While sitting in the dark…

In spite of my age, I am a person who has fully embraced the technology available to me.  Yes, I confess, I love my digital life and I believe it has made my life so much easier!  Here’s how:

  • I love to read, but I no longer read paper books.  My over-stuffed, sagging bookshelves have been replaced with digital copies of all my favorite books safely housed in the “cloud”.  I can read them again and again, the pages are not dog-eared, the paper doesn’t yellow or get brittle.  I can enlarge the print size if my eyes are tired, and adjust the brightness of the screen so that it is just perfect.  
  • I enjoy magazines.  I used to subscribe to so many and my coffee table always had a cluttered stack of half-read magazines with articles dog-eared for me to read next.  No more! All of my magazines are digital and I download them and can read them without the clutter.
  • Light switches are a thing in my past; my lights are controlled digitally and come on and off at preset times, dim to set the mood, or brighten slowly so not to startle me awake in the morning.
  • As much as I love to read, I love listening to music even more. I recently donated about 200 CDs to a local charity. This doesn’t mean I don’t listen to music, it means that I can stream all my music off the internet.  Again, no more cluttered shelves, searching for the CD, worrying that CDs will become obsolete like vinyl or 8 tracks, and I don’t have to spend time alphabetizing!
  • Movies? Television? No more VCR, no more VHS tapes, no more DVDs, no more Friday night trips to the DVD rental store or the big red movie dispenser. It is all living in the “cloud” and waiting for me to control with one of my devices.
  • Just like you, l’m busy.  I have lots of things to keep up with.  My entire life is now neatly crammed into a digital planner. I have to confess, I don’t miss the cute kitten or puppy calendar thumbtacked to the kitchen wall.  I don’t miss the large and unwieldy paper planner that I lugged around with me everywhere I went.  No, today I have a digital planner that lives on all my devices.  I can get to it on my phone when I am at the nail salon, look at a date on my tablet when I plan a visit with a friend, get a digital reminder on my smart watch, and have it displayed on my laptop screen while I sit typing this post. 
  • I love that I have a car with digital capabilities.  I stink with maps; my husband used to say that I could get lost trying to find my way out of a paper bag!  No more. Now, I just tell my car where I want to go, and it talks to me the whole way!  No more missed phone calls!  I can take calls (or ignore them!) In my car.  My car just alerted me that it was time for service and sent an email to the dealership.  I can talk to my digital assistant and select the music of my choice.  My car does not even have a CD player, by the way. While driving, my digital assistant can read and send text messages or emails, check my planner, and tell me a joke. NOTE: be aware that distracted driving is never okay!
  • Today, there is an app for everything.  My gym has an app; I can sign up for a class from my phone. My weight loss program is online and I can manage everything I need right from there.  Once I decide what I want to eat, it will gather up all the recipes and generate my shopping list. I can shop from my phone, order groceries, clothes, and movies.  Too busy to go to the store? It will notify the grocery store and my groceries will be delivered. No more trips to the bank, that is all done online through any one of my devices. No more searching for a calculator, math is at my fingertips.  I confess, I hate to vacuum, but I have resisted the urge to buy the little scoot-around-by-itself vacuum device. However, it may be in my future, just saying. 
  • Bored? No worries!  I can play games on all of my devices, watch television or movies, catch up on the news, and I have a playlist full of podcasts that make me think and examine my life. There are multiple social media apps on all of my devices, so I am easily able to stay in touch with friends all over the world.  

All of this is amazing and wonderful until something happens to the power!  Two weeks ago, my digital assistant’s voice loudly announced that the weather app was alerting us that we were under a hurricane watch. And as always, sure enough, we lost power.  There I sat surrounded by technology; my laptop, my tablet, and my smart phone were all in arm’s reach. Yet, I had nothing to read, no music to listen to, no access to anything. I had nothing to do but stare into the darkness, oh yes, and sweat.  It is HOT here in the deep South in September! 

As I sat here sweating, I had time to think about all the things I wanted to do that I couldn’t because they were dependent upon staying charged. At one point I ended up sitting in my car with the motor running. Yes, the garage door was up; just say “no” to carbon monoxide poisoning! I was out there so that I could charge my tablet.   

