A few weeks ago I mentioned that one of my problems with giving up Internet for one night was that I more than made up for it the next day, logging on extra hours. It’s hard to live without Internet. So my plan was to try and find more real life experiences to fill the void of computer and TV time.
I had a lot of ideas for what to start with: buy vegetables from the farmers’ market, go thrifting at a consignment shop, or maybe go out to dinner with my family?
But life had other plans for me. Someone vandalized the door of our garage with graffiti on Saturday night. I know this isn’t a big problem: no one was hurt, nothing was even stolen, and likely the paint will come off with either a lot of acetone and scrubbing, or maybe a nice new coat of paint. The garage needs it anyway.
I couldn’t help but feel hurt, though, that an individual (likely a young, inebriated, possibly remorseful of the act in his later years) would damage private property like that with no thought as to how it would affect the owners. And how did it affect me? Negatively. I sobbed and sobbed. I felt unsafe, and unwelcome, and instantly wanted to move from our neighborhood and our lovely city. I wanted to retreat.
Let me spoil the end of this story to tell you that we didn’t retreat, even if we could move at a moment’s notice (we can’t, we own our house). We’re still here, graffitied garage and all.
And instead of retreating, I decided to fight back in one of the most peaceful and effective ways I know: with art. I am going to show the vandalizer that he can’t bring me down, and we won’t run. We’re going to make our home more beautiful than before. How, you ask, can someone fight back with art?
We’re making mosaics. The front of our house, garage included, leave a little bit (fine, a LOT) to be desired. It’s…rustic. No, I can’t fool even myself with that. It’s just plain ugly. The garage is moss-encrusted, the sidewalk is dirty, and the little strip of garden nearby is overgrown with weeds and leaves. The whole place needs at the very least a good scrubbing.
So my boys and I visited Seattle Mosaic Arts, picked a project (garden stones), picked out lots of glass, and went home and got to work.
What does all of this have to do with unplugging? That’s what we worked on as our back to real life project. We didn’t go out to dinner or to the park. We sat at our dining room table together with hundreds of little pieces of glass, carefully placing them where they would soon be grouted into place forever. We sat and we talked, and my older boy helped my younger boy, and I mostly watched. I told them how beautiful it was going to look out front, how people would stop and see and wonder about the mosaics.
It was much, much more rewarding than television or YouTube or even one of my favorite hobbies of all, blog reading. I got to be with my boys—I mean really BE with them–and I saw them create. Screen time makes me feel numb, which can be helpful when I’m overwhelmed or stressed, but I don’t want to numb out through my children’s entire childhoods. And now I know, if nothing else, I will remember this. I will remember sitting there with them, bursting with pride over what they could do.
I didn’t know it was possible for my three-year-old to be so creative, so organized, and so patient with this project. But he was. I didn’t know my six-year-old could be so determined (he worked for hours without a break!). They both were brilliant. I’m so proud.
And I’m happy that not only are we beautifying the front of our house with love and art, but also that we’re doing something together, something that will be at our house as long as we are, and something that says: you can vandalize our property, but we’re not going to run. We’re here to stay.
The Unplugged blog post series are written by Shalini Miskelly. Shalini is a librarian and writer in Seattle. You can find her at http://readingandchickens.blogspot.com and on twitter @booksnchickens
Driving to work this morning, my 11th day in a row, I heard on the radio an advertisement for the Born to Knit campaign.
Save the Children (an organisation focused on securing a child’s right to health, education and protection) are looking for 15,000 knitted blankets to send to children in third world countries. I’ve wanted to knit for years. I’ve even attempted to knit a scarf in the past. It’s still going, 7 years later. It’s like the side of my brain which learns how to knit, doesn’t work. I just do not understand how to knit one, pearl one, let alone cast on and off. Oh dear…
I first wanted to knit when I was about 17 years old. After my grandmother died, one of the only things that I had left from her was some yarn we found when we were cleaning out her house. Nanna had used the wool to knit clothes for my brother when he was a baby, I wanted to create something I could keep from that memory.
I found knitting so difficult and so slow as I was learning. It tested my patience and that of my mother’s. Mum attempted to teach me but it was stressful, she was frustrated with me, as I was with her teaching style.
I’ve now committed myself to completing this project of knitting a blanket. I’m hoping that this time around, I will have more determination, focus and patience. It will most likely be more symbolic rather than productive. I believe the unfinished scarf is haunting me; unfinished and full of memories of abandoning something that was too hard to complete and too hard emotionally.
So the challenge is on. 16 knitted squares = one blanket.
