Outsmarting My Smart Phone, Part I

My first cell phone was too big to put in a pocket or a purse. It was larger than a Princess desk phone, and all the rage before wireless made its debut. We bought it because everyone had one. It seemed like the cool thing to do. It sat between the front seats in the car that Bill drove. We only made calls with it when we were going to be late for an appointment or in the event of an emergency … both of which rarely ever happened. It was more a pain in the butt than anything else. It was a while before I got a flip phone that I could hide away in my purse.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with my cell phone. Firstly, I don’t enjoy talking on the phone that much anymore. I rarely give out my phone number and I often don’t carry it with me. I simply don’t like being interrupted when I’m shopping, eating a meal, reading a book, taking a walk, or anything else for that matter. When I’m out of town I do take it with me, just so I can be reached if there is a problem at home or with my kids. I think the use of cell phones in public is way overboard. I worry about the all the little ones who know how to use these gadgets as they are learning to walk. Then there are the teens and tweens like my grandkids who spend way too much texting, playing games, and not watching where they are going. It’s quite frequent around here to watch UVA students crossing the street without looking either way to see if cars are coming, because they are checking their email. And there are lots of adults whose cell phone manners are particularly atrocious. Have you ever had dinner with a friend you haven’t seen in a long time and he or she pulls out a cell phone to check emails, even before she reads the menu, or asks you how you are?

Over the last few years and the last one especially I’ve gotten more hooked on this canned entertainment than I’ve ever wanted to be. I believed those who told me that I had to have a presence on Facebook and Twitter to sell my book, and connect with my readers. If I didn’t have friends on the internet what did I have? Nothing, I was told. So I opened accounts on both of of those time wasters and took up checking my emails way too often, as if checking it eleven times an hour would guarantee that I’d just won a prize for my fantastic writing.

Then the last election happened and because I was so caught up in the anxiety and fear that many of us experienced, I was constantly on Facebook checking out the latest Breaking News that brought me into a dark period of depression. Being a news junkie, the cell phone did not ease my growing addiction to having to know everything that was going on all around me. I no longer needed a television set to tune into. I started carrying the phone with me everywhere, as if knowing what the president-elect was doing right this very moment would cause a major world war, or stop the world from spinning without my knowing it. I even checked it while I was eating breakfast and lunch. Something I said I’d never, ever do. If I had an appointment, the first thing I did was pull out my cell phone as I walked out the door.

There were the hate posts from both sides chewing out those who were upset about the election and how to get over it. Even those I agreed with most of time got nasty to those whom they said weren’t doing enough to resist. Making phone calls, writing postcards, marching, and signing petitions was all the rage. If you didn’t do enough of any one of those things you were bashed by those who spent all of their available time doing them. I absolutely believe in resisting, but when those on my side start picking on those who can’t do it all, I really begin to question exactly what is going on here. Fortunately most of that activity is over at least for the time being.

Then one morning I woke up, feeling especially down. I realized how much complaining I was doing because I never had time to finish anything I started. As the weather warmed, I wanted to spend more time outside pruning last summer’s garden left-overs and listening to the birds chatter around me. But I didn’t have time. I wanted more time to read, write in my journal, and prepare delicious food. I spent a lot of time over a lot of days, trying to figure out how to change my lack of time. What I discovered that nothing was really holding me back from doing what I wanted to do. I was simply addicted to the cell phone, the internet and all that it represents.

I’ve started making choices about how to spend my time, rather than being run by robots and having my brain get hooked on something out in the atmosphere that I can’t even see. When ever I get the urge to check my email or see what’s happening on Facebook, I ask myself why I need to do that now. Sometimes I still go down the rabbit hole but other times I hold off and enjoy the sunshine and the newly blooming flowers that are growing around me.

I’ll be writing more about this over the next few weeks. I’ll share ways to have more time for yourself and be more mindful. In the meantime, have a glorious week. And before you check your cell phone, ask yourself why you need to do that right this minute!

