Before smartphones, there was mom.

We’re plugged in 24 hours a day now. We’re all part of one big machine, whether we are conscious of that or not. And if we can’t unplug from that machine, eventually we’re going to become mindless. ~Alan Lightman

Lately, I’ve been trying to think of ways to resist the constant pull of technology and social media. I’m planning on deactivating my Facebook account in February…whether that will be a permanent thing, or just temporary, has yet to be determined. All I know is that I need a break from it. It has become nothing more than a platform for people (myself included) to voice their complaints on everything from their relationships to traffic and – especially this time of year – the weather. I think I can do without that for a little while.

Another idea that keeps popping into my head is getting rid of my smartphone. So far, I’ve talked myself out of doing that, since I use it for absolutely everything…it’s my camera, GPS, encyclopedia, and radio. I download books to my Kindle app for my monthly book group. I have a special trails app for all the hiking we do. I have a tabata app for when I workout at home. I use this thing for far more than just calling and texting people. Could I live without it? How DID I ever live without it?!

I’m trying to think back to the days before smartphones. I remember when I had my teeny little Ericsson flip phone about 15 years ago, that at the time seemed so advanced, though I couldn’t even text with it. How did I ever get to where I needed to go? What if I got lost? And what did I do when I absolutely had to know, RIGHT THEN, who invented those crazy elaborate devices that performed simple operations by sending a rubber ball through an insane sort of obstacle course (answer: Rube Goldberg)?

I called mom.

My mom was the reference librarian at our town’s public library for many years. She is a veritable encyclopedia of information all by herself, but armed with the infinite amount of information available on the Internet, she is absolutely un-stump-able. I would frequently call her long-distance (back when that was a thing) whenever I had a random question about a movie/book title, or the spelling of a particular word. Oftentimes, the questions were much more complicated than that, but she was always able to give me the answer very quickly.

I called her numerous times when I was lost in Boston, and she would patiently give me turn-by-turn directions (from memory) over the phone until I found my way to Storrow Drive, whence I could find my own way home. When I moved to Indiana, I would continue to call her whenever I was lost in the maze of neighborhoods full of identical mid-century houses, nary a landmark to be seen. I would give her my cross-street, and she would plug my coordinates into MapQuest and get me wherever I needed to go.

My mom never seemed put out by any of these requests, but she loves solving puzzles, so it’s in her nature. I like to think I take after her in that regard, and I think the hours I spend researching various topics online out of my own curiosity is a clue that I do. Unfortunately, the ability to access all of this information from a handheld device has taken me away from the people right in front of me, on so very many occasions.

I’m not sure how practical it would be to go back to the days of a simple talk/text cellphone…the days of calling mom whenever I got stuck. I know she wouldn’t mind, but my parents are far better at unplugging than I am. I wouldn’t be able to guarantee that I could reach them. They are often without a cellphone, and don’t even have a voicemail box set up. They are also completely unapologetic about this, as well they should be. On the rare occasion they are questioned about it, they simply ask “What did people do in the days before cellphones??”

What DID we do?

We got lost. Sometimes we were lucky and had a map in the glove box. Other times, we had to – the HORROR – stop and ask someone for directions. We had to actually consult another human being. I often wonder if my shyness and introversion is exacerbated by the fact that there is very little need for human interaction these days. I can do everything online – I don’t even have to call and TALK to anyone. It is both a blessing and a curse.

Long story short, I’d love to disconnect. I’m just not sure how far I’m willing to go. I’d like to get out of my comfort zone, but it’s just so damn convenient living this way. But perhaps, it’s not as much of an adventure. And that’s something that everyone could use a little more of.

You know...that THING?! With the things??

You know…that THING?! With the things that move and it does something at the end? You know??

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Beginning again

A simple life is not seeing how little we can get by with – that’s poverty – but how efficiently we can put first things first…When you’re clear about your purpose and your priorities, you can painlessly discard whatever does not support these, whether it’s clutter in your cabinets or commitments on your calendar. ~Victoria Moran

I know spring is generally the time for renewal, but I feel like this fall has been full of restarts and second chances. Maybe I’m just subconsciously getting a jump on some New Year’s resolutions, though I’ve never been one to commit to those, anyway.

I’ve been trying to implement some lifestyle changes…just little things that I can improve on to get me closer to the life I feel I should be living. We’ve been doing a lot more cooking at home, eating healthier, enjoying the great outdoors, and spending time with family. I’ve gone from hitting the gym 2-3 days a week to a pretty consistent 4-5 days. I’ve even started running again here and there, though not for any great distances.

