self improvement, Women, WOMEN'S HEALTH

SOUND THE ALARM

These days when I see a group of women at an outdoor event in nice summer dresses talking to each other, I can’t help but think of Margaret Atwood’s book that has become the creepy Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale. Once I shake that nightmare of a dystopian visual, that feels closer to reality every day, off, I am quickly brought back to reality. Thankfully, this was not the case yesterday because I was a guest at a very lovely non-dystopian chick event, sponsored by a new Women’s Collaborative called Siren.

I made my way through this book launch and signing event held at Blithewold Mansions and Gardens in Bristol, RI. It was well attended and many of the sixty women in attendance were not on their phones trying to capture every waking minute. They were engaging, listening, looking towards each other and enjoying the brilliant company of other like minded women. Despite the heat, this alone was refreshing.

“Do you have a card?” I had asked a few women, fully realizing that I had forgotten my own. A few women had cards and a few did not.
I will not look at Facebook. I will not look at Facebook, I found myself mumbling to myself when I got home afterwards. Meeting some of these great women, I didn’t want to forget their names and I wanted to continue our connection post event so I had to look them up.

Innocent enough, but many of us likely know now what happens when we attempt a ‘quick’ look at social media. These days between friend requests, comments, new photo uploads, page likes and all of the other mumbo jumbo that happens between people thinking they are connecting with each other, I find myself getting sucked into the vortex of incredible time wasting. Or is it? I don’t know. As I made my way into the search bar so I could friend request them or message them, that little gremlin of a voice murmured, just check the feed, alayne….. Real quick.

Yeah, right. There is nothing quick about social media. Part of the draw is staying connected, not missing something, keeping communication lines flowing so that the very lines of this communication seem like they are doing something. But are they?

Yesterday at this Siren event, we were more connected than any Facebook post or Instagram photo could ever be. We stood together in the scorching, unusually hot morning, sipping our sparkling water in our lovely summer dresses and we connected. Eye to eye, person to person. What struck me between the photos being taken was that of all the women there, it seemed most were not there to tag themselves on Instagram and make it a social media extravaganza, but rather to just simply BE together.

Sixty or so women in a beautiful setting on a record breaking heat wave day should have made us all refer to the day, instead, as Hotter Than Ever. We were a force to be reckoned with and not because we were protesting or speaking out against something. We do plenty of that, but instead we were just together, being women. Celebrating our potency, our hearts and minds without even having to say it aloud.

This vapor we share between us was what makes us have that potential bond of pure power when we allow and accept our strengths as a collaborative group. Siren has created this. I immediately fell in love with the intention and its stunning group consciousness yesterday. I was able to, first hand, witness female stories from their own real voices, person to person, chick to chick. I was able to be part of their body language and their core essence. I got to smell their perfume, see their hair color, their makeup or their choice to wear none. I was part of their story just by being in the same space.

I connected with a woman who used to be a therapist and one day, she thought to herself, I can’t do this anymore because I just wanted to say to the woman I was counseling, ‘When are you going to leave the asshole? He is never going to change.’ So as any good therapist would do, she left her career and figured out a different one. Realizing a business opportunity of cleaning vacation homes instead, she is now a successful business owner and had contributed a South African fish recipe to the book being featured. I would have never known this if we hadn’t had the eye to eye contact, the handshake, the conversation.

This quick story that tumbled out of her mouth over recipe sharing would have been lost on social media. She probably would not have even shared the story because it was something that came organically between two women speaking with each other. In person. Live.

I also heard a young woman yesterday who figured out her own compass through the worried eyes of her children and managed to get out of an abusive relationship. She shared her life story giving us the gift of realizing our own vulnerabilities in the throws of power and abusive relationships. She was able to get out and she lived to speak of it with a softness in her voice, an inner strength in her heart and an authentic depth to her story that made us weep. For her. For her children. For the women who never get out right along with the pieces of the puzzles of our own twists and turns.

Siren. Sound the alarm. Code Red. Firetrucks, police cars and ambulances. Women being women with women. In person. It was a morning of surprise for me and I was so grateful to have landed there.

We are in a fragile space right now. We have a deep need for connection and are getting further and further away from the very part of who we are as women who need acceleration in true human connection, not distance from it. I don’t think I even spend that much time on my phone or on social media, but then Apple in all of its wisdom reminds me of how much time I am truly spending by sending me little text updates.

The irony is hard to grapple with. The ease of finding some of these ladies I had the pleasure of meeting yesterday was easier because of social media. But I grapple with this being the easiest way to further my dialogue. Here I am writing this piece, knowing full well that many people will only be able to read it because of social media. In the old days, it would have needed to be published old school somehow in order for it to be received. I am appreciative of what social media has offered me as a former closet writer.

