Hello, again

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Kickin’ it old school with a landline home phone

Hello, again. It’s me. The year is 2018 and I have a landline again like it’s 1993. The house phone is a french blue 1960s type with a receiver that actually sits in the cradle and push-button dialing. If no one is home, there is no machine and no voice mail to leave a message. You just have to try again, or text my cell phone.

The house I bought is in a rural part of the county, where only one cell carrier has service, and that “service” is spotty at best. Luckily, my cell phone is already affiliated with the one carrier that offers the occasional service. The phone constantly oscillates between no service and one bar. I can generally send and receive text messages. If a cloud goes by in the sky, then service is completely disrupted and text messages have to be sent again. Welcome to rural America.

The funny thing is, I don’t consider my house location to be rural. I am actually closer to my work location in the city than where I was living previously. My commute time has literally been cut in half. The house is in a village where I have a store, library, laundry, churches, parks and schools all within walking distance. My apartment was located on a busy highway on a dead end street – you literally had to drive everywhere and could only walk as far as the end of the driveway.

I considered the apartment to be rural and cut off from services. Especially the winter where we were literally snowed in for about four days because even the snow plow truck got stuck at the end of the road. I do not consider my house to be rural at all. Apparently, though, when it comes to cell service, I am rural.

This is the first time in 15 years that I have a landline. The phone was just connected today, and it is comforting to have it there. I can now fully communicate with the world by all means – text by cell phone and voice by landline.

The house phone was connected at the best time. Today I had the day off for various doctor appointments. Apparently one doctor office was tying to get a hold of me for additional blood work. Because my cell phone does not receive voice service at the house, I did not receive the message they left on my cell phone until I was already in the city at the doctor office. The cell phone never rang at the house and only indicated it had voice mail when I drove the four miles into the city for the appointment.

I’m sure the novelty of the landline will wear off once telemarketers figure out the line is active and start calling. That is pretty much a given in today’s day and age. For right now, I am enjoying the peacefulness of knowing that if I have an emergency, I can call for help. I can call for anything, really. I can even call the library to register for craft class without having to walk over there to register.

When the snow starts flying this winter, I will have phone service to be able to call and talk to people. This is key because I am pretty sure that in winter, I will lose the ability to text from my cell. If I have to resend a text message because a cloud decides to float by, I can only imagine what it will be like with snow flying.

Speaking of snow, what did people do back in the day before treadmills were available for winter running? Well now, they ran outside, and shoveled snow, of course.

I have not used my gym membership in about 6 months, since maybe March. That is over $400 a year I am wasting on something I don’t use. I am still running, but I run outside. Now that I live in the village, I can literally lace up my mizunos and take off from my front door. At the apartment, I would always have to drive somewhere to run because it was too dangerous to run the busy highway on which I lived.

I basically cancelled my gym membership to pay for my monthly phone service. I am no longer going to drive someplace to run. How ridiculous is that? It’s it ironic to sit in traffic waiting to drive someplace to run on a treadmill? Now I can run right out my front door and down the street. If the weather is bad this winter, I can workout indoors. The house is big enough and I no longer have neighbors below to worry about. I can make as much noise jumping around to Jillian Michaels doing mountain climbers and burpees as I need.

I’m also looking to get back into the pool this winter and do some swimming. The off-season is typically when I go hard on the cross training to prepare for the next running season. This year, my goal is going to be swimming. I will run outside all I am able, and swim when it’s below zero out. A pool membership in my area is a lot more affordable than a full-on gym membership with access to all the facilities. In fact, I will probably just pay-per-visit or get a punch card.

It’s also time to get back to basics for my health. The four months of hell I lived through trying to address my housing crisis really did a number on me. I have had mini-strokes. The doctors are now watching me to be sure I don’t have another full on episode like I did a few years ago. It’s kind of important that I follow the directions and am able to communicate with the world.

Hello, again. It’s me. We’re trying to get this home ownership thing under control and back on a normal schedule again. Let’s hope for a quiet fall and end of 2018. I’ll be partying like it’s 1990-something with a throwback landline phone. That’s about my speed.   

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Five Reasons Garmin Rocks!

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These are the true confessions of a technology convert. For the past 11 years of my running career, I have used a simple sports watch with stopwatch for running. I figure out math like splits and pace in my head.  I have gone through two sports watches over the past 11 years. They cost $30 apiece.

Running is a cheap sport. When it comes down to it, all you need to do is put on a pair of shoes and start putting one foot in front of the other. There are even people out there who run barefoot, so you can technically skip the shoes. That’s cheap. Just go.

I have always said that my running shoes are the most important piece of equipment I need for my sport. Therefore, my running shoes should be the most expensive piece of equipment and nothing else – shorts, tops, etc. – should cost more than the shoes. It’s logical.

As you know, this year I am completely changing my training plan for the first time ever. I have always trained for time. Runners who train for time tend to be in the minority. Hey, don’t knock it – even Meb, who won the Boston Marathon in 2014 and represented USA in the Olympics, trains for time. More commonly, runners train for distance.

This year I am training for distance instead of time and incorporating whole new things that include a lot of math, into my training plan. I decided it is time to break down and buy a GPS watch.

I have been extremely skeptical of this whole watch thing. I don’t believe I spent more money on a watch than I spent on my running shoes. I also don’t believe I now own a watch that not only has an on/off button but also has to be plugged into the wall to charge. This thing is completely alien and absurd. Plus, it’s smarter than me.

I have now completed two 4-mile runs with my new GPS watch, and I have to confess, I have fallen in love. Here are the five reasons why Garmin rocks:

  1. It can math. Hard.

I have decided that I am doing the Canadian 10:1 walk plan this year due to my age and injuries. This means I will be running for 10 minutes, then walking for one minute and repeating continuously for 26.2 miles. The math inside my head was getting complicated. Walk from :10 to :11, then run from :11 to :21, then walk from :21 to :22, then run from :22 … You get the idea. It’s actually very simple math, but when you are running a marathon, any math is hard.

I know calculus. I can find the square area of a horse if you want. But no way am I going to be able to do that running a marathon. The only thing I am thinking during a race is:  “Am I breathing? How much longer? Why can’t I feel my legs? Did I die?”

The Garmin is doing all of that math for me. All I have to do is learn to let go and trust the watch and stop trying to math inside my head. Not only is it giving me the 10:1 schedule, but it tells me when I have completed each mile, and my average pace for that mile so I can be sure I am staying on track. I know exactly where I am and how fast I am going at all times.

This means that instead of doing all that math inside my head, I can get “in the zone.” This makes running a much more pleasurable experience mentally. When I’m running distance, I like to think of myself as an airplane. It typically takes me until about mile 6 or mile 8 to get “in the zone.” When I do, I imagine that if I were an airplane, it would sound something like this: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have achieved cruising altitude. Feel free to just drop out, tune in to your body, and settle in for the next 18 or 20 miles. Let the crowds carry you to the medal stand. See you in about 4 hours.”

With Garmin doing all the running associated math for me, all I have to do is respond to the little beeps and keep running. Now, I sound like Pavlov’s dog. I digress. Let’s continue.

  1. Dear Fashion, Meet Practical.

I’m not all that into fashion. No one looks good after running 26.2 miles. Except maybe Shalane Flanagan. She looks good at all the miles. But the rest of the world looks like a hot mess that’s been through the blender and then chased by a pack of rabid squirrels when coming across the finish line of a race.

This watch is pretty. The package says the strap is blue, but I’m honestly not sure if it’s blue or green. Compared to my old sport watch, it’s very attention getting. Not only does it look good, but it is practical too.

The screen is large print, so I can see the display no matter how much sweat and tears I’m covered in. It’s waterproof. I would even go so far as to say it’s sexy. I also just finished a run, so I could be pushing it a little. What can I say? I’m in love.

3. My own personal cheerleader.

Now, when I first programmed this watch for the 10:1 sequence, I thought I messed it up. The watch beeped and there was a 1 and 8:00 on the screen. All I could think was “Noooooooo. I don’t want to walk every 8 minutes. I want to walk every 10.” Then I realized it was telling me I had just ran an 8-minute mile. All was right with the world. The watch was performing even better than I expected.

When I reached the 10 minute mark, the watch did a series of 3 beeps to let me know I needed to slow down for my 1 minute walk break. When I got to the end of my 1 minute walk break, the watch beeped twice, then instead of the third beep, it played “Charge.”

Yup. That’s right. It plays that 6 note sequence right before everyone yells “Charge!” Whoever programmed this watch has a sense of humor. They must also be a runner. How cool is it to have your watch cheer for you to start running again after your 1 minute walk break? I have my own personal cheerleader right on my wrist.