Lierre Bayley is a Melbourne based MAEVE reader who has embraced the Born to Knit campaign. Supporting Save the Children as they attempt to knit 15,000 blankets for children in third world countries. Here we’ll update you on Lierre’s progress as she knits her blanket.No comments
I’ve been having a bad week. I’ve been grumpy and cranky and not in the mood to do anything except grouch and complain. I wrote about it on my personal blog, but the short of it is: I’ve been a rotten human being.
On Monday evening, I didn’t want to unplug. Not even a little bit. Because, I realized, when I’m in a bad mood, I use television, movies, and the Internet as my comfort. I do whatever I can to distance myself from people, from my problems. I want to be numb. I want to space out. Screen-time is the ultimate path to numbness for me.
So I was going to pull the covers up, lay in bed, and watch a movie on Monday night, because I didn’t want to do was interact with my children, or my husband, or even my dog. Why was my dog looking for attention when all I wanted to do was wallow? Everyone needs a good wallow and a Cadbury bar on Mondays, right?
And honestly, I was going to cheat, and then lie here (you would never know my deviousness!), writing something quaint here about how I went outside and planted flowers with my children or cultivated my garden. Then I could quote Voltaire, explaining to you in a didactic manner that we must look for the best at home, instead of trolling the world or the world of the Internet, as it may be, for something better.
I even planned to quote it in French, just to be annoying. I’d say, “Ha! Look at me and my Internet-less Monday night! I am made of awesome!” In reality, of course, I would have eaten popcorn in bed while watching the trailer for Breaking Dawn over and over, butter stains on my pajamas. Glamorous.
I had it all planned out, but none of it happened. First, I laughed too hard at the Breaking Dawn trailer the first time to watch it more than once—my stomach muscles needed some recovery. Second, I’m not very good at lying. I didn’t think I could write anything worth reading if I did that.
So I went outside and gardened with my boys. It has been absolutely beautiful every single Monday evening when I’ve unplugged. Maybe this is a gift from the universe, since Seattle weather is almost always wretched. Maybe it’s just dumb luck. Whatever the reason, I went out and pulled weeds while my boys watered our garden.
It was fine. It wasn’t as good as wallowing, but it was fine. Nothing to write home (or on a blog) about.
When we were finished, my three-year-old went over the small patch I cleared of crab grass with the hose.
“I’m making a pond, Mommy!”
“Oh, OK, whatever,” I said a bit dully, because I was bored and being a whiny, annoying, no-good mother.
The puddle grew and grew, and eventually I noticed the small lake in our front garden. “I’m going to turn off the water now, sweetie,” I told him, my eyes growing a little large with panic.
“OK, no problem! It’s done anyway!”
“What’s done?” I tried to say. I was going to ask it, but the words didn’t fully form before my little boy was launching into the air and yelling, “MY MUD PUDDLE!”
Sploosh. The whole garden went sploosh. I was covered in mud. He was covered in mud. My six-year-old was standing on the porch laughing so hard he turned red.
“Can we do it again?” they asked, smiling from ear to ear.
“Yeah, we can do it again,” I said, as I walked over to turn on the hose. My whole being bubbled up with happiness, with laughter, with joy. It was just a single moment, and I went back to wallowing later in the evening, but for those few minutes, it was the best part of life.
Who knew? Voltaire was actually right.
The Unplugged blog post series are written by Shalini Miskelly. Shalini is a librarian and writer in Seattle. You can find her at http://readingandchickens.blogspot.com and on twitter @booksnchickensNo comments
Can I tell you a little secret? This unplugged experiment is backfiring, big time.
First, let me explain. Having one day of the week to unplug is actually really nice. While putting together Legos with my boys is my idea of the ninth circle of Dante’s Inferno (“Mom, where’s the little grey piece? No, not that grey piece, the other grey piece. No, not that one either. Keep looking! It’s important!”), at least my boys appreciate my presence and like that I’m there to help.
It’s been nice to have two evenings to just concentrate on family, and to my surprise, my boys haven’t complained once about not getting TV or computer time. In fact, it seems that my boys are much more interested in screen time when I’m the one constantly checking email or updating my blog or uploading photos or ignoring them in favor of a monitor. Hmmm, it’s like I’m the one responsible for this addiction in the family. (Before I admit full guilt, I’ll wait and see if my husband will take the blame first.)
Then why is this a belly flop of an experiment so far? Because the day after unplugging, I find myself on the computer for even longer, to make up for lost time. After all, my entire life is in there. I order my son’s school lunch from a website, receive updates from his teacher in my email, do all of my work on my laptop, order my groceries and pay my bills online, and talk to my friends.
The day after unplugging, I have to go through my mental checklist of things I put off doing. We need spinach salad, I better add that to my grocery delivery before I forget again. I can’t make the parent-teacher conference time I was assigned and have to email her to request a new time. I wanted to apply to a new website to contribute, but of course I can’t work on my pitch until I have access to my laptop. Not really, anyway.