My Book Addiction and Reviews

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In case I haven’t told you before now, I am a bookaholic. I’m also a sugarholic, but that’s another story. However, there is something that the two have in common. The sweetness of both reading and savoring a piece of chocolate draws me in. I have a very difficult time leaving them behind. The more I read good books or eat sweets, the more I want them. I work hard on my sugar addiction, trying to control my cravings. But I can’t seem to control my hunger for books, and since it isn’t affecting my life negatively, I don’t worry about it much.

Even as a kid, I loved books. The best days were those when I went to the library and chose two or three new ones to bring home. I lived inside their covers, following stories that I was sure were written just for me. These days, though, I want to own the book I’m reading in case I want to make notes in the margins. Books are companions that I want to keep nearby. If the book and I don’t connect then it goes in the box that I send off to the library book sale or give it to someone who might like it.

For the last couple of years my actual reading time was minimal, due to work on my own book and the plethora of other things I had to do. But the the stack of books by my bedside and on the bookcase across the room just kept growing taller. This past spring when my memoir was well on it’s way to publication, I slowly began taking one book at time and opening its pages, bathing in stories and language. At first I felt guilty for not “working.” Surely I should be doing laundry, filing away the stacks of papers in my studio, or unpacking a few boxes that still haven’t been emptied since our move here six years ago. But then I remembered that part of a writer’s work is to read.

Back when I was writing mostly poetry, the easiest way for me to get moving with my writing was to pick up a poetry book and read for at least thirty minutes if not an hour. At the end of that time, I’d be so inspired by the power of words and how they were put together, that I’d sit and write for hours. These days are no different. I get inspired by reading prose, whether it be fiction or nonfiction. And the stack of books I mentioned above is slowly, yes, slowly dwindling. I guess the slowness is because I keep adding one or two whenever I see ones that I MUST read. And there are plenty of those. The two books I’ve reviewed below are those that just recently took their places on the stack.

FASTEST THINGS ON WINGS, Rescuing Hummingbirds in Hollywood, by Terry Masear, is a goodie. It is a thriller. Not in the sense that is has murderers or spies in it, but in the sense that I have always loved those tiny winged creatures, and wanted to know more about them. I was thrilled to learn about the mysterious lives of these pinky-sized wonders. This book, however, goes beyond the facts about one particular bird.  It also tells the story of a compassionate woman who gave her life over to saving the lives of thousands of hummingbirds. It’s about her special relationships with those who spent time recovering from near death under her care. I call it a “Thriller/Memoir.” I don’t think those who love nature, memoir, and especially birds, should miss this one. It’s a delight.

THINGS UNSAID, by Diana Y. Paul, is a novel that could be a memoir. It is the universal story of a dysfunctional family, how they tear each other apart, and how if not stopped, their instability could bleed down through generations to come. It is a story of the conflicts between a set of elderly parents, their three grown children, and their granddaughters. All of them soaking in the sour brine of relationships gone bad. In today’s world of Baby Boomers taking over the care of their aging parents, it’s a thoughtful tale we can all  learn from. Do we give our all to those who brought us into the world despite their toxic behaviors? Or do we need to let them go their own way in order to preserve our own lives and those of our children? Every caretaker story is different, but this one holds a bit of everything that could go wrong and then some. Highly recommended to me by several other She Writes Press authors, I found it hard to put down.

I’m still choosing which book to begin next. I used to split up my days reading two to three books at a time, but I can’t seem to do that anymore. My brain is telling me I can’t multitask anymore. So now only one book at a time has to do. At the moment I’m being drawn to The Art of Work, A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant To Do, by Jeff Goins. I think that being in my seventies, it’s high time I figure out what I want to do with my life. 🙂

Cleaning House

DSCF0734.JPGThe holidays are upon us, life is crazy, and there aren’t enough hours in the day. I’ve cleaned out all of the blue mold in my refrigerator, put all the summer clothes away, and have begun to file the huge stack of stuff in my studio that’s been steadily growing for at least three months. I was under the impression that it might disappear on its own. Of course I know better. But once in a while I think maybe things have changed.

