Why aren’t kids going outside?

It’s rare for children to play outside today.

I was listening to the radio the other day when I heard a public service announcement that surprised me. It was sponsored by the Discover the Forest campaign, which according to its website “encourages parents of tweens to take their kids to nearby forests and parks to reap these benefits and instill in their children early on a love for the outdoors, thereby developing future stewards of the land.”

Anybody else sad? How did we get to the point where we need to encourage people to go outside and walk in the woods? As I recall, no one ever instructed me to do that. I just did. And memories of the forests and streams of Northern New Jersey are some of my fondest memories. Today, however, many children don’t even go outdoors, instead huddling inside four walls most of the day.

Screen time has many children huddled indoors. And fear of giving up their devices, even for a short time, has them shunning their natural surroundings.

One easy to pinpoint problem is their addiction to electronics. People under twenty were nursed on cellphones and tablets and now find it almost impossible to give up their devices. Tell kids they’re going to a place with no cellphone service and many will simply refuse to go.

Fourteen million U.S. children and adolescents are obese. Getting them to play outside would greatly reduce the problem.

Then there’s the news. As a former journalist I’m annoyed by the propensity of the media to reinforce the idea that our world is really dangerous. That strangers lurk behind every tree to kidnap and kill children. This stranger-danger paranoia is absurd. The reality is that kids are much more likely to be victimized by someone they know: mommy’s boyfriend, their baseball coach, or Uncle Bill. That’s why child abduction is such big news. It’s incredibly rare. And yet many parents won’t let their children explore the natural world out of fear. Kids sense this unease and become frightened at the prospect of being outside. One result of this mania is that we now have an obesity problem, with 18.5% of children and adolescents tipping the scales in the unhealthy range. That’s close to 14 million young people. Imagine if those children got up off the couch and went for a walk in the woods or played in a park.

There’s a big, beautiful world out there and seeing it in person is so much better than viewing it on a screen.

What can we do? Parents, while I appreciate your deep desire to protect your kids, try to relax and give them a little freedom. When they’re young, take them outside to explore. When they’re old enough to go alone, set rules that will keep you calm in their absence. Have them tell you exactly where they plan to play and when you can expect them to come home. Teach them the proper way to address a stranger. Explain that they should never go exploring alone, so they should always invite their friends along. Show them how to contact 911 in case of an emergency.

Then, try to relax. Your children are outside practicing valuable skills, like making their own decisions. Will they make mistakes? Of course. But that’s the way we learn.

The vast majority of kids–88%–say they like being in nature. So give them a chance. There’s a beautiful world out there, and seeing our wild lands on a screen is no substitute for being there.

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Books to read during the pandemic

Authors love it when their books make lists, so I’d like to thank Hannah from the book blog Echos in an Empty Room for including my novel Wild Horses on the Salt on her list “Books to read in Lockdown by Authors that you may not know.”

Thanks for including me, Hannah.

Books to read in Lockdown by Authors that you may not know.

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Losing my clock addiction

Clocks have ruled my world for most of my life.

Time has always been a slippery and demanding mistress for me.

I retired from teaching in the spring and despite the fact that my alarm clock is not really needed anymore, it remained by my bedside, its glowing blue light a beacon in my bedroom, one to which I would always turn whenever I woke in the night. The idea was to see how many hours I might yet have to sleep before the horrible clatter that announced it was time to throw my comfy covers back and greet the day.

The thing is, I don’t have to get up at any specific time anymore. In fact, there’s little outside of the odd appointment that requires me to ever check the time. Even television no longer asks me to tune in at a particular hour. I stream what I want when I want.

How life has changed. My previous responsibilities—TV news reporting, teaching, and sports officiating— ran on inflexible schedules. I was either on the news set when the red camera light went on or I was not. I was at the front of my classroom when the bell rang or I was not. I blew my whistle to put the football in play to start the game on time or I did not.

My life has been so caught up in time that when I have nightmares, there’s no boogieman under the bed or monster chasing me through dark woods. Nope, there’s a clock. The horror for me in dreamland is having to get somewhere quickly. It might be a news set or a classroom or a ballgame or an airport. Despite the scenario, the idea is the same. I’m always on the verge of being late and horrified at the prospect.