When women are together in these types of female centric events, the word “balance” often comes up. These days there is so much to be balanced I often wonder if there is enough time left for us to figure out what it even means. Balance is bullshit, in my opinion. Social media is a space that takes us from what we need to be doing so we stay healthy in mind, body and spirit. How does social media allow touch and smell? It doesn’t. How do we know if who we are speaking to on it are who they say they are? We don’t. Or with artificial intelligence these days if they even look like they really are.

Yesterday was a wake up call. Sound the alarm to remind us loud and clear that between our busy lives, our running, our texting, our scrolling and time away from authenticity, we need each other. I don’t have any science to proclaim what I say to be true. All I have is the feeling I left with yesterday in being in the presence of sixty women in our own heat. We didn’t need the heat of the sun to make us hot. We had each other and this was just the beginning.

Health, self improvement

PHONES DOWN, EYES UP

After a ridiculously fun night out on the town with live music, lots of dancing and three gigantic scoops of ice cream to top it off, the morning followed. And it wasn’t as fun as the night before because the night before also included wine. Needless to say, “Not Drinking Today,” is taking a brief hiatus. Only for a few weeks, though, as the town I call home is July fourth festive almost 24/7 and wine is once again part of my nightly party.

Part of the morning after of the night before, is the morning bathroom. Without getting too detailed, (even I have my standards), I headed in for a much needed bodily function. On the way, I passed by my phone that I had made a conscious effort to leave face down since I woke up, and unconsciously grabbed it to take in with me. I’m guessing here- for the purpose of multi tasking. I can’t even believe I am saying this aloud. Multi tasking in the bathroom? Have I lost my fucking mind? Part of the routine of a night before is to load up on fat and carbs with a fervor. I hopped on my bike to get to the bagel shop at the speed of light and as I was waiting for my order found myself standing next to a woman also waiting for her order. She had her phone on the counter and was scrolling through messages missing the order taker’s repeat question of “What size did you want your coffee?” I finally answered for her, “Medium,” I stated because my waitressing skills from thirty years ago never seem to disappear.

My answering, “Medium,” caused the distracted woman to actually look up and quickly apologize confirming her request for a medium sized coffee. The young girl getting the coffee for this lady barely looked concerned as I am sure this is a regular occurrence at the counter in the morning with all of the sleepy customers ordering bagels coffee with barely a glance up from their phones for eye contact. Have we all lost our minds?

I recently heard a statistic that people are spending more time on their smartphones than television and this number is supposed to keep rising. Besides phones being phones, phones are now our cameras, video recorders, computers, radios, education, movies and television all wrapped in one small little, carry with us all the time even to the bathroom, package of convenience.

People are looking down at a rate that frightens me. From a physical perspective, our heads are perpetually down without moving our heads up and back for the counter balance of our poor necks, and from an emotional perspective, the lack of eye contact and smiling at one another. We are capturing every waking moment of every waking thing as part of our daily routines that is unprecedented in any human experience we have seen in our lifetimes.

What I notice about my own use is how sidetracked I can become in a nanosecond. I am a typically sidetracked person anyway, so clicking and moving around a screen is probably not helpful to my very sensitive brain. I wonder how much all of this bluescreen is negatively affecting my body. When I pay attention to the way I feel, it is usually a bit fragmented and staticky after a run with the screen for too long. Physically, mentally, spiritually, these elements of who I am, are hyper challenged when I am on the screen too much, not to mention the disconnect I feel in this false sense of connection.

I was at the beach yesterday and watched, between the parade of non stop thong wearing booty, hundreds of young people from middle school to college, looking down at their phones as they walked together. It used to be that we just walked the beach with a Dels Lemonade in one hand and the other hand free. Now every single hand has a phone, mostly iPhones, easily each one a minimum of a thousand dollars.

As I left the beach, I walked by adults on this packed hot pre July 4th weekday also on their phones, reading, texting, scrolling, trolling and some outright personal phone conversations like their beach spot was their own private phone booth. It is not. Everyone can hear the one sided conversations. Everyone can hear the bings, the swirls, the dings, tings, pings and every other distracting and inconsiderate noise polluting sound these tiny three by six inch lifelines make. Without so much of a deeply considered thought, we seem to have adopted these machines as an additional member of our families. Phones have taken the place of our time away to be with our thoughts alone.

Daydreaming used to be this pause in our busy lives. Now I find that when I do give myself over to daydreaming, as a thought enters my mind, instead of allowing it to move around the way day dreaming does so magically, I often interrupt its flow with the need to Google an idea.

