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To Connect Or Disconnect?

For the longest time whenever we would go away for a trip I would completely disconnect from the online world. Turn off my blackberry and my personal phone and metaphorically chuck them into the Mediterranean or whatever body of water we happened to be near. (Because water is a big thing for me - I don't feel like I've actually been on vacation unless I come into contact with water.)

One of my friends used to laugh at us, because the Hub would email her back when we were away, whereas I was completely unreachable.

Photo I "instagrammed" on our last vacation.
On our last trip away -- in the Canary Islands -- for various reasons too dull to go into, I had to at least read my work emails, so I decided as long as I was doing that that I would stay connected generally. There was free wi-fi at the hotel and I knew the Hub would be doing the same, so it wasn't like I would be ruining the atmosphere.

I was slightly nervous about this and wondered if it was the "right" thing to do because all the advice you read these days is about how dangerous this online world is for us, how it ruins our attention spans and makes us incredibly insecure and also downright twitchy.

And it definitely can do all that.

But then again, for me, all the technology I now have access to -- whether it's online video chats with my family back home, being able to text daily with my friends living halfway across the world or just finding out that a book group friend is also in Canary Wharf watching the marathon -- it all makes me feel more connected, more secure, and frankly, happier.

So how did my experiment go? I actually really enjoyed it. It was fun to be able to post some photos of what we were up to in real time. And honestly, I don't always have that much time to scroll through my social media accounts thoroughly at leisure. So I really loved that.

I think I was able to find the balance. My meditation practice really does help with my ability to pay full attention to whatever it is that I'm doing. If it's scrolling through a social media feed, fine, but then I can put the phone away and focus on reading a novel or having a leisurely lunch with the Hub. I'm certainly not checking my texts or emails on the golf course either.

Technology is never an evil in an of itself. Distractions will always come from somewhere. It's the nature of life and, let's face it, people. Fear of missing out existing long before the Internet.

The other interesting positive from this experience was that I didn't feel like I needed to catch up on much when I returned home and to the office. I had been able to deal with a few urgent things and respond to some emails without much stress at all. I even ordered our groceries online from the hotel room so that we had a stocked fridge the day after we got back. This was a pleasant effect I hadn't anticipated.

I still think it's great to take a break from technology and I have amazing memories of the weeks we have spent sailing with absolutely no connection at all to the world away from the boat. Life goes on and things get taken care of when you're not available. But I was surprised at how staying connected didn't seem "bad" for me at all on this one vacation. Will I do it again? The jury is still out. I guess it fits with my overall philosophy that one of way doing things is never better or worse and you have to find what works for you and make a decision at the time about what's right for that situation. It's all about the balance.

The Reading Habit

I debated a few months ago on the blog whether or not I should be finishing all the books I start reading. I even asked readers their opinion and was surprised at what my informal survey showed: that a lot of people really do read most books to the end.


In what has turned out to be an additional 2017 New Year's resolution, I have decided to read every book I start this year to the end, even if I'm not loving it. (For my other New Year's resolution, read this post.)

And so far, I'm finding it to be a completely rewarding practice. The reason: I think I had just developed a really bad habit. It wasn't that I was stopping reading books I genuinely disliked, it was that I was giving up way too early on anything that wasn't immediately gratifying. I obnoxiously think I have a great attention span, but the reality was that I was engaged in some sort of strange grass-is-greener thing, wanting to move onto a different book all the time. 

It was definitely a bad habit. 

Turns out, I'm really enjoying getting to "the end". It's more satisfying and it's actually amazingly helpful to be reading novels all the way through when you're trying to write your own (shocking I know!). 

If you want to see what I'm reading at any one moment, you can find me on Goodreads here. I also always write short reviews on there.  

In other news, I wanted to let you all know that I am launching a Mind, Body & Scroll monthly newsletter, with some extra content and links to things I'm finding interesting. If you subscribe to the blog already, you will automatically receive it. If you don't, and would like it, you can subscribe to the blog (see right-hand side "subscribe" box), sign up on my author website www.taronwade.com, or you can email me at mindbodyandscroll [at] yahoo [dot] com and I will add you to the list. The first one will go out Monday morning, so subscribe before then to receive it. 

In the meantime, if you haven't weighed in on whether or not you finish books to the end, please do!  

Photo credit: Stephanie Booth Bookworm Kitty 12 via photopin (license)

The Great Applesauce Mystery

There is a lot of debate among my family and friends back home about whether or not my accent has changed in the many, many years I've lived in the U.K. My 15-year anniversary in this country is coming up at the end of this month, so it's amazing that I've retained as much of an American accent as I have. I often do get congratulated by people here that I still sound "American". I'm not sure how else to sound, but I am secretly pleased to not have developed a transatlantic affectation.


But the vocabulary that I use, that certainly has changed. In my view, there are at least three levels to usage of the words in U.K. parlance.

The first are the words that every American knows. Included in this category are words like lift (elevator), chips (fries), petrol (gas), car boot (trunk), loo or toilet (restroom).

Then comes round two. The everyday words that you would just never know from watching movies. But it's useful when you live in a place to know things like kitchen roll (paper towels), loo roll (toilet paper), washing-up liquid (dish soap), cling film (saran wrap), crisps (potato chips), pound shop (dollar store) and of course, bin (garbage can).

There are also colloquialisms that you have to learn. Bad neighborhoods are "dodgy". If you "table" something you put it on the table, not off. Not to mention "quite". This is the trickiest of them all. Americans use "quite" to mean "very" whereas Brits actually mean not-so-much.

If someone says this blog post is "quite good" it means: it was O.K., I guess.

So far, so good. But for me, there was one mystery that I just couldn't solve. It took me over 10 years to figure this one out:

What do the Brits call applesauce?

You see, in the U.K. there is something called apple sauce. You buy it in a small jar in the supermarket and it's a sweet sauce you might dip your pork into. But it's not like American applesauce. I kept looking for jars of Mott's at the store and couldn't find anything like them. And when I would ask people what it was called here they just looked at me blankly and said "apple sauce?".

But it wasn't the same thing. Eventually I just kind of gave up. I also realized that I never ever saw anyone eating it anywhere.

And then, one day, my in-laws were trying to get us to take excess apples home from their orchard. They had had a bountiful year. My father-in-law casually mentioned that he had been making a big batch of stewed apples. I said, "what do you mean? what is that?" thinking, oh my God, he's talking about applesauce! And he was. I couldn't believe it.

Mystery solved. I knew I married the Hub for a reason.

Photo credit: wayneandwax 1st applesauce 2014 # via photopin (license)

The Outlier

I'm going to come clean. I don't like this time of year.

And it makes me wonder -- am I the only person who has a least favorite time of year? 

Most people seem to love the spring. They wail during January and February, gnashing their teeth and complaining how dark and depressing the winter is.

My parents' house in the most recent snow storm (Bainbridge, N.Y.)
But I love those quiet months after Christmas when life goes back to normal and everyone seems happy to just chill out and not do much of anything, except meet up and tell their holiday horror stories. 

I love summer: June, July & August, with swimming and ice cream and eating outside. And autumn. Halloween costumes, the smell of an apple pie baking. Fresh notebooks for back-to-school and even wearing a coat again. I love the smell, taste and the feel of these months and these seasons. I even like December, with its parties and the mad rush of holiday preparations.


But spring -- not so much. I sometimes feel clammy and cold even thinking about it. As February rolls into March, like clockwork, I start feeling down and anxious. Granted, I once had something very sad happen to me in March, but I think I've always felt this way, so that's not likely to be the cause. And it's not like it's the weather in the U.K. either -- I've felt this way as long as I can remember, no matter which country I was living in. 

I've tried to "fix it" by planning fun things in these months -- our recent trip to Tenerife was very helpful. And Vienna was great too. It's nice that there are so many bank holidays this time of year here, and maybe we should be using them more and planning even more weekends away. But most of the time I just wait for June to arrive, and as usual I start feeling better. 

I guess I'm just an outlier. But it made me wonder if other people felt the same about certain times of year. Are there months that you just don't like? And do you have a good reason for it or are you irrational and strange just like me?

Photo credit: Adam Foster Photography Halloween horror pumpkin carving via photopin (license)
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