I cannot start 2016 with a life overflowing with everything I’ve been allowing to pile up. There certainly will be more of that to come. And if I let it go any further I’ll be in deep trouble and I won’t be happy with myself.

IMG_0477So, I’m taking a few weeks off from blogging in order to get organized and ready for the approach of a new year which already appears to be filling up with challenges … like my husband’s knee replacement surgery in late January.

I will not be present on Facebook and Twitter during that time. I’ve allowed them both to be distracting and somewhat addictive.

I will be back on December 1st with my next newsletter, a review of Brene Brown’s new book, Rising Strong, and how it’s helped me to see the progress I’ve been making in my life. There will be other goodies within it as well.

I will begin posting again here on my blog on December 8th.

DSC00399.JPGIn the meantime I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving. Among the many things I’m grateful for, are you, my readers. Thanks so much for taking the time to visit me here and leave comments.

What are you most grateful for this year?

Changing The World, One Person At A Time!

DSC01663It’s spring! Here in Virginia, bird song fills the air and everything is in bloom.  This is one of those years when the dogwood, redbud, and fruit trees are all blooming at the same time. The brilliant greens of spring  are amazing and I notice each morning how the leaves on the trees around me have grown larger.  My strawberries are blooming. I’m looking forward to having them with my yogurt for breakfast.

Spring is always a time of hope and I’ve been filled with a wonderful sense of wellbeing and gratefulness for all that has been gifted to me. I’m especially grateful to my daughter, Lisa, who got me started on getting rid of the large amounts of sugar I was unwittingly consuming on a daily basis.  I knew I was addicted to sugar, and had been trying  to stop using it, but it wasn’t until Lisa started on the 21 Day Sugar Detox that I got serious.

I am personally watching many of those around me changing and making their way to a more healthy lifestyle.

My husband, whom I never thought would give up his carbs, joined me on this sugar-free road and has lost 17 pounds since we started.  He had blood work done last week just to check his blood sugar and cholesterol levels.  We were blown away by the results. His blood sugar levels are the lowest they’ve ever been and his cholesterol levels are also down.  He feels great, has more energy, and he isn’t as forgetful as he used to be.  AND, he has halved his blood pressure meds and his doctor said he might have to halve it again.

But there’s more.  My housekeeper and friend, Bobbie, saw my 21 Day Sugar Detox book in the kitchen one morning and asked about it.  She went out and bought the book that afternoon. A few days later, she had her family doing the detox.

She in turn told her sisters about it and they are giving it a try.  One of them told some of her friends at work about it and now all of them detoxing.  That’s just a small part of the big picture.  I know we’re not alone and that there are many more people out there who now realize that sugar, which is much more addictive than cocaine, is public health enemy number one.  Let’s keep it going!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could bring peace to the world in the same way?

I Can Do This!

French Beaded Sunflower

French Beaded Sunflower

Have you ever taken on a project that you’ve never finished? I’ve done it many times, especially when it comes to art and writing projects.  I spent several years making French Beaded Flowers using a symphony of tiny glass beads in a rainbow of colors.  Then the day came when other things captured my interest and I stopped working on more than a dozen beading projects that I had started. They’re all waiting for a day when I get the urge to pull one of them out and begin again.

I’m like that.  Always finding things I want to learn about. I wade in and out of the water, starting and stopping every time I find a new passion.  It started years ago when I went to a summer weaving workshop to learn how to make my own cloth which I turned into various items of clothing, throw pillows, and whatever else struck my fancy.

That led  me to learn how to spin wool from a neighbor’s sheep into yarn. Hooked,  I bought my own small flock of Romney Sheep and Angora goats to supply me with the raw materials I needed.  What followed that? Why, natural dying of course, using plants to bring color to the yarns I was spinning.