Having a power outage sheds a whole new light on things…no pun intended!  Before I picked up my tablet I needed to ask if what I was going to do was critical.  Pretty much, nothing was; I don’t NEED to read, browse magazines, or listen to music. I certainly can’t justify draining the battery to play any of my online games. I began to worry about when the power would return. 

We were lucky this time, our power was only down about three hours.  During the last hurricane, we lost power for five days! At that moment, I decided I definitely need a hobby that is not dependent upon having power in the house.  Perhaps I will take up knitting or crocheting, because my online crossword puzzle was not available! 

Seeking Gratitude

I live in south Georgia in a county with coastal waters; the Governor has declared our county in a State of Emergency ahead of Hurricane Dorian.  Hurricanes are not unfamiliar, we have faced Matthew and Irma in the last few years, but no matter how often, I always feel anxious.  

Today we are praying and preparing as Dorian heads our way.  The “cone of uncertainty” is so frustrating and seems designed to add to my stress…Should we evacuate? Should we stockpile water and ice? Should we believe it is going to miss us?  We have no answers, and I hate feeling out of control.

So, within this stress, I try to tap into my gratitude.  Today, I realized I was grateful for so many things I take for granted:

  • Having a husband who is my partner.
  • My son and his wife, who live just a few minutes away.
  • My freezer is full of food and I worry about losing the food in the freezer if the power goes out. How can I not feel blessed to have “extra” food to keep in a freezer? 
  • Being forced to clean out the refrigerator and the pantry; if we lose power, there will be fewer things to spoil.  As I do so, I think about families who go to bed hungry at night worrying about finding the next meal.
  • Water!  I am busy stockpiling water. Staying hydrated is one of my daily health challenges.  Today, my gratitude is great; so many people in the world do not have access to clean, safe drinking water and here I am stacking up a tower of bottled water.
  • Transportation…We always have “Clean the garage” on the To Do list; now we have to do it to make room for our cars. This reminds me that I am so grateful to have two cars that need to be moved into the garage! 
  • I am dreading the possible loss of power; it gets HOT here in the deep South.  Yet, today I realize I must be grateful that I have air conditioning to lose! 
  • Seeing the good in people; when faced with adversity, people step up to help neighbors. So many friends and family have already reached out to offer us shelter if needed. I am richly blessed.
  • Our first responders and linemen are already cueing up to help anyone in need. They leave their families to help others under the worst conditions.  

Yes indeed, I am richly blessed. There are so many things that aren’t on this list, but it is a good start. One thing I know for sure is that keeping a grateful mindset attracts joy!  So for today I choose gratitude. What are you feeling grateful for today? 

Kindess Lives!

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 3.15.24 PM

Today we are still evacuated from our coastal homes in Savannah, Georgia and St. Augustine, Florida.  Sitting in a small hotel room in a small town in Alabama has allowed me lots of time to reflect.  Today people are struggling to make sense of the devastation left behind by Hurricane Irma.  Today is also the anniversary of the horrific attack of September 11, 2001.  How are these two events so closely intertwined?

Lately the news has been so overwhelmingly negative.  Social media is filled with images of police using excessive force, vengeful attacks on police, angry mobs carrying torches and screaming epithets of hatred.  I read about frightening incidents of road rage, people purposefully driving vehicles into innocent groups of people, bombs being set off at concerts.  It is easy to sink into feelings of depression and despair.

But, what IS real? Can I allow the media to shape my vision of the world I live in?   Let’s take a moment and think back to 9/11.  Yes, this was a hideous act of terrorism. However, out of this act emerged tremendous human kindness and selflessness. People, complete strangers, reached out helping one another with no expectation of anything in return. The news was filled with images of men and women committing amazing acts of courage and kindness. The lesson I learned from 9/11 was that the light of humanity in all of us is not easily extinguished.  Good Samaritans are everywhere.  Instead of diminishing our country, it was strengthened. There was a resurgence of pride in being an American. Flags flew proudly across our nation.

Look at the human response to Hurricane Harvey in Houston. There were countless examples of people risking their own safety to rescue a complete stranger.  People from all over the country mobilized to help in any way possible. Today, people are already reaching out to see how they can help in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. We are strong. We are resilient. We are America.