Not only does it cheer for me to run, but when I reach “Goals” there is a display of fireworks on the screen. I honestly have no idea what “goals” I’m reaching. I didn’t program any in, and I have no idea what it means. The watch gave me fireworks once after my run when I was in cool down. I got fireworks again on mile 2 of a run. I have no idea why. But, I’m glad the watch is happy and giving me fireworks. I’m wondering if it likes my heart rate or something, but I honestly have no idea whatsoever what the whole “goal” and fireworks thing is about. Who cares? I’ll take them.

  1. Technology for the challenged.

Part of my reluctance in getting a GPS watch is all the technology involved. I have a hard enough time using my cell phone. I’ve had the same phone for 3 years and I still don’t understand it. I do not need two devices that are hard to use. Plus, I had heard a lot about GPS watches and satellite signals, synching, etc. It just sounded like way more technology than I could deal with.

I am happy in that I was able to program the watch to do exactly what I wanted it to do. Not only that, but it does some things that are surprising to me but I am really happy about. This watch is definitely very user friendly for the technology challenged. I have not had to plug it into a computer, internet, or sync it to anything, so that is even better. I just charge it, turn it on, the buttons are easy to use, and I can read everything easily on the large print screen.

The watch is also making the math easier for me for my running statistics and spreadsheets. Yes, I am that kind of runner. That is part of why I completely changed my running plan this year. I analyzed 10 years of data to figure out what I did during my best year and then try to replicate it in the safest way possible. But the watch is making my math and data analysis easier too. I like it when technology helps me, even if it is smarter.

  1. Worth the splurge.

While I keep saying I can’t get over spending more on a watch than my running shoes, it was worth the splurge. I got one of the entry level models that does everything I need to do, so at least it is not one of the watches that costs say, one month’s rent. This watch was the equivalent of buying one and a half pairs of running shoes.

Yes, the watch was more expensive than my shoes, but at least it wasn’t double the price of my running shoes. So, I can live with it. It was worth the splurge for all the data I am getting out of it and for how much easier it has made running this week. I have enjoyed my runs so much more when I don’t have to think so hard and can just go. After all, that’s what running is supposed to be is fun. It’s not all data, pace, and negative splits.

These are the true confessions of a technology convert. I have 3 more weeks to play with the watch and become comfortable with it before I officially start training for my fall marathon. So far, I can honestly say that Garmin rocks! I’m looking forward to incorporating this new piece of equipment into my training plan.

Get a Real Life

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It seems the old adage “get a haircut & get a real job” has a modern day incantation as “get off the internet & get a real life.” As an update on the technology post  that I did this summer, here is where I stand on my progress to divorce the world wide web of drama, misery, & illusions.

I made significant progress this fall towards getting off the internet & getting a real life when I made changes to both my cell phone & internet carriers that resulted in over $100 a month savings.

First, I evaluated my needs and what I actually use the most to effectively communicate. While I had initially planned to completely disconnect home internet, a friend whom I deeply admire made the convincing argument that internet is now a utility as much as electricity or water and that without it, I would be severely cut off from human interaction. While my focus is on in-person dynamics, there is some truth to the notion of internet as utility when one considers that the internet delivers more information than traditional media forms of TV, radio, and newspaper.

Again, this brought me back to the quality of my interactions through use of technology. I quickly realized that I was paying an awful lot of money for very slow service that was constantly dropping and restarting itself trying to find a connection. My largest consumption of media came through the fact that I was streaming radio to the tune of 8-10 gigs per month. I was able to use functions provided by my carrier’s online account to ascertain that my radio streaming was basically what I was paying almost $200 a month to use. I had a plan that allowed me 450 minutes of talk time – of which I typically used less than 30 minutes, unless I had medical or other significant things going on that required phone calls. I was using less than 200 texts per month. I was essentially paying almost $200 a month for radio. This was not even satellite radio. I am pretty sure I could have gotten satellite radio cheaper, and honestly, why pay for radio when it is FREE?

A long time ago, in another lifetime, I worked in radio. I know how the radio world works. Why was I paying so much for radio?