I noticed recently that there isn’t a room in my home without a clock. There’s even one in the laundry room. But since retiring from teaching and football, and the effects of the pandemic that have me mostly at home, my clocks are slowly losing their grip on me.

And yet, my late dreams continue.

“It’s doesn’t matter when you get up,” my sweetie pie pointed out when I told him my old alarm clock had died. But letting go is difficult. It’s almost as if time has trained me, given me muscle memory that has me constantly looking at clocks.

The other day, I focused on the blank face of my alarm clock, wondering if all it needed was a battery or a charge. Its blank eye stared back accusingly, as I placed it in a bottom drawer under my socks.

I still have to think about its fate.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Spotlight on Wild Horses on the Salt

My thanks to Elizabeth Silver of Silver’s Reviews for her spotlight on my novel Wild Horses on the Salt. https://silversolara.blogspot.com/2020/11/spotlight-of-wild-horses-on-salt.html

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Drowning in plastic

Ad campaigns in the 1960s and 70s encouraged us not to litter.

I worry about the planet. I have since I was a child. Maybe it was the camping and fishing trips my parents took us on where the adage leave nothing behind was drilled into our young heads. Or maybe it was those anti-littering ads that ran on TV and billboards,  or the lessons I learned as a Girl Scout about the importance of protecting nature.

Whatever sparked my concern was enough to make me pause one day as I overlooked a small stream near my home. A rusted bicycle stuck up from the water as an eddy of garbage swirled around one wheel. The vision so disturbed my 12-year-old self, that I waded into the river and extracted the bike and some of the garbage. When the stream again flowed free and clear, I rejoiced.

I’m in a constant battle with my loved ones about what trash goes in which bin, so much so they call me Eco Annie.

As an adult, I have worked hard to do my part, so much so that family members sometimes derisively call me Eco Annie when I complain about who forgot the reusable cloth shopping bags or who put the wrong stuff in the recycle bin. I ball up plastic bags to return to grocery stores. I compost, feeding the insects that make beautiful soil for my vegetable garden. I purchase products that are biodegradable and, when I scuba dive, I retrieve garbage that has found its way into the sea.

Plastic bags are ubiquitous, cluttering our oceans, rivers and landscapes.

I mention this because of an article I just read, one that has me damned depressed. “More than a million tons a year of America’s plastic trash isn’t ending up where it should. The equivalent of as many as 1,300 plastic grocery bags per person is landing in places such as oceans and roadways,” said the Associate Press article, “Study says much trash is going astray.” While the U.S. was not previously ranked in the world’s top-ten worst offenders for plastic waste in oceans, the study says we now sit as high as third on that list.

Mismanaged waste we ship abroad litters our land and oceans.

One of the problems is the fact that many countries no longer take our garbage. According to the study, U.S. exports of plastic waste have declined nearly 70%. And those countries that still accept our recyclable plastic, are not doing their jobs. Fifty-one percent of the plastic waste we ship abroad is routinely mismanaged.

Consider, as just one example of our plastic trash problem, that The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is estimated to cover an area twice the size of Texas, a swirling storm of mostly floating plastic, one of five such patches in our oceans.

Industries are trying. Modernized recycling operations are being funded and there’s a push for new packaging standards. But, let’s face it, if we, the people, don’t do what we can our world may one day resemble a vast garbage dump.

There are those who say other countries must also bear the burden of cleaning up the Earth, and while they’re correct let’s remember that the U.S. is the number one generator of waste in the world, with one study estimating that each of us produces 1,600 pounds of garbage annually.

Jena Jambeck, an environmental engineering professor at the University of Georgia, had the last world in the AP article. “The best thing you can do environmentally is to produce no waste at all.”

While that’s probably an impossible goal, I believe we can, at least, do better.

Don’t you?

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Writers: don’t quit your day job

My thanks to Sarah at The Reading Nook for taking the time to interview me about my writing and for promoting my novel Wild Horses on the Salt. https://readingnook84.wordpress.com/2020/11/05/author-interview-wild-horses-on-the-salt-by-anne-montgomery/

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb