Daily Reminder To Stop And Smell The Roses

mindfulI could use a little more mindfulness in my life.

Moments that I pause in gratitude. Time listening to quiet, soothing music. Some deep-breathing to calm my racing thoughts.

If only I could remember to DO these things each day in order to enhance my ability to BE.

I may be in luck. There’s site that offers a daily electronic reminder to help develop new habits: habitforge. Forge new habits. Change your life!

The deal is you enter a desired change you want in your life. The site will send you a daily email asking if you were successful the previous day doing that one thing. If you indicate “yes,” you move one step closer to developing the habit. The goal is to get to 21 days of “yes” replies with the belief that, after three weeks of the new behavior, you’ll be well on your way to permanent change.

I’m going to give it a try.

Starting May 1st, I will use habitforge.com to help me pause and be mindful each day.

I’ll let you know when I reach the 21 days-in-a-row point. Hopefully, that day will be May 22nd, but, if I skip a day, the counter resets back to “zero.”

The new habits can range from the sublime (like the DC unemployed man who gives away $10 per day to strangers) to the mundane (shutting off your computer each night).

If anyone else decides to jump on the new-habit bandwagon in May and uses habitforge, let us know how it goes!

Is Your Computing Head In The Clouds?

cloudsIn the last four days, I have heard or seen the term “cloud computing” in four different places (radio report, conference speaker, two different article). While I understood the phrase from context — Internet-based computing which can be accessed from any computer — each source assumed that I already knew the phrase.

Despite my recovering news addict status, I didn’t have a clue.

In fact, without my knowing it, I’m already an avid cloud consumer. My email is Internet-based (Gmail). My files are backed-up in the clouds each night (Mozy Files). I’ve recently begun to keep my calendar online (Google Calendar) and interact with work colleagues online (Google Groups).

From time to time, I do pause and ponder about the wisdom of having so much of “me” out there in the clouds and vulnerable to others’ prying eyes (or computers).

This niggling doubt was renewed yesterday when I read how the federal Department of Health and Human Services has begun posting instances when private, computerized health records have been breached. So far, more than sixty hospitals, private practices, clinics and labs have had breaches affecting 500 people or more and are on the list. (None of which I’ve visited, thank goodness.)

However, I was struck by the type of breach that occurred in each instance. I expected to read about nefarious hackers giggling their evil, genius laugh as they gained unauthorized access to intimate and confidential heath records. Nope. The vast majority of breaches was due to good, old-fashioned human carelessness: thefts of laptops and portable electronic devices.

What are your thoughts about cloud computing? Had you heard the phrase before? And how much do you rely on the clouds to access and store data?

Laundry Paralysis

wet-clothes-and-Toby

wet-clothes-on-table

Here are a few quaint rules familiar to most baby boomers:

#1 Wear clean underwear; you never know when you’ll be in an accident.

#2 Before swimming, wait at least an hour after you eat; otherwise you’ll cramp up and possibly drown.

#3 Never leave the house with a big appliance running (i.e., dishwasher, washing machine, dryer); if it malfunctions, your house can burn down or flood while you’re away.

Being a glass-half-full type of gal, I’ve blissfully ignored such convention. Who wants to go around anticipating a car accident, drowning or destruction of a house? Not I!

Now, after this week, I want to amend that third rule. Never mind leaving the house. Don’t leave the room when an appliance is running! This wisdom was learned, of course, the hard way.

Tuesday night, I hear a sound that reminds me of Niagara Falls wafting up from the bottom floor. I fly down the stairs to discover water literally gushing out of the washing machine. Quick thinker that I am, I pull the plug to stop the evil, possessed appliance. No matter. The geyser continues, and I feel the water from the floor beginning to drench my shoes and socks. I try to close the valves connected to the machine’s hoses to cut the flow of water. The valves don’t budge, much like a window that’s been painted shut. Finally, Wise Hubby runs down and shuts off the water to the whole house so we can stem the tide of destruction and give ourselves a moment to think.

The next 24 hours are devoted to dealing with the mess: ridding the laundry room of water, moving water-logged boxes and clothes outside so they don’t form mildew and stink up the joint, calls to and visit from the plumber, a frantic search for an appliance part, and literally hours on the Internet reading conflicting consumer reviews of new washing machines.

Despite this flurry of activity, I am no closer to having a working washing machine in our house. For someone who’s usually decisive, I’m stuck! Repair the 20-year old machine or buy a new model? If the latter, how do I decide when I can’t find a brand/model that receives consistently good reviews?

Clothes are still draped in my yard, and a new dirty clothes pile has started in the now-dry laundry room. Tick, tock. I need to make a decision NOW!

It’s A Text, Text, Text World

texting

Girls do it 80 times a day.

Boys do it 30 times a day.

Adults do it 10 times a day.