Here is an example. I was sitting looking at my garden and watching the birds and bunnies forage for food, peaceful and quiet as I nursed my subtle hangover waiting for the bagel carbs to kick in. A question popped into my head. “If I could make a radical change in my life, what would it be?” The desire to sell everything and have a minimal life is always nagging at me. I like the extremity of this thinking. As I begin to consider the small rv I would need to get, I think about my friend’s little van she just reconstructed with a bed and some shelves and how handy she is. This thought leads me to thinking about if I could possibly figure out how to set up my own little space in a van and that lead me to thinking about where I might find someone who could do this for me. My brain immediately thinks, “Google it, Alayne.” And I have to fight the temptation. But like a pint of ice cream in my freezer, the call to Google beckons and I have to work at resisting. This would have never happened ten years ago. I would have just thought about the idea and let it flow the way ideas are supposed to. Then later, when I made my way to my office, maybe if I remembered, I would look up the how’s on the computer somewhere.

Phones have changed our human condition. Humanity has changed and simple day dreaming has become melded with technology where every click, snap, and search feeds the illustrious algorithms of big tech information about us so they can make our lives “easier.”

“Easier” seems to be the go to tagline to get humans to perform like circus animals. I remember when I was a little girl and TV dinners came out right along the time where kids were getting mini black and white televisions for their rooms and their own phones. Getting my gourmet cooking mother to buy a TV dinner for my brother and me took a lot of convincing. She had her standards, thank goodness, in retrospect. I also remember begging my parents for my own phone. It was a big deal when I got one and my father limited the amount of time I could spend talking on it because back then there was no call waiting in the seventies. If my father tried to call, there would be a busy signal and he would not be able to get through. This would not make my father very happy causing the threat of complete disconnection from my new phone. Leverage was what he had and most times I obliged the rules.

As I watch more and more people, especially our young people, with their heads down in their phones rather than a book, as I think about the future of actual television sets and going to the movies as a possible relic in the future, I feel worried about humanity. Will people actually stop trying to capture every moment when they realize they are actually missing every moment?

Humanity and technology is an awkward dance. Like the invention of the washing machine and dryer to make the washing of clothes much easier, we cannot imagine living without them. We have become dependent on their convenience and the thought of going back to using a washboard and a tub to clean our clothing seems ludicrous to our modern American way of life. This is the same with technology now; there seems to be no going back. Our entire lives are on our phones and I am afraid because of this, we must figure out how to co exist and still have human connection beyond a text.

Human connection feeds my sense of well being. I love a good deep hug, a serious sensual kiss, dinner in the garden, a dance on the front porch, spontaneity. I enjoy a beautiful book from the library trying to give my busy mind over to it on a breezy afternoon without looking at my phone for at least an hour. I am finding more and more that this break from technology must be a new habit I have to work on.

I know I do not need a phone by my side at every waking minute. I have to sometimes force myself to remember this as Apple would not want us to ever be away from our phones. I need to remember to look up, put my head all the way back in the opposite direction that it has has evolved into, downward like the pictures of the evolution of humans over time- head bent forward looking for food.

This time though, instead of feeding us for survival, we are looking for the human connection, but what we seem to have forgotten is that it is right in front of us if we would just remember to look up at the person standing right next to us.

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THE AGREEMENT BOX


THE AGREEMENT BOX

Updates ready to install, my computer said to me like it does every single day in the upper right hand corner of my tiny screen on my laptop. Later, I choose, like I do every single day. Then in its infinite wisdom, a few choices are given, try in an hour, try tonight, turn on automatic updates. Once again I choose try tonight, but I have chosen all of them over time. Then the next message follows, your computer must be connected to a power source. It is not at this time, but it is every single night where I am thinking that the updates are automatically happening. They are not. My computer is not hooked up to a power source when I write because my power source for writing is outside, in the fresh air with the birds and the morning sounds of the beginning of the day. So is it too much to ask my fancy thousand dollar mac laptop to remember the choice I continue to make every single day so when I plug my said laptop in, the updates can happen then? When I am sleeping?

I went to my phone yesterday while I was doing my paperwork to turn on my stereo, (is it still called a stereo?), to turn on Sonos, which is another fancy word for another thousand dollar piece of equipment that has made me a slave to technology. Updates ready to install, my Sonos app said to me. Didn’t I just do this update last week? How many updates are necessary to make the On button Play and make a song or two come belt out songs while I whittle away at my paperwork?

Then there are the perpetual privacy statements now coming in to all of the apps and through the old school mail from my credit card statements. Yesterday I went to pay my American Express bill and I noticed that the bill was eight pages. I perused past the first two pages listing all of the charges and when I got to page three and beyond, it was all about their new privacy rules and regs. Six pages. Do they actually think people will take the time to read this? When we check off the I agree box in the unending parade, (or rather charade), of agreements we are asked to sign in order for any app, or website to work for us, what are we really agreeing to? And why are do we so easily check off the box with barely a scan of the documents we are asked to sign?