We’ve been playing a lot of disc golf on the weekends, and have played courses all over New England. I’ve improved quite a bit since I started, but am definitely still a novice. Mostly, it’s just fun to get outside, and the courses are beautiful and full of pine trees.

Curtis and I have both been struggling with trying to “unplug”…we have realized how utterly dependent we are on our smartphones, our cable TV, and the Internet. We have been a bit better about not using our phones while out to dinner, and at night before we fall asleep, but it’s a challenge…the temptation to use it is always there. On the rare occasions I am forced to go without my phone, I feel like I am experiencing things so much more fully. I am hoping I can continue to chip away at the time I spend with that thing in my hand.

I think the biggest challenge I’m facing right now is finding time for friends. With work, gym, and weekly visits with both our parents, there isn’t much time left over. I feel like I need a full day to recover from the work week, and then when Sunday rolls around, we are preparing for the beginning of another week. It never ends. I’m not sure how to make time for people, unless they book me in advance, and it seems a bit presumptuous to expect that of my friends. I wish I could be more spontaneously available to them, but I am a creature of routine.

Fortunately, November is a month full of birthdays, and my calendar is slowly being filled up with dinner dates with the girls. It will be nice to catch up with all of them…we live such different lives these days. Some of them have a house full of kids, some are trying to, one is eternally single, another is a serial romantic…and here I am, married, still living in an apartment, and no plans to have children. It definitely makes for interesting conversation.

My main priority right now is simply trying not to stress out too much. There are things that I want in life that I do not yet have. But that will always be the case. As easy as it is to find things to complain about, I think it’s better to celebrate the good in life. I have a roof over my head, a wonderful husband, a supportive family, and two cats that keep me entertained. I eat well, and I have fun every weekend (sometimes, a little too much fun). It’s a good life.

Mt Washington

We finally hiked Mt. Washington. 2 hours, 20 minutes to the summit!

Hammock

Relaxing in Maine at my parents’ cabin. Good times.

Pumpkins

Annual pumpkin carving with the in-laws!

CrossFit Cape Ann Halloween Party!

CrossFit Cape Ann Halloween Party!

Reboot the mission

Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it. ~Ellen Goodman

Many times lately, I’ve found myself sitting in traffic on the way to and from work, thinking about what my life would have been like if I’d discovered minimalism ten years ago. I have to laugh at the absurdity of it all. I decided to go to school when I was 25, years later than most of my friends. I’d been working in libraries since the day I turned 14, and LOVED my job, but I knew that I would never make enough money to get by unless I got a degree.

At the time, I was very ambitious…freshly divorced from a man who was adamantly opposed to my being successful at anything outside of the kitchen, I wanted to go all the way. I wanted to get my bachelor’s in technology, then go on to Simmons for my Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree. This would be the safest way to stay relevant in an age when libraries are becoming increasingly under-appreciated. I was hoping to follow in the footsteps of some of my colleagues who had worked tirelessly to reinvigorate the image of the public library and promote its relevance in today’s world by using the same technologies that were supposedly rendering us a thing of the past.

I began my education at ITT in June 2007. I was a good student, and was selected for an internship with a government agency in Boston. I worked at their help desk, answering phones, and responding to a variety of complaints (usually, I just told the user to reboot). For 8 months, I worked 60+ hours between my library job and my internship, on top of a full-time course-load at ITT. I was burnt out. Just when I was about to completely unravel, I received full-time job offers from both my employers simultaneously. I had to choose between a job that I loved, and one that I knew would guarantee my financial security.

I chose the money. My heart wanted to stay at my beloved library, with my wonderful patrons and co-workers who were like family to me. But, my brain knew that my student loans hung above me like an ominous raincloud, just waiting for their opportunity to crush my American dreams. I began working in Boston full-time, though I was still an intern. I received my associate’s degree, then continued on with the bachelor’s Information Security program. And then, the government imposed a hiring freeze. I was next in line for a permanent position, but found myself facing possible unemployment once I graduated, as one has to be in school to maintain internship eligibility.

Somewhat miraculously, one of the telecom contractors was retiring about that time, and they asked if I would be willing to replace him. It would mean going “to the dark side”…contractors are treated as second-class citizens in federal buildings, receive little to no benefits, and there’s pretty much no going back. But, I nearly doubled my salary. Once again, I sold my soul to get more money. In my mind, I was doing the right thing for my future.