The problem that I didn’t foresee is not just that I’m addicted to my computer, but that my life (and everyone else’s that I know) is addicted to it, too. I can’t do a thing without Internet access. Or rather, I can do things without Internet, but all of those things I’m not doing because I’m not on the computer pile up. Is there a solution?
I think so. I can’t change some things, like how teachers prefer to communicate over email, or how my writing is published on the Internet, just like every other writer’s. But instead of ordering from an online grocery store, maybe I should get reacquainted with the real thing. Maybe instead of paying bills through my bank, I could try putting a stamp on an envelope and sending it through the mail. Hey, crazier things have happened. Maybe I really, desperately need to connect to people in person and over the phone more than online. Perhaps I have to be the first one to make phone calls and send letters, so that people will communicate back in that way, too.
I don’t really like this idea. The Internet exists to make life easier. But my life is sometimes harder because of it—I have more work to do because I have the convenience of doing so many things from home. There are higher expectations of keeping in touch—I better make sure I’m on Facebook if I don’t want my friends to think I’m ignoring them!
There are lots of other things, as well. And I love the Internet. It does make life easier sometimes, and the connections I’ve made through blogging are invaluable to me. But there are some things that are so out-of-date about my life that I absolutely love. I cook everyday rather than order delivery (through the computer). I like going to the weekly Farmers’ Market to ogle the fresh vegetables and meats, even though I rarely buy anything. Oh, and we have chickens in our tiny city backyard, and this little antiquated slice of me that wanted to keep farmyard animals has grown into the best part of me. I love having animals, treating and feeding them well, and getting my eggs directly from the nesting box in my backyard.
So while I’m not looking to unplugging in even more ways, I’m hoping I’ll find a part of me I didn’t even know was there, a part that later I’ll look back on my life and wonder how I was ever any different.
Shalini Miskelly is a librarian and writer in Seattle. You can find her at http://readingandchickens.blogspot.comand on twitter @booksnchickens.No comments
I want to tell you my first evening unplugged was a smashing success. I want to explain that I saw how technology can interfere with the quality of life, and this realization led to a Hollywood-manufactured happy ending.
First I would play a rousing game of Scrabble with my children while my husband whittled wood in a rocking chair and an unnamed extra in our lives sat in the corner strumming the banjo, providing us with some low-tech but quality folk music. And afterwards we ate homemade bread with homemade jam from berries we’d picked earlier that evening. Then we all fell asleep together in front of the fireplace, content. Wouldn’t that be a pretty picture? Too bad that would be a big, fat lie.
The truth is this it was boring. It was agonizing and yawn-inducing and boring boring boring. Without the pull of constantly checking my email, I finished cooking a full hour before dinnertime, so I cleaned up the house and then sat down and colored with my boys, who were perfectly adaptable to the idea of no TV or Internet or computer games for an evening. They know how to unplug and relax.
But me? Without being able to glance at my blog reader or dash off a quick text to a friend, sitting and coloring and talking with my kids was kind of painful. No, that’s an understatement. I was itching to do something, anything, besides sit there and color. Judge me if you must, but I would have rather reorganized my entire kitchen, or maybe painted the house. Or how about self-inflicted dental surgery? Yes, that sounds about right.
Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten so used to multi-tasking, to paying a bill while answering an email while stirring some tomato sauce while taking apart Lego creations while looking up the answer to, “Mom, how heavy is the Earth?” on Google. But doing none of those things, and just sitting still to play with a three and six year old without any other kind of mental stimulation drained me. That’s right, the relaxation drained me. I couldn’t wait until they went to bed. It was the opposite of what I wanted, wishing them to be away just so I could stop being bored by their very presence.
After they were asleep, I washed the dishes while listening to the news (on the radio! not streaming off my laptop!) which was surprisingly lovely. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed listening to the news instead of reading updates on Google News or getting headlines from Facebook and Twitter. It was nice to just soak my hands in the dish water and know that there was nothing else I needed to do. No one could reach me or ask for anything, and best of all, I didn’t have a pounding headache at the end of the night from eye strain and the stress of all the things tomorrow would bring.
It was unseasonably warm and sunny on Monday for Seattle, so I went for a brief run and then came home and soaked in the bathtub and then I…well, I was bored again. With nothing pending, I tried to occupy myself. I picked up a book, but my mind was elsewhere. Instead of enjoying my time, I was itching to open my laptop. So, I made an executive decision, I went to sleep. That’s right, to avoid temptation, I went to bed at 9PM. I told you I was bored. The evening wasn’t exactly what I hoped.
