was dealing with at the time was hardly to be blamed on external factors but rather it was a reflection of what I was dealing with in my own spiritual growth.

The second thing happened about four years ago, just after Easter when I helped a friend with a program our parish was doing, Catholics Come Home. Based on the actual apostolate itself, we sought to bring those who attended only Christmas and Easter Masses with the intention of meeting them where they were and answering their questions about the Faith. After one of the meetings we stood around talking and he brought up that he was on the Pastoral Council. Having absolutely no clue what that meant or what they did, we chatted about it. And to my surprise, I found myself thinking about it. A. LOT. It didn’t help that the usual annual discernment did not take place that next month – our then new priest decided to keep his current council in place to minimize transition.

The next thirteen months crawled. I was chomping at the bit when discernment finally came about in May, and to say I had spent a lot of time discerning leading up to it was an understatement of epic proportions. I was both excited and nervous to go through the process, calling on my husband to be present with me at the discernment. I was also fifteen months pregnant with #5 and both scared and excited about the commitment. As it turned out, I, along with two other parishioners, was discerned onto the council by the previous pastoral council members, our priests, and parishioners who took part in the process. A three year term was about to begin and I was looking forward to what it would hold.

In my next post, I will talk more about how the practical side of living the Faith in my parish community helped balance the need/addiction of being online and I’ll offer some tips to help you out. Stay tuned, friends!


Confessions of The Original Online Junkie Ink Slingers Martina Motherhood Series Testimonials Vocations

Confessions of The Original Online Junkie – Series Debut, part II

As I mentioned in the debut post of this series, my oldest was five years old, enrolled in kindergarten, and not enrolled in religious education. Not my finest parenting moment, of course, but I use it as a launching point to illustrate that you can know exactly nothing and still have some hope of raising children who are knowledgeable and quite possibly passionate about the Faith. I soon realized it wasn’t about how much I knew – not much – or didn’t know – lots of that; it was about letting go of the pride that goes along with “mom and dad know everything” and committing to learning alongside my children. Humbling? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

It was the middle of that kindergarten year when the all too familiar Catholic guilt set in.

Your child should be enrolled in religious education.

You don’t even know what you believe or why – how are you going to teach her what you know?

You knooooooow kids can smell fear and hypocrisy a mile away.

Do you really think “just because,” “it’s tradition,” or “it’s just what we do” will fly when she asks the tough questions?

I brushed the nagging thoughts to the side and went in to our parish office and registered my kindergartener in the parish religious education program. Despite my lack of knowledge, passion, understanding, and even at times desire to know more, I clung to the guilt. It was through the guilt that I was more convicted to do what was right regardless of how I felt. It was like walking down a pitch dark hall.

Where was I going? Where would I end up?

I would later learn from our parish priest that a healthy dose of guilt is our internal gauge for right and wrong – like ripping off a bandaid, you expect to feel pain. It was only when you didn’t feel anything or all-consuming pain that something was off. Many times I would question various things the Church taught only to have Father Fasano give a homily precisely about what it was that I currently struggled…and if I didn’t know the Holy Spirit all that well, I would say He told Father Fasano to hold his gaze in my direction to underscore his point. As in, this homily is for you, MARTINA!

How did this affect my time online, you might be wondering? Well, I started to turn my internet time toward searching for things that were Catholic so I could learn from home. With a kindergartener, an infant, and a husband who worked six days a week, I was not in a place to take classes outside of the home, so I searched for a way for education to come to me. I found some very interesting websites. They laid claim to being Catholic and, taking the site at its word, I started to dig around. Then the true colors emerged. They touted women’s ordination and pushed for acceptance of homosexual unions. I thought to myself ok, I know I don’t know much, but I’m pretty sure this is wrong. As in, the Church does not teach this. And if you had asked me at that point why it was wrong, I wouldn’t have been able to answer with anything other than “just because.” How compelling, right? You would have converted if you heard me say that, right? Still, it intrigued me that some wanted to call themselves Catholic while clearly misleading uneducated people, such as myself, away from Church. I genuinely wondered what the appeal to Catholicism was if they disagreed with the core teachings? With thousands upon thousands of Christian sects for every flavor and set of beliefs to choose from, what could be the reason to be openly dissident? More importantly, it became imperative to me that I find accurate Church teaching. But where? How was I to know what was a legit website and what…well…wasn’t?

I was starting to emerge from my spiritual laziness and apathy. If nothing else, I knew there must be some plausible explanation for any question I had or had heard about. I started my faith journey not rooted in blind faith so much as I felt there must be some logical answer. Logic is rooted in truth, not emotion. I liked that.

I remembered a website I had joined in the fall of 2000 – it was the largest parenting website around and I had signed up for the weekly pregnancy updates, read a couple of articles, but never really investigated the board side of the website. In 2003, I explored the rest of the parenting website and searched specifically for Catholic. I don’t recall how it went down exactly, but I’m sure I must have been grasping for straws at that point. I was pleasantly surprised to find there was a whole community of message boards, including one called Catholic Families! I immediately jumped in and asked eleventy billion questions. I quickly found out that there were others like me who had a similar upbringings. We were all struggling with various Church teachings and yet, there was this desire to put aside our own notions for the sake of learning more. I noticed a lot of the time, answers would come in the form of a response followed by links to various sites that encouraged further reading. So while I was enrolled in what I affectionately referred to the group as “Catholic bootcamp,” I was also visiting external sites such as Catholic AnswersCatholic Online, and the Vatican’s website to name a few. I decided if nothing else, I would make myself a student of the Faith and trudge along, hoping that that feeling of liking it would eventually surface. As I got to know some of the ladies over the years, I noticed a trend among many of the questions from the new users – many had the same questions I had about the Church’s teaching on contraception.

Humanae Vitae – what is that?

Natural Family Planning? Never heard of it! 

There are different KINDS of NFP? Mind blowing!

I don’t HAVE to use NFP? Shut the front door!

There was definitely this feeling of the Church’s teaching on the life issues when it came to conception as being a hidden gem of sorts. I started to share with the group that we needed a grass roots movement to really and truly empower women. That would first start with our taking the Faith seriously, which meant lots of prayer, support from friends, family, and acquaintances, both IRL {in real life} and online, and seeking to nurture each other through it all. For me, that spiritual stretch involved a period of time where I went inward for a time, losing my sense of humor and scrutinizing everything because I sincerely believed it was what good Catholics did. A lot of the growth meant trying new spiritual things on and seeing how they fit and then trying something else on, all the while studying, reading, trying out my evangelizing “skills” and conversing with people online. It was now 2008 and my time studying the Faith only online was coming to a close. I was about to get pushed out of the nest. I had gotten a little too comfortable in my online environment “cocoon.”

In my next post, I will talk about how the Holy Spirit placed it on my heart to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Truth be told, I liked being online. It was safe. It was an introvert’s delight. But it was time for a new challenge. Until next time, friends.