Today, I’m making more money than I ever thought I would. But those pesky student loans came due, like clockwork, 6 months after I graduated. Since I have to drive to work (my company pays for parking, but not public transportation), I had to get a reliable car. Between student loans, car payments, and hundreds of dollars a month in gas, I find myself feeling more broke than ever before.

Was any of this necessary? Couldn’t I have lived more simply, and continued doing what I love? Would I have been happier? Have I wasted the last 7 years of my life chasing someone else’s idea of “success”? These questions torture me daily. At this point, it’s futile…I have to make peace with the decisions I made years ago. And I firmly believe that all of the choices we make – big or small – determine the course of our lives. From meeting my wonderful husband, to being able to make that trip to Sweden, there is definitely some good that has come from my decisions. Would I do it differently if I had the chance? Absolutely.

For now, I will look at my job as a means to an end. The bills will all be paid off in time, and that will enable us to live more freely. And the more simply we live now, the sooner that day will come. This whole epiphany has only strengthened my resolve to pare down my possessions and my lifestyle. I would be just as happy with a meal at home and a walk on the beach as I would eating out at a fancy restaurant, if not more so. And I really, REALLY don’t need another pair of shoes. Much as I want them. Making these small sacrifices daily will make a big difference over time.

It’s time to reboot!

Another item scratched off the bucket list!

Your money is only as valuable as what you choose to spend it on. ~Joshua Becker

I can’t remember when, exactly, I first started seeing people standing on the ocean…I was probably sitting on my towel at Long Beach, and perhaps briefly looked up from my magazine, and glimpsed a person standing upright on a surfboard with a long paddle in their hand. It was a few years ago, at least, and I have been fascinated with the concept of stand-up paddle boarding ever since. I have always wanted to try surfing, but not being particularly balanced or athletic, I’ve been too intimidated to try. But this seemed almost doable. Since I first took notice of this phenomenon, it seems that SUP has exploded in popularity. Every time I look out over the water on a calm day, there are folks paddling by. And I just watch them and say to myself, “one day…”.

Well, that day was Friday. Hubby and I have talked, and talked and talked, about trying paddle boarding for ages. He even tried, rather ambitiously, to build a couple of them. But, as can often happen with projects like this, it proved to be a bit more complicated and time-consuming than anticipated. And our time, like everyone else’s, is quite valuable. So, after doing a quick cost-benefit analysis in my head, I calculated that spending the money and purchasing a couple of boards would prove a wise long-term investment. Fortunately, our local surf shop was having an incredible Memorial Day Weekend sale, so it was the perfect time to buy. Curtis did not need much convincing. We went to Surfari as soon as he got out of work on Friday, and picked up everything we needed to get paddling.

Naturally, this was followed by one of the worst Memorial Day weekends ever, weather-wise. But on Monday, the skies cleared and we geared up and headed out, steeling ourselves for some seriously cold water (about 49 degrees). I found a great little beach that was perfect for our maiden voyage…a protected inlet with shallow, clear water, with parking close by so we wouldn’t have to haul our boards very far. Curtis jumped right in and prone-paddled out to deeper water, while I gingerly tried to kneel on top of the board while it was barely deep enough to float freely. I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t going anywhere until Curtis gently reminded me about the fins on the bottom of my board. Doh!

After a few fits and starts, I got going and paddled around on my knees for a while. Curtis bravely attempted to stand up, and ended up going in the drink. After a couple of attempts, he was able to stand up and paddle rather confidently, so I gave it a go. I felt rather like a newborn giraffe…wobbly and not quite sure what to do with my limbs. It wasn’t a matter of if I was going to fall in, but when. So I played it very conservatively. I would stand and paddle for a short while, then get back down and either sit or kneel on the board once I lost my nerve. I found sitting on the board quite pleasant – sort of like kayaking, but completely unrestricted.

I followed Curtis out toward Ten Pound Island, but the water was much choppier out in the open harbor. He fell in again, at which point we retreated to the safety of our little cove. He did a few “tricks” on the way back in, ducking under the ramps that ran from the private residences down to their docks…really wish I’d been able to get some pictures, but until I can figure out a waterproof solution, these will just be moments captured on my mental film reel.

So, yes…an expensive weekend, for sure. But I think we are going to get a lot of mileage out of these boards, and hopefully it’s an activity that we can turn to instead of going out for an expensive meal and drinking our paychecks away, which is one of our usual summer pastimes. And if we can sell our kayak, that would cover the cost of one of the boards and free up some storage space. Win-win! 🙂

My SUP

My new baby, getting all finned-up and affixed with fancy bungee cord.

The adventuremobile, ready for action!