So, I changed both my cell phone and internet carriers and now pay just over $50 a month for both services. I literally cut that bill down to one-fourth of what I was paying. I have plenty of local radio stations that I can listen to on my home radio for free without needing to stream. The internet service that I now have is not only cheaper but also significantly FASTER – yes, faster – than my old carrier, plus it is unlimited. Yup, that’s right. When I was paying a certain company almost $200 a month, I had a cap on my internet usage. It was not the “your service will slow down” type of cap. It was a “your service will completely stop unless you want to pay 99 cents per minute” kind of cap.

While I am now saving money, and getting faster service that is unlimited, you would think I would use technology more.

But, I’m not. I’m using it less.

That extra money is great. I am able to take that $100 a month and comfortably pay all my bills, where before I was stretched very thin with no wiggle room. Now, I have a little wiggle room, and if I want to spend some quality time in-person having lunch with someone, I can go out to lunch without guilt (over money).

But when I cut the cord to that antiquated, overpriced internet plan, I also cut the cord that was binding me to all the drama and misery that came with a continual online presence. I went from using 8-10 gigs of data per month down to 1-2 gigs. That’s a significant downshift. Not streaming radio anymore is helpful, and I still hear all my favorite tunes. Since I am not using my phone to listen to radio, I notice that I have no desire for social networking platforms either. Phones work two-ways. If people want to talk to me or see me, they can call or text to check in. I now have unlimited calling and texting on my phone too that had been capped under my previous carrier.

Going offline has helped me to be more present in my everyday life and interactions. It has significantly decreased both my stress and my anxiety levels. I feel peace that I rarely feel unless I purposefully drive myself out to the middle of nowhere to escape the reach of a cell tower to feel.

I have been reading voraciously and averaging 3-4 novels per week depending on my work and home obligations. I am able to put more planning time into meals, which has been helpful in managing my severe food allergies. I have been able to listen to my body more closely so that I can be better prepared for the 2016 running season and hopefully get through my fall marathon uninjured. If I need the internet to look up a recipe, or simply want the internet to stream music, movies, or TV, it is there, but I am not tethered to it.

I am, in fact, living a good life.

Not only have I finally finished school after a 20-year career as a professional student, but also I have finally broken up with my dependence on the internet for external validation. I have found that when I do not have that background of mindless chatter that I am able to self-validate easier. My internal compass is clearer and I can hear my own voice easier.

Today, we hear people saying that people quitting facebook is the new version of running away from home. People say they are going to quit, and do for a few weeks, but then they are always back because they cannot stay away. Instead of running away from home, wouldn’t it be easier if we were to stay, stand, and confront life? While technology has the capability to complement our existence, sometimes we need to get off the internet and get a real life. An online presence is not the be-all and the end-all to life. There are moments that cannot be experienced online, but must be felt, seen, and lived with our hearts and souls.

 

 

Digital Sabbatical

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An update on my pulling the plug post, as one of the intentions of this blog is to hold myself accountable to my goals; I have not done well with pulling the plug on technology and making my interactions more meaningful. I was successful for awhile, but then discovered that I was not getting the type of engagement in real life that my brain required, and I tend to get more attention online than I do in real life.

The past two months have been a learning experience in how I interact with the world and have forced me to take a step back and evaluate my relationships more critically. The benefit to having an online presence is that it results in more interactions than in real life. By the same token, the detriment is that constantly being plugged in results in increased levels of anxiety and decreased ability to focus on the task at hand.

I took a digital sabbatical this weekend to unwind after a particularly challenging week of all things grad school on top of my normal day-to-day responsibilities. While my phone has been off and I have not been on social media, I have used an Ethernet cord to plug into the internet when I have needed to do something grad school related. Yes, I know the purpose was to unwind, but I am nearing the end here, and need to seriously get some work done.

What I have discovered these past few days is that the people who matter most in my life are already with me – my cats. Other than that, people so rarely contact me that I am sure no one is having meltdown over the fact that I have been unreachable the past few days.

I have discovered that I do, in fact, have a healthy relationship to the internet when I must access it old school via Ethernet cable. I only plugged in when I absolutely needed something this weekend, and not for more than 20-30 minutes per day. My downfall with internet and social media comes from my smart phone. That little square glowing diabolical hand held device that allows instant access to the internet at all times and from all locations.

With my phone off these past few days, I have gotten more accomplished on grad school, I have spent more quality time with my cats (those who are most important), and have even managed to read a novel for leisure that is completely unrelated to any of my degree programs.