Trust is one reason. For some God forsaken reason, we or at least I trust that the agreement is not selling my soul to the devil. Trust is what makes me live peacefully in my world. Trust. It is a big golden beautiful word founded on the notion that there is an unwritten exchange between parties and people that we are not going to screw each other. It is the proverbial handshake, a look in the eye that makes my world go round. But the fact of the matter is that when I check off the box I am endlessly asked to check off OR ELSE I CAN’T USE THE APP or proceed with my form of payment, there is no handshake or a look in the eye.

I was struck the other day by the BITMOJI app which I am now humorously addicted to. Bitmoji cleverly (or rather sinnerstly if that is a word) asks for control of your keyboard on your phone. It even gives instructions to go to Settings and make the switch to BITMOJI keyboard. I eagerly forged ahead as I am sure every single friend and their children have likely done because every text now must include my new supercute looks just like me Bitmoji, like a dress up Barbie, I am transported back in time to my childhood with my wardrobe box of Barbie clothes and shoes. I go through the motions required to ensure my new keyboard will indeed make it easier to blast off an endless variety of Bitmojis dressed in splashy quotes and attire. Then just when I am ready to hit the Yes button, I notice a short two sentence easy to overlook.

“THIRD PARTY KEYBOARDS

When using one of these keyboards, (Google included here), the keyboard can access all the data you type.”

What? All of the data I type? This is significant. Beyond the obvious that it can be accessed, what is it being used for? Who is reading it? Where is it going? I felt like I was being watched by a stalker for a brief moment and then I considered how many of our kids young and grown just change their keyboards because Bitmoji said to because we are all so damn trusting.

No. I choose NO. I am not an alarmist and I appreciate them letting me know in a simple two line statement, but I must draw a line somewhere in the digital pavement. We all must. As I sit here writing this morning, I am concerned more than ever about how many boxes I have agreed to and what did I actually agree to? What have our children who now all have a cell phone as a body part agreed to? How is it possible to monitor all of this and where have we headed? I love my new Bitmoji, I love my Sonos, my iphone and my laptop and the ease of digital everything, but, well just but.

Who knows who is reading what I am writing and saying these days and likely no one really cares. But I do. I think. This is why I am kind of into old school typewriters now, no digital. Just me and the machine. A really peaceful, (well not really peaceful, those old gal keys are noisy, but in an old fashioned vintage black and white movie sort of way) and trusting relationship because there are no agreement buttons to check. Just a roll of a paper turn and a few punches of keys and I am off to the old world of yesteryear with a real manuscript. So if a real cup of coffee spills on it, it has to be retyped, not reprinted. The only thing missing besides the superfluous agreement box is an exclamation mark symbol, and of course my new Bitmoji.



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INTO THE VORTEX

INTO THE VORTEX

Fifteen chicks, at least twelve bottles of wine and two large pizzas from Leos later, we had a great party outside on the sidewalk of my humble abode and business. Too many of us for the front porch and we didn’t want to go around to sit on the spacious back deck despite its beauty in the garden because after all, it is the infamous “4th” in Bristol, RI. Street front was where the energy and action was.

Fifteen or so superchicks, no children, no husbands, or pets to care for, and all of the other parts of our lives that are part of our lives left at home exchanged for a night out with each other before the climatic conclusion we call “the parade.” This was the calm between the storm of night after night of concerts, great food, walking the streets and engaging with just about everyone. Bristol’s 4th is like a family reunion except it is the entire town coming together and rejoicing, partying and shirking all responsibilities until after the 4th. There is nothing like living near all of it and since June 21st when the first concert began, we haven’t stopped.

Last night was the pause, albeit a partying one, but nonetheless it was nice to not walk to a concert and just stay put all evening. Laughing our female asses off as we talked about medical marijuana, walking in the parade, post menopausal dryness, vodka, the new pasta place that opened in Warren that of course my partner in crime, Karen and I are headed to pronto today because God forbid we don’t have enough food for after the parade and bitmojis. Another piece of cell phone technology I am in the dark about. For good reason too because as soon as the topic came up the entire tribe of chieftresses took it upon themselves to school me in the world of the bitmoji.

My phone was taken prisoner and passed around as each woman tried to get the bitmoji to match me or me to match it, not sure. It was like those old fun plastic peel off dolls that you could change their outfits on, what were those called again? I loved those and I quickly became that five year old girl as we all tried to make it match me. The only problem was that there were no Wonder Woman outfits which was kind of a bummer, so I made do with a crown, then a flower, then a Red sox cap and next thing you know, it was like forty minutes later. Sucked into the vortex. Heads down, each woman texting me their own personal bitmojis, but laughing our drunken asses off along the way. Sometimes technology is a good thing, oddly it connected us on a different plane and we were all the better for it simply because of the amount of laughter it caused among a group of women who laugh easily with each other anyway.

