Mary Katharine Ham

Starting today, this girl is going offline for a whole week. A week. It’s a milestone. The last time I was similarly untethered by any number of wireless devices was way back in 2004.

It was late September, and I was on the Outer Banks of North Carolina with my behind in a beach chair instead of an office chair, my hands more likely to grab some drifting kelp than a keyboard. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine that I was unconnected for an entire week near the end of the 2004 election cycle, with all the Kerry-crushing and Rather-toppling those last few weeks offered any blogosphere fan.

On the other hand, it’s very hard to imagine being online for a week thinking about John Kerry when your feet are dangling off your rented porch, sun-reddened toes dug into the gritty island sand, a bucket of steamed oysters at your side. I think I made the right call.

Today, I cut the cord for another week. But my Internet addiction has progressed since 2004. I wonder how I will cope. Back then, I blogged occasionally for work, but I still had to walk down to the library to get online when I was away from the office. On Tuesday of this week, my cable modem went down for 30 minutes, and I was on the phone with Comcast at 11 p.m.

Back then, I had a cell phone that didn’t often work outside of major metropolitan areas. Today I have a Blackberry so that my boss can reach me with elaborate details of any task that needs doing on a Saturday night. Yes, I’m one of those people now.

But not this week. This week, I take the computer off my lap, stop watching the bars on my Blackberry, and go to sleep-away camp. That’s right, sleep-away camp. It’s another milestone. This is actually my first trip to camp, and it’s anything but vacation. I’m part of a Young Life ministry to high-school kids in the D.C. area, and we’re taking 20 of them to a week-long camp in the mountains of Virginia.

The week will not be relaxing. These kids are energetic, tough, and often moody, like most 15-year-olds. They’re also a ton of fun. For many of them, it will be their first trip outside of a major metropolitan area, in the mountains, under stars you can actually see at night. It may also be the first time many of them hear the Gospel.

As for me, I get to live out a little childhood dream. The closest I ever got to sleep-away camp as a kid was watching “Meatballs” and “Parent Trap.” There were no camp boyfriends or dances. My mother was a schoolteacher, so she was home with us all summer. My brothers and I made a game of counting how many times we could tell her, “Mom, we’re bored,” before she’d offer something other than “read a book” or “clean your room.”

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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