The Alerts Worth Attending To

I'm not a whiz on my iPhone and do not use it in all the ways I'm sure could make my life better. (Can you hear my teenage daughter laughing from where you are.) But I do have one system I've set up that works extremely well for me, which reduces stress, helps me be present, and brings me joy.


For my best friends and closest family members, I have specialized ring tones and text tones that fit their personalities. So I know when to pay attention to my phone, and when to ignore it.


Revolutionary, I know.


I love this system because when I hear the tones from another room or my purse , I pretty much know if I need to grab the phone right away. If it's one of my close friends, I probably already know what they are texting about. If it's one of my kids, I look at the phone, no matter what I'm doing, because they could be kidnapped or trapped under something heavy. One time my daughter was trapped under her bicycle, because her untied shoelaces had wrapped around the pedal and she fell down trying to untangle them. I had to rescue her before our neighborhood coyotes got to her. (I'm not allowed to tell you which daughter this happened to.)


The added bonus of my system is that the personalized tones produce in me a joyful and visceral response similar to the way Pavlov's dogs would salivate whenever they heard a bell ring. Only less messy.


My husband Jeff's tone is called Sci-fi Robot, because he is very precise like a robot, but funny in a subtle way. Also, he loves Sci-fi movies. His texts are usually to check on some detail of our family calendar that I have inputted incorrectly ("You're not speaking at 12 a.m. are you?"), or to send me a random emoji. Like the shrimp.


Josie's tone is Choo Choo, because she is a mother of three boys and I made them a train quilt once. She is also fast moving, fast thinking, and has great vintage style, like a train. Her messages are usually clever, or showing me a picture of something cute she is wearing or has done to her house, or newsy, like an article from NPR or a great blog I haven't heard of.


Jenni's ring tone is "By the Sea." Because she lives by the sea and her calls are as regular as waves. She usually calls me on her way to work, and if she doesn't reach me, on her way home. Her text tone is called "hello" and her texts are usually friendly messages, like the wave of a hand.


Gina's ring tone is "Constellation" because it makes me calm down, as does Gina. Her text tone is "typewriter," and it has a cheerful up-swing in melody, like good news. Gina's messages are often gospel (good news) related, so this is really appropriate. One never dreads a text from Gina.


My mom's ringtone is "Old Phone," because neither she, nor I, are used the fact that when she calls, it is no longer from the beige plastic standard-issue AT&T phone with the curly cord that hung on our kitchen wall from 1980 until 2015. My mom's text messages are also occasionally old fashioned, in that she still sometimes signs them. "Hope you're having a good day. Love, Mom."


My mentor Terry's text tone is called "Tweet," but is actually a whistle that trills "Yoo hoo!" Since she is silly, and can usually call me to attention and give it to me straight in few words, or possibly in a gif, a quick whistle from her is just right, and I come running when I hear it, like a well-trained retriever.



My teenager's text tone is "note" because I can hear it over whatever din might surround me (necessary since the bicycle/coyote incident) and also because it reminds me of a service counter bell. "Attention! Please attend to my needs!" it calls out, which is pretty much what she's been saying since she came home from the hospital. She does also send me things that make me really happy like jokes and unflattering selfies that I'm not allowed to post anywhere.


And finally, my second daughter, got "Input," also because it breaks through the din, and because all the other tones with a lot of character were taken before she finally got her cell phone last year, so she got the leavings. She will probably have to talk to her therapist about this someday, along with her other lists of injustices endured as the second daughter. But I attend to it just as quickly as her sister's (which I hope she will tell her therapist) even though so far most of her texts are silly gifs and poop emojis.


These are the regular voices, personalities and sounds that fill my day. All the other rings that come in, I'm pretty comfortable ignoring, at least for the moment, which is why the system helps me be present to my life and important relationships.


Another favorite voice I hear is God's. If I had to name his tone it would be called "Friendly Grandfather." My friend Michelle and I have compared notes and we both hear God the Father this way, like someone much older and wiser than us, who adores us very much, but isn't afraid to tell us the truth about ourselves when we need to hear it, and always pulls us up in his lap for a cuddle first.


Jesus's voice sounds slightly different, more like a brother who has been sitting next to me at the kitchen table all my life and has seen how it has all gone down. Both God the Father and Jesus the Son have a name for me. It's "Sweetie." Sometimes they say it with humor and affection, like my friends Greg and Kelly call each other -- who have an adorable marriage and call to each other in a false deep voice. Sometimes it's said in a gentle reprimand, elongated, "Sweee-tie," like you'd say to a much loved dog who is about to eat something that will make him sick and is looking up at you for permission first.


Jesus said, "I'm the good shepherd and my sheep hear my voice." I'm glad that's true, because there are lots of voices competing for my attention. I've learned the Enemy's voice too, and I know its his because he calls me names: Lame. Looser. Fool. And he says things like, "Who do you think you are?" Sometimes, I just ignore those sounds, like an un-listed number. But other times, I answer, "I'm a loved child of God. So get out of here." And then I go call someone whose voice is worth listening to, which is my best system for reducing stress, helping me be present, and bringing me joy.



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Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. ~Proverbs 4:23