I woke up in a haze this morning afraid to look at the clock for fear it would read three am. It didn’t, it was 5:15, thank God. I remembered the evening with a warmth in my heart appreciating the amount of females who said Yes, I’ll be there and can I bring someone or something instead of No, I have too much to do to get ready for the 4th. We are always too busy and I worship the yesses from my female friends who decide on many alayne occasions to throw cares to the wind and have the fun I intend.

Then I remembered the Bitmoji. Let me just take a quick peek and play around with the hair, the outfit, the eyes, the lipstick, the blush color, the brow shape…all of a sudden it was 6:45 and a full hour and thirty minutes had mysteriously disappeared. Why doesn’t ninety minutes go by that fast at the gym? We would all be in way better shape, surely. I leaned into the vortex and laughed knowing that every single time I use one of these bizarre characters, the image of all of us women drinking and eating pizza on the sidewalk from 5:30–10pm two nights before the 4th will be the start of a yearly tradition for all the July 4ths years to come. God Bless America.


the first group, the first bottle of wine early in the evening before the pizza, the added chairs.. before bitmoji.
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GETTING FREAKED OUT

GETTING FREAKED OUT

Watching Black Mirror last night, I noted that the last three episodes have had this creepy theme of consciousness transfer. The show uses this small round button like gadget that is inserted into the character’s temple and this is how the mind shift happens. Kind of like the mind meld from the original Star Trek episodes, but scarier and incredibly realistic. The brilliance of Black Mirror is its ability to drag you into its vortex like you are actually in the show. There is this uncanny realism to this series and like a train wreck I am finding it hard to look away. Unsettling for sure and I am surprised that I find myself wanting to watch another one because I generally like more zen happy tv or more often, no tv.

I am from the generation who read the required reading of George Orwell’s 1984 before 1984. I was in high school between 1979–1983 so the clear memories of waiting for the themes of 1984 to happen were joked about often among my peers. When I was in high school Intro to Computers was brand new and the glossy Windows program was nowhere in site. The theme was computer programming that taught the old school Dos program, a lackluster and colorless behind the scenes I don’t think it even exists anymore program. The class was filled with the stereotypical nerdy boys and even if it had been something I was interested in, this was discouraged because it wasn’t “for girls.” This wasn’t something that was said aloud, but there was an undercurrent of silent understanding of knowing our place in the choosing of classes we mostly white middle class girls should be taking. Like shop, wood working and mechanics, all available in the curriculum in North Kingstown High School in the late seventies, we understood that those programs were for the kids (aka boys) who needed skill sets other than the automatic track to college most of us were on. Vocational programs and skill set training were available, but not really encouraged unless we wanted to take Home Economics, (yes that was available) and yes it was filled with mostly girls. The only boys that took the class were the ones who cleverly understood there would be cooking which equaled free food coupled with lots of girls. They didn’t realize there would also be lessons on sewing, child rearing and diaper changing, but the food and girl theme was enough to have them overlook the other “girl duties being taught to us.”

It doesn’t seem like much has changed as my son is majoring in computer science and cyber security in his second year of college and everyone’s eyes light up when I reply to their question, “what is your son majoring in?” He told me that the classes are mostly boys still. And he is likely in on the early stages of where cyber security is really headed as we find our worlds and its privacy aligning itself more and more with the Orwelian plot of 1984. I used to shrug my shoulders at “all of the talk on privacy” when George Bush’s polices post 911 were rapidly changing to give the government more and more control over ours.

“I have nothing to hide, so why is all of this even a topic,” I would find myself saying in conversations. “They (being the government as my reference at this naïve filled time) are looking for terrorists, not me.” The privacy alarmists back then were screaming from the rooftops and my simple brain wasn’t hearing or listening as I continued to buy Apple product after Apple product choosing Google as my go to search engine and Firefox as my preferred web browser. Taking photo after photo, video after video, getting excited when every social media site linked with one another so I could save time for my business when I made a post never thinking about the I Agree box I was forced to check each time to proceed. After all who reads the sixty five page document, I have work to do, photos to take, tweets to make and questions to ask Google, my new best friend.

Little did I realize that while all of the privacy advocates were screaming about government interference, the people who were really controlling our privacy were silently commanding our attention and our wallets with app after app. And they were doing it under the banners of the greatest places to work as we got to sneak peaks at their enviable work environments filled with workout rooms, free food at their self contained on site organic restaurants, game rooms filled with pool tables and vintage pacmen machines and lunchtime basketball courts.

“My Brita filter needs to be changed,” my partner, Michael happily told me as he got up from the couch this morning and immediately headed to the kitchen to change the filter. “I love it when they let me know,” he said so matter of factly. He had just sat down on the couch to read the paper and when the text came in to remind him, like Pavlov’s dog, he and his just seconds ago unplanned behavior responded promptly. “How do they know?” I asked. “You have to set it up on the Brita page,” he responded. This is what is happening; we are feeding the companies all of our information and they are making our lives ‘easier,’ ‘more convenient,’ and we keep feeding more and more into the cyber machine. What an appropriate segue into the privacy topic. I sound like I am turning into a conspiracy theorist, more like an awarist, and I am fully aware this is not a word… yet. Maybe if I write it in the Google search bar, Google will make it so in their online dictionary. And while I am at that, let me get sidetracked on the Oscar awards so they know where I click and it can be recorded for future sidetracks. No wonder no one has any time anymore.

This past year I began noticing how much automatic linking is happening in all of my devices. I began getting the summaries of my life in the friendversaries that Facebook coordinates to remind me of the “good times,” and I just started getting these summaries from Iphoto too. I didn’t ask for this. Face and location recognition in the photos I take are a great tracking device for not only where I am, where I was, but how I spend. (and where our children are and what they are spending because ultimately “they” don’t really care about 53 year old alayne, they care about the up and coming 12–20 year olds). This is the brilliance of technology. It is all happening because we are feeding it our information because “we are not doing anything wrong.”

There are so many controls on our phones that we could turn off if we wanted to spend about a day trying to find the buttons beneath the layers. Who has the time when we are so busy taking photos of our most recent breakfast and sharing it with the world? And as we do this, these companies are happily and easily getting our information because we tell it every single day in our Iclouds our entire thought processes so they can remind us to change the Brita filter when we had no intention to do so five seconds before.

I have loved technology in some moments. Certainly as I type away on my thousand dollar mac laptop and upload this piece into the Medium site that brilliantly collects writings from aspiring writers allowing us a space to self publish for free (allowing them to have their site with all of the free writing they could ever dream of). All of our words are being fed into the machine, I am guessing and thought patterns are being analyzed, studied and regurgitated back to us in the ads to buy the brands and the items we just texted or emailed or spoke of. Right?

I mean this can’t all be coincidental that I had just been literally thinking about a turquoise kitchen aid mixer that I have coveted since I spotted one right after I had purchased my pink one. Even me who loves turquoise couldn’t justify two kitchen aid mixers, but when my pink one broke I contemplated buying the turquoise one instead of repairing the pink one. It seemed like in a nanosecond, I started seeing ads on Wayfair that actually had the turquoise kitchen aid mixer in them, custom algorythym ad campaigning in its truest form or pure coincidence? I don’t know. (By the way, I repaired old school style the pink one so fuck Wayfair, you didn’t get me this time.)

Technology has been a mixed bag of love and disgust among my peer of women as we have tried to maintain some semblance of order in our lives and our families by keeping the cell phones away from the dinner tables. Sometimes it feels like the world is spinning out of control, but this didn’t start with technology really. It started with the invention of the printing press (hold on, let me check with Google to find out the date for accuracy because everything you search for is the truth, right, especially medical informationJ) Ironically as I typed in my question “npr interview with a guy who wrote about the invention of the printing press.” Because I heard a fabulous interview with an author going back in time to explain how this simple invention we take for granted changed the course of history. Instead what came up was an interview with the writer and creator of Black Mirror. Mmmm is this a coincidence or a mind meld?

https://www.npr.org/2016/10/20/498683379/black-mirror-creator-dramatizes-our-worst-nightmares-about-technology

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NO PHOTOS PLEASE

NO PHOTOS PLEASE

The day started off as a rainy damp Wednesday. After spending a good portion of it inside the house not feeling myself, a walk in some fresh air was calling my name. My old high school friend dying as quickly as she did has awakened my pragmatic outlook on mortality and I am not even her family, her closest of friends, her husband. The need to honor my heart this week was a certainty and I went with it yesterday as my lovely team rallied to take care of my business and my schedule to allow me some time. I parked myself on the couch after completing a few errands to get a nice dinner ready for Valentines Day prepared to eat popcorn and watch sappy movies all day. As the sun peaked its pretty face taunting my decision to partake in a sorrow fest in the curtain drawn living room, my brother’s face actually appeared before me as he lay in his hospital bed not being able to go outside. I remember like it was yesterday him saying to me that he just wished for one more ride around the block on his bicycle, one more breath of fresh air. These words have become both a simultaneous lift and a burden as I struggle with the permission to give myself a day of lying around on a couch on a day that started rainy and became sunny.

More often this is the privilege of health and these decisions are not a struggle for the masses. For me though, unexpected sunny beautiful February days becoming a cross to bear is as annoying to me as it is likely annoying for anyone reading this, but nonetheless here I am. Full exposure of my brain. I made my way off the couch after a few hours of watching a depressing movie called Revolutionary Road. I thought this diversion was going to be a love story between Kate Winslet and Leonardo Di Caprio. Instead it was more like the movie War of the Roses drudging up relationship disappointments of yesteryear, not a great theme on a day of love and an already sad sack of heart.

A walk would do me a good turn so I took a warm shower to get the grayness of the day off me to brighten my spirit, layered on the clothes and stepped off the porch into the light. As I began the walk towards the pond that overlooks Newport’s First Beach, I had to control my decision to leave my phone behind. The conflict of shutting the texting and the phone down and the desire to capture the light with the built in camera was nagging at me once I walked into the literal light of the scenery.

As I marched forth, the light took my breath away. The peninsula-esque Tuckerman Ave neighborhood filled with converted summer homes built before anyone considered the ramifications of zero zoning rules, captured the light of the soon to be five pm setting sun. The homes looked like they were simmering on a low fire with the warm pink glow that could have been Menorca, Spain in the middle of a hot August summer. And I didn’t have my phone that contained my camera.

And I liked it.

I liked it because there was no distraction of having to reach for it, having to put my thumb on the button to have my phone magically read my print that seldom works for me. Of course, I often try again like when I am vacuuming and a piece of something doesn’t get sucked up so instead of picking it up, I go over it five more times thinking the hose will get it at some point. I liked it because there was no need for me to end up having to type my no longer four digit but six digit ID that Apple made me change at my last forced upgrade that I didn’t ask for. There was no distraction of trying to take a photo to capture what I observed with my two eyes on the clearest of Valentines days, taking the picture then looking at it to prove or disprove its worthiness of what I was seeing shaving precious minutes from a setting sun. I walked and breathed and prayed. I smelled and felt. I witnessed the moment I had taken for myself. I walked towards the beach surrounded by water and geese and pinkness of sky feeling my heart beat. I felt the brisk salty air on my skin with my thoughts stirring with ideas and peace that only an outdoor walk alone gives me.

The only moment captured was the actual moment by my eyes not my phone. I reflected on just a short time ago when the world was not captured second by second, minute by minute by every single person because we all did not have a phone with a built in camera. Are we better off or worse for it all? I don’t know, but what I do know is that without the camera and the distraction of its presence in my pocket, the choice to be with my own thoughts rather than with the direction of the phone was a good choice for that moment. We all have choices on our movement through our days. Looking down, looking out or looking up. Phones and their bells and whistles have become a force in our lives like nothing we have seen in previous generations. I know for me and my need to ground myself, the phone is not helpful for my need to center and I have to consciously choose or not choose it as my companion. The beauty of the walk reminded me why these decisions have become more important in my own life as I navigate nature with technology. I am guilty of over photoing as my partner will attest, as my son will attest. Food, moments on mountains, beach, life. I have actually been taking less photos but what is less? Photos and videos have become a routine in our lives posting for my business and intermixing it all with my life. Digital footprints as they are called. I am not sure where all of this leads, but what I am sure about is that as I move closer towards the midpoint of my fifties, I am happy that I am not of the generation born now as a parent who has to try to control its invasion in my young child’s life. Years from now, what will the studies be? Will our children have any privacy? Even if we consciously choose to stop the madness, it does not control the need for others to take photos and videos of us when we are not looking. The social implications are for the researchers, for me now in my world, I am happy I get to make the choice.

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EYESIGHT AND HOT FLASHES AND PASSWORDS

EYESIGHT AND HOT FLASHES AND PASSWORDS

Is it me or has the entire world of all things needing to be read getting smaller by the minute? It surely can’t be my eyes, can it? Doesn’t it seem like everything that is targeted to my fifty something self- workout equipment, bottoms of lipstick tubes, the ingredients on my $100 jar of skin serum, directions to any piece of equipment is shrinking at a rate that takes my breath away. I find myself squinting constantly and I WEAR GLASSES! Don’t ‘they’ know that we, these bad ass fifty year old superchicks are the ones with the income who are buying all this fancy shit? And by the way if we are not buying it for ourselves we are buying it for our kids, just in case they didn’t get that memo. This is just a metaphor for everything these days that has just gotten so complicated. I always thought it would have been nice when VCR’S (remember those?) started coming out fancier with more bells and whistles if the MANufacturers (caps of the word MAN on purpose because surely if women had come out with the VCRS back in the day, they would have made them so much easier) there would have been two choices. Option A would have been all the nonsense I never used, never gave a shit about yet paid for it because I had no choice. Option B would have been on and off, forward, rewind, pause. Done.