Will bad people still do bad things? Sadly, yes.  But I prefer to see the good in people.  One of the elementary schools in my Georgia community is challenging students to perform daily Random Acts of Kindness.  We are instilling in our youngest citizens the importance of doing good, showing compassion, being kind.

When the news reporters interviewed the everyday heroes of 9/11, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, they all had one common response.  When asked, “How does it feel to be a hero?” every one of them said, “I am not a hero. I was just doing what anyone would. I didn’t stop to think about what I was doing; I just did it.”

These folks are right. Yes, what they did was heroic, but I believe that within all of us lives a hero.  Too often the media focuses on the negative, the frightening, and the violent.  These isolated incidents sell news, but they are not representative of who we are as Americans. Kindness, in its every day form ~ quiet, gentle, subtle ~ doesn’t attract attention and so, often goes unnoticed.

What is the lesson here? I have been reminded today that it is human nature to care, to protect, to love. I choose to believe that this is the true picture of who we are as a human race and as American citizens.  I am actually grateful for this day of reflection.  I am happy in my restored belief that Kindness Lives.

HURRICANE IRMA & ME: It’s all about the STUFF!

Screen Shot 2017-09-10 at 11.21.11 AM

I am among the millions of folks who have been evacuated in preparation for the landfall of  Hurricane Irma.  I have posted before about the fact that I try to find the silver lining in every cloud.  So, of course, I am searching for things to be happy about as I hunker down here in a small hotel in a small town on the Mississippi border.

First of all, I am declaring this Irma-cation 2017.  That certainly puts a positive spin on it, right?  It isn’t really a “-cation” of any sort, but Irma-cation certainly sounds better than “mandatory, forced evacuation”, at least in my thinking!

I am a very reflective person most of the time, and this has certainly given me time to slow down and think about what’s going on in my life.  The first thing I needed as I prepared to evacuate was the reassurance that those I love would be with me ~ my fiancé, my son, my daughter-in-law, and our pets.  The rest of the family live in New Mexico, Connecticut, Ohio… far from Irma’s reach.  Yes, a big sigh of relief that everyone is out of harm’s way.  But now, on to the topic of this post: STUFF!

My “stuff” gave me a great big headache, for sure.  I remember years ago George Carlin did a hysterically funny bit on “stuff”.  I still laugh every time I think about it.  The gist of his routine was that we surround ourselves with stuff.  We keep all of our stuff in a “box” called an apartment, a condo, a home.  Then, as we accumulate wealth, we buy more “stuff” and then have to buy a bigger “box” (house) to hold all of our stuff.  We sit happily in our “box” surrounded by our stuff until something out of the ordinary happens and we have to travel!  YIKES!! That is when the trouble starts! Now we are faced with the horrible decision about which pieces of  “stuff” are important and must accompany us and which pieces must, sadly, be left behind.

And that is exactly what happened to me!  I sat in my house last week surrounded by my  “treasures”; I am certain that my collection is much too valuable to be referred to as simple “stuff”. I know, go ahead, it’s okay to giggle; I’m giggling now too, but at the time there were some tears involved. Anyway,  I kept wondering how in the world I was going to walk away from my lifetime’s collection of treasures.

We are traveling in a small sedan.  I can’t take my grandmother’s china hutch or the antique tea cart. I have to leave my mother’s grandfather clock behind chiming for no one to hear. My father’s desk, the pictures from my trip to Russia (taken before photos became digital)…the list goes on. So I stood with an open suitcase filling it with the non-negotiable “stuff”. Clothes, underwear, nightgown and slippers, make-up, shoes, laptop (a MUST for me!), snacks, and a bottle of wine all made the cut and came with me. All the rest was left behind.

Now I have a choice to make. I can either sit and worry about the fate of my “treasures” left behind while I listen to endless hours of Irma coverage in the hotel coffee shop, or I can focus on celebrating the fact that I am in a town I have never visited before, meeting new people here sharing my evacuation experience, and enjoying time with my family. I choose the latter.  So, here’s to Irma-cation 2017.  Indeed, I am richly blessed!