I had a real-life in-person discussion a few weeks ago with someone whom I greatly admire about my desire to completely shut off my internet after grad school. That person persuaded me not to, arguing that internet is now a utility much like electricity or gas service, and that the internet provides me with a way to communicate. This is true. So while I will not be getting rid of internet service completely, my goal instead is to put better boundaries around its use.

Saved by the Ethernet cord is how I am going to accomplish this goal. Given that I do not have self-restraint with my so-called smart phone – once I am on the internet for one thing, I am looking at all the things – I will be turning my phone off more and plugging in my Ethernet instead.

I am quite sure that if it was not for the fact that I needed email for things grad school related that I probably would have only been online once in the past 4 days – and that would have been to double check the ingredients for a recipe about which I was doubtful.

I have not missed the status updates, the rants, the raves, or the photos. I more thoroughly enjoyed all my activities this weekend because I was fully present. I enjoyed the sunset. I enjoyed the beach. I enjoyed music. I have had the opportunity to plan my cross training schedule for when I am fully recovered from my running injury.

I am coming up on my last few weeks of grad school before my final defense. I may take a sabbatical every weekend I have off. Really, the only time I need my phone is if work needs to find me or I have to email for things grad school related. My stress levels have been a lot lower the past few days. I am looking forward to returning to work tomorrow energized and focused without the distraction of grad school panic and everything else that overwhelms when you are trying to finish a degree and do 10 million things.

Have you taken a digital sabbatical? Has it been relaxing for you? Have you noticed less anxiety when you turn the smart phone off?

If you are not on social media, how do you improve your in-person interactions? My problem is that I tend to get more interaction with people online than I do in real-life (even though the people I know online I also know in real life). With everyone so busy these days, how do you find or make time to spend with those important to you?

Cut the Cord

Technology can help or hinder you. Instead of allowing it to consume us, the use of technology with intention is a tool that can enhance your life. I love being able to go online and find instant answers to my questions. I have a smart phone, and sometimes I think it has replaced my brain. They did not name it a smart phone for nothing.

I am constantly connected. My excuse has always been that I have been so busy working multiple jobs and being a full time grad student while managing a household means that I need technology in order to have human interaction. However, the smart phone has replaced my human interaction when I find myself playing with the phone at times when there is a real, live person in front of me with whom I can have a conversation. As everyone stands around looking at their phones, the zombie apocalypse is now.

I have seen this social experiment circulating the Internet where a group of friends go out to dinner, pile their phones face down in the middle of the table, & the first person that picks up their phone in disruption of the human interaction, foots the bill for the cost of the meal. This is a brilliant idea. Too bad in this day & age, we have to force ourselves to do those type of things in order to unplug from the smart phone.

In my efforts to rewind real slow, I have decided to unplug. Cutting the cord allows me to focus fully on the people in front of me and to live and enjoy the moment I am experiencing. Are you really having fun or just doing it for the face book post, tag or photo? Cutting the cord and unplugging is not only scary for some, but also difficult. In today’s 24/7 world, the smart phone is constantly dinging with some notification of this or that. It is the modern day method of keeping up with the Jones’.

Here are some strategies in which I am going to try to cut the cord:

  • Turn off notifications. Do you look at your phone every time it makes a noise? Is this taking away from having lunch with your grandmother, or appreciating that sunset? Turn off the notifications. It can wait.
  • Set a timer. The internet will not explode if you stop checking it 20 times per day. 20 minutes twice a day should be enough. Once in the morning, and once in the evening to be able to check and respond to any important emails or get caught up on all the latest face book gossip. Do you really need to know what your 400 friends had for lunch today? This is adulthood, not a middle school cafeteria.
  • Make plans to see people in person. In realizing that I have allowed digital communication to take over my life, I have noticed that it has replaced my human interactions. The human part of my interactions is missing, that is. I would rather spend one hour of quality time having dinner with a friend hearing about their latest trip or the cool thing their kid did than spend 5 minutes commenting on someone’s post.

I’m looking for a life full of meaning. Quality over quantity. For me starting a blog is about more quality interactions on the internet than I currently have in 140 characters on social media. While I am looking to cut the cord in favor of in person interaction, I also want to improve the quality of my online interaction as well.

What do you think? Do you have an obsession with technology? How do you set boundaries around your media use and make time for what matters most – the people in your life and the experiences you have with them?