Fast forward, no pun intended, to this crazy world and just as I get used to using my seventh generation iphone, I realize they already have an iphone 10. Did I miss the eight and nine? Is it just me or is my relatively new iphone 7 acting wonkier, losing battery life faster? Has Apple become the Evil Empire? I can’t keep up with this. And will Apple please stop reminding me to update to the newest and latest system? Didn’t I just do that like last week? (and by the way this coincidentally it seems that is when my battery started going rogue. If I skip the reminder twenty five times, shouldn’t smart Apple know that I am not interested and just free me? I mean they know when I get in my car and where I am going when I get in there, surely they must have the ability to know by my personal algorithm that I choose not to upgrade so that my life can be easier because some 25 year old in Cupertino California wants me to. And by the way, Apple, while I am at it, why don’t you just make a phone that doesn’t need an upgrade every other week, just saying.

How about when I go on to my computer and it starts telling me all kinds of things I need to do to update it. How about I DON’T WANT TO FUCKING UPDATE ANYTHING! How about a button for that. I want there to be an Option B. for everything. I want to have the option of staying put in my little technological comfort zone and make no changes. I don’t want to upgrade Microsoft Word, I don’t want to change my password. I don’t want to have to create some security question and answer to protect myself from whatever crazy people are out there. I get it. We all live under the illusion that we are in control. Not being able to see the fine print these days and there is lots of it, (you know that I AGREE button we all hit after not reading the ten page contract with said Apple and all of the others we sign?) is an opportunity to stop looking. I don’t really mean this. When I am sprinting on the treadmill in Kathy Martin’s crazy class at ELEVATE in Middletown, RI, I probably want to see my time, my speed, my pace, my incline, but all of this passwording and relearning of technology that I am perfectly comfortable in its existing form is enough to make me want to go back to bed. My serious fantasy is to relinquish all of it. Yes Facebook, email, cell phones, all of it. But then I realize how would I communicate all these writings that have given me such a sense of daily peace? The irony!

If there is a higher power out there watching this great experiment called HUMAN BEINGS, that said higher power must be laughing her or his general neutral head off as we type in yet another password that gets rejected because we forgot to capitalize something or add a number in the middle of the word. I can barely see the computer screen these days! I don’t want any more passwords. I don’t want my apple homescreen to download on my car screen, actually I don’t want technology in my car at all anymore. It is way too distracting. I just want to go back to a radio, maybe a cd player with an on and off button. Bluelight has taken over for sunlight. I don’t want to read a recipe online or a book on a kindle. I want paper, I want butter smears on the pages. I want the page to smell like the vanilla I accidentally spilled while mixing the ingredients together on a rainy day. I pulled out my piles of recipes this morning to locate some Hanukkah old faithfuls. The textures and stains combined with my notations and initials of the people who gave them to me brought me to the power of the present moment that no recipe on my too small screen phone could ever give to me. I want to read the daily newspaper and have to wash my hands afterwards to get the smudges of ink off them. I want to take my pile of real life magazines and peruse them with abandon because I can. The sound of the pages turning and the articles I rip out on travel that I place in a real folder in a real filing cabinet always surpass the folder on my desktop.

I do love to type my stories, but there is something about pulling out my old notebook and a sharp pencil to bring my thoughts to light as I sit comfortably on my couch bundled up in my grandmother’s silly lighthouse sweatshirt. There is something about going out into my garden and forgetting what a plant is named and actually going to a garden book and looking it up rather than “googling” it, or even better, just living comfortably knowing I don’t know. Seeing a bird and pulling out my binoculars and staring at it for a few quiet moments, hearing its song, appreciating its cause for pause.

In all of this trying to connect, I don’t know about you, but I feel more and more disconnected these days. I have 5 pages of passwords. (For those of you who don’t have your passwords in a safe place neatly written, please make that a new year’s resolution and let someone know, you can’t believe how much easier this will make someone’s life if said Higher Power decides your time is up). I want to turn on my old fashioned music and surround myself with the sounds of Ruthie Foster stunning voice belting, When It Don’t Come Easy, as I quietly contemplate my existence in candle light instead of bluelight. I want to be able to go to bed and actually sleep for an entire night without a hot flash to wake me up with a power surge that gets me out of bed. Is it too much to ask the companies that we have allowed to manipulate our souls to stop for just a minute and let us catch our breath? And while they are at it, maybe they could make the font just a little bigger. Is this too much to ask?



my luscious old school recipe cabinet, my pile of books i can’t wait to get to and a lovely collection of my favorite old and modern real cookbooks in my very real pantry along with my prized pink very used and worn kitchen aid. who knew cookbooks may hold a place in the category of vintage.