I’ve spent other lengthy periods of time writing poetry, working in photography, and painting. And I never forget that my garden is a work of art, always in progress.  All of my passions are part of my life in one way or another and have combined to make me who I am today, a person of many interests who is rarely bored.

I’ve always been interested in healthy living, cooking, and food.  As a small child, my daughter Lisa, asked Santa to bring her Wonder Bread one Christmas. I baked my own bread at the time in an old wood burning cookstove. She said it  wasn’t as good as the bread she ate when visiting her friends.  She was anemic for a while and my son Mark, had digestive issues. I was always attuned to health problems and  when Bill was diagnosed with ulcers, we became a three menu family, with me eating whatever I had to make for the others.

French Beaded Poppy

French Beaded Poppy

Over the years I’ve continued to keep abreast of the news as it pertained to living a healthy lifestyle.  My diet has always been fairly healthy, depending on what the latest medical wisdom of the day was. I was always confused by what the powers that be were touting as the best way to lose weight. I just kept on gaining.  When I was married I wore a size 4 wedding gown, but over the years graduated to large sizes.

I tried being a vegetarian, but I had a major drop in energy and began having some digestive issues along with major cravings for meat.  I tried a low to no-fat diet. My weight  only crept higher and I was always hungry.  I gave up eggs when the heart people said that they were bad for you and continued to bake bread using the best whole grain flours when whole grains were said to be the only way to go. I still felt low on energy. I couldn’t get rid of my brain fog or my aching joints and sore muscles.

I went gluten free two years ago and started feeling better immediately.  I lost a little bit of weight but that stopped as I tried to take care of my carb cravings with dark chocolate and gluten free cookies made with a variety of other grains.  I began reading about the paleo diet and began experimenting, leaving out most grains. I filled up on veggies, meat, eggs, fish and fruit and again started feeling better.

A month ago, after watching my daughter successfully finish a 21 day sugar detox, I decided to follow in her footsteps.  What a difference it’s made.  I knew I was a sugar addict, but I wasn’t eager to give it up. Now I’ve lost 10 pounds.  But even better than the weight loss is how good I feel.  I have more energy now than I’ve had in years.  My thinking is much clearer and I’m not as forgetful as I was.  And food tastes even better than it did before.

It was initially daunting. My addiction to sugar and carbs brought on craving that I had to try to take control of.  But within days I felt a difference.  Yes, there were still cravings.  My favorite food of all is fruit … berries, peaches, pears, apples, bananas, grapes, cherries.  For 3 weeks I could only have 1 green tipped banana, a green apple, or a grapefruit per day.  I didn’t miss the lack of grains as I’d already stopped eating those.  I didn’t miss beans as I’m not that crazy about them anyway. I loved all of the veggies with a small portion of meat, eggs, or fish for protein. I learned how to make “banola,” a granola made from nuts, seeds, an egg, and green bananas. I made my own ketchup and Bill prepared homemade mayonnaise,  something we used to do but gave up on when life got overbearing and too busy.

French Beaded Wild Flowers

French Beaded Wild Flowers

There were days when it was hard.  I had headaches, felt a bit light headed, and wanted some berries or figs.  But I made it through and surprisingly, I haven’t strayed off course much.  Yes, I’m eating a bit more fruit, but not in the quantity I was before.  I’ve had a few sips of wine and wondered what I needed it for.  So far chocolate or pastries haven’t tugged at me and hopefully won’t anytime soon.  I have given thought to ice-cream, but so far haven’t fallen for it.  I’ve found a few recipes that use no sugar, so I’ll be giving those a try.

This change in eating habits isn’t something I want to drop along the wayside like some of my art projects. I love the way I feel.  I like that so far I’ve conquered my need for large doses of sugar.  When an occasional craving pops up, I just keep repeating:  “I Can Do This!”  Sometimes it takes saying it only once.  Other times it takes ten or twelve times before I believe it.  But in the end the cravings stop and I go on with my day, knowing I CAN it.