The adventuremobile is ready for action, and quite happy to be put to use!

Where does the time go?

 Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. ~Confucius

I haven’t had much to write about the past month or so…so I didn’t. I guess that’s sort of what this is all about, right? I suppose I could have thrown together a post about one thing or another, but I just didn’t feel compelled to force it. Besides, I don’t exactly have a huge readership, so nobody’s been pestering me to post an update. The main reason I started this blog was just to have an outlet, where I could put all of my thoughts and ramblings out there…and if someone stumbled across it and found it to be of any value, all the better.

Since early April, I’ve donated quite a few things, and purchased some new items…spring, for me, has always been a time of renewing and reinventing. I am inspired by the shift in weather and foliage and often find myself changing up my style to match the person I’ve grown into over the long winter. No major shopping sprees, though…I am trying to show some restraint. I’m finding that since I began doing CrossFit last summer, the majority of my purchases are of the yoga pants/hoodie/sneaker variety. At least these items are getting lots of use!

Curtis and I have been taking advantage of the warmer weather to get outside more often, playing disc golf on the weekends and doing some hiking. Last Saturday, we hiked Mt Monadnock, which is the first of many mountains we intend to climb this year. We’d definitely like to do the entire Presidential Range, and perhaps complete some other notable peaks in New England. This weekend, due to multiple engagements, we might just do some local trail hiking, but we intend to tackle Mt Eisenhower and Mt Pierce (and possibly Mt Jackson) one day very soon.

Disc golfing fun

Successfully avoided the water hazard and made the putt.

Summit of Mt Monadnock

At the summit of Mt Monadnock, feeling like I’m on top of the world.

As far as our apartment goes, we’ve been in the new place for over two months now, and I’ve yet to hang any artwork or pictures on the wall. Perhaps I could make time for that this weekend. It’s funny how time just slips away…I went to grab a pair of socks this morning and noticed all of the decor sitting in the corner against the wall. As much as I’ve embraced this whole minimalist thing, our walls look rather spartan without anything on them. The place still feels a bit incomplete. Next time it rains, looks like I’ll be doing some decorating!

Till next time, folks…whenever that may be! 🙂

So much stuff.

You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.
~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Seamus the cat

My ever-helpful moving buddy, Seamus.

I move quite frequently. On more than a dozen occasions since I left high school, I have found myself packing up all my belongings and hauling them off to my latest destination. With each move, the amount of things to pack into boxes increased dramatically. Exponentially, even.

Some of the moves were impulsive ones, leaving me geographically isolated from family and friends. When I wasn’t getting lost in a cornfield somewhere (one of my favorite pastimes, up until the tornado incident…storm-chaser material, I am not!), I filled my free time with solo shopping trips, justifying the expense by telling myself I deserved to be surrounded by things that I liked. I was a hard-working, self-sufficient, independent gal. I moved out to Indiana in a hatchback Mitsubishi, and moved back in a U-Haul. I should have stuck to the cornfields.

Finding places for all my things got trickier as time went on. Unlike Indiana real estate, square footage in Massachusetts comes at a premium, and in order to move into my last residence in our beautiful hometown of Rockport, I needed to rent a storage unit to house many of these things for the two years we were there. The unit was essentially a large, expensive, off-site closet. My then-fiance (now husband) was in the Army and deployed at the time, so my brother very kindly hired me a moving company, who loaded up all of my furniture and boxes and moved them into our tiny new apartment, and then brought the overflow to the storage unit.

I envisioned trekking there to retrieve items at least a couple times a month, but for nearly two years, the unit was barely disturbed. I never knew I had so much unnecessary stuff – stuff that I wouldn’t realize was missing if it suddenly disappeared forever.

Cat in a box

What is wrong with this picture?

In the photo above, you see some of the items that were deemed “essential”…things that were “too good” for the storage unit. These include a jump rope (despite us having no yard and living in a second-floor apartment with low ceilings), an ornamental cross (I’m agnostic), and an entire set of Encyclopædia Britannica from the 90s that I snagged from my old library simply because Volume 8’s spine reads “Menage – Ottawa”. Come on, that’s hilarious.

I’m glad to say that after my most recent purge, the only items that remain in my care are the bookshelf, Seamus, and Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 8. My prized possession.

I guess what I’ve learned from all of this is that the things that matter to you now might not matter at all a couple of years down the road. Love for material objects is fleeting. I wish I knew, when I held something in my hand, whether I would still love it as much in ten years. I am going to try to ask myself that about everything I want to purchase from now on, before I get in the checkout line.