So, for the next unplugged evening, I’m going to have a project for my family. I know the whole idea is to learn to relax without so many distractions, but perhaps the way to gain my attention isn’t to instantly take away technology and replace it with silence and crickets chirping, but to fill it with something meaningful and fun. I’m still looking for what that could be. After all, what’s more meaningful than checking gmail for the fortieth time that hour? I suppose I’m going to find out.
Shalini Miskelly is a librarian and freelance writer in Seattle.
You can find her at http://readingandchickens.blogspot.com.No comments
I have a confession. I spend more time paying attention to a computer screen than my children or husband every evening.
After a full day of child-wrangling, cooking, cleaning, and writing, I want to unwind. My husband will put our boys, 3 and 6, to bed by reading them some books, while I sit at the kitchen table reading blogs. Or maybe I’ll go downstairs and exercise while watching an old episode of Glee on Hulu. If the boys are allowed to stay up late, we might let them watch a television show or maybe some videos on YouTube while my husband checks his work email for the twentieth time that evening. Sometimes my husband will talk to me while I’m clicking on blogs, I won’t even hear his voice, because I’m so tuned out to his voice, and hyper focused on the screen. I want this to stop.
Even though it doesn’t show in my actions every evening, I think a lot more of my adorable children and cute husband than I do of the internet or television shows or whatever message that awaits me in my inbox. There are also a lot of projects I’ve put off, things I’ve always wanted to do that I “don’t have time” for. I want to run a 5K race. I want to learn to sew my own dress. I want to write more fiction. I want to learn to play the guitar. I want to sit down and unwind with my husband and kids at the end of the day, instead of hiding behind my computer screen.
In 2008, Ariel Meadow Stallings started a project called 52 Nights Unplugged. One night a week, she would “unplug” from anything with a screen–no computers, no televisions, no smartphones. If she wanted to write, she had to do it by hand. If she wanted to read, she’d have to pick up a book (imagine that!). Her original site is down now, but she was on to something brilliant. I want to unplug, too, desperately.
But I’m going to make my rules only slightly different. I’m going to ban Internet and television not just for myself, but for my husband and my children, one evening a week for an entire year, on Mondays. For my husband, that will start when he gets home from work. For me and the boys, we’ll start when I begin making dinner. They won’t be able to watch television, and I won’t be able to listen to podcasts that stream from my computer. If I want to read a book in the evening, it will have to be without the help of the Kindle. If I need to look up a recipe, I better do it beforehand. If I need to map out directions, I may have to look at an actual map and hand write the directions. If I want to talk to a friend, I might have to use a phone instead of leaving a message on Facebook. It’s a brave new world I’m entering.
Maybe my children will want to kill me for taking away their cartoons. Maybe my husband will grow irritated by not being able to check his work email. High-speed Internet has been at my beck and call since the mid-90s, so this will be a new world for me. I admit I’m a little scared, too.
And every week, after our night unplugged, I’ll blog about how it went, here. My hope is, secretly, that I’ll love my time unplugged so much that I’ll want to do it every evening. My hope is my life will be better for it.
Any chances you want to join me in unplugging, too?
Shalini Miskelly is a librarian and freelance writer in Seattle.
You can find her at http://readingandchickens.blogspot.com.No comments
Kristen grew up in Pennsylvania, went to boarding school, and attended Wheaton College majoring in Creative Writing. Kristen has been writing poems and keeping journals since she was a little girl. She has had various poems published in journals and enjoys reading books about mindfulness and strives to give her two young children a magical childhood in rural Maine, in the upper northeast corner of the United States.
Her blog can be found at www.poetswoods.blogspot.comNo comments
Today’s the day…. Today is finally the day! Our nostalgic issue will be live this afternoon!
Here’s a sneak peep at our gorgeous cover. A nostalgic portrait of the very beautiful Remy by US photographer Steven Visneau.1 comment
Issue 4 is almost complete! Just a few finishing touches to be made before the end of the week.
Now it’s time to start work on our next issue. How exciting! We’re ready for submissions, feature articles, stories, products, web sites, blogs, photos, illustrations. All submissions need to have substance and integrity.
This issue we’re changing things a wee bit, we’re dropping the theme focus and going with contributions which offer insight, inspiration and intelligent reading. Remember MAEVE targets 30-40 something’s… women… grown ups… parents… people who want more from their media.
At this stage we don’t pay for submissions, we will however credit you and link to your web site, blog, Twitter or Facebook account.
Could our fabulous regular contributors please send submissions to email@example.com
Deadline for submissions June 1st 2011.
Got a great idea for a MAEVE blog post? Submissions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
So if you have something that you feel will fit MAEVE please get in touch! x1 comment