According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and its new report, those are the average number of texts Americans send and receive per day.

Sorry, folks, I’m dragging the average down: 10 texts per week is more my speed. Does that mean I’m a slacker mom and bad friend who does not communicate well?!?! I still rely on email, which seems so last decade in this age of instant, accessible communication.

While our household has certainly had its share of cell phone battles, we are easing up on some of our restrictions (consciously or not, I’m not sure). Our oldest teen will be 18 in less than six months (ack!), and we’re “picking our battles” carefully. (Of course, forbidding use of cell phones while driving is permanently carved onto the list of rules.)

What’s the news from the texting front? Are you finding yourself texting more these days? To whom? Does texting make your life easier?

And, if you’re in the throes of cell/texting battles in your family, take a quick look at the Pew report‘s findings. You’ll be armed with key statistics and ways to respond to the everybody’s-doing-it, Mom-you’re-so-out-of-it argument.

There, I Fixed It – Redux

Last week I shared our family’s challenges figuring out how to make the lights work on our pre-lit Christmas tree.  Turns out we’re not the only ones who must resort to jerry-rigging, as evidenced by the hilarious inventive photos on There, I Fixed It.

But, in case any of you were concerned that this Wise Family would suffer through a light-less holiday, let me present ….. Ta-Dah! Our lit tree!

XMAS-tree-2009

Sorry about the blurriness; this was the only shot that showed conclusively that the lights are, without a doubt, on!

Upon closer inspection, you will see ours is a makeshift solution. But, it’s nothing that a strategic placement of an ottoman and turning of the tree can’t hide.

xmass-tree-three

xmas-tree-2009-two

P.S. Thank you to Wise Hubby for his patience and sense of humor about all this.

“Got The Wrong Bob?” Google Wants To Saves Me From Myself

big-brotherAs some of you know, I’ve had a couple of brush-ups with wayward emails in the past. One embarrassing incident involved inadvertently sending an email meant for my husband to my boss.  Another time, a group email I sent out to plan a family birthday celebration included a client’s email address instead of my sister-in-law’s. They both are named Amy, and I didn’t catch the fact that Gmail’s auto-complete function had supplied the “wrong” Amy from my address book.

Now the Internet behemoth Google promises that it can save me from my errant ways by activating the new Gmail add-on “Got the Wrong Bob?”. If an email address in a group email looks out-of-place, Gmail will flag it for me.

I don’t know if I’m gratified or creeped out.

I remember the first time Google’s awesome technology reminded me of Big Brother. When I started using Gmail, I noticed that if I dashed off an innocent email to plan a Girls Night Out, the sidebar on my screen would show ads for entertainment options. If the next email complained about a poor night’s sleep, the ads would change to entice me with a new mattress or other sleep aids. Initially, I had a twisted fascination with the ads Google decided I needed to see. Now I simply ignore  them.

If you’re interested in the latest and greatest email tricks from Gmail, check out the official Gmail Blog. Learn how Gmail can prevent you from sending ill-advised emails to old loves or former bosses after a night of drinking. Gmail Goggles makes you solve a few math problems to prove you’re in the “right stage of mind” (i.e., not too drunk) before you’re allowed to hit “send” after a certain hour.

How do the Google geniuses come up with these things?!?!? Thoughts?

And thanks to Wise Woman Maya for looking out for me and bringing “Got the Wrong Bob?” to my attention!

Hugh Jackman Asks, “Can You Hear Me Now?

I saw the play “Jersey Boys” last weekend. (Fabulous musical, BTW!)

Before the lights went down, I shut off my cell phone and then rechecked to make sure it was off four times!! I was paranoid after seeing this clip of Hugh Jackman losing his cool when an audience member’s cell phone went off while he was on stage. hugh-jackman-cell-phone I cringed with sympathy embarrassment, thinking how easy it is to forget to shut off one’s cell phone (or believe you shut it off, but not hold the button down long enough to ensure it’s off). Ugh!

I wonder if this theater patron ever admitted to friends that it was his/her cell phone that caused this infamous “Can you hear me now?” moment.

Shift Happens

did-you-knowDid you know that the top 10 in-demand jobs for 2010
did not exist in 2004?
We’re currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist,
using technologies that haven’t been invented,
to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.

Sobering perspective, huh? It’s from the 2008 version of the Did You Know? (Shift Happens) video. Over several minutes, the video hits you with statistic after statistic illustrating how quickly our world is changing and leaves you wondering how on earth we can keep up with it all. (It’s also set to music – perhaps so that the head-shaking onslaught of info can sink in a bit easier.)

The video started off as a Power Point presentation created in 2006 by educators Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod; it struck a nerve, went viral, and has gone through several iterations since. Karl Fisch writes about a recent remix version produced by The Economist Magazine on his blog The Fischbowl.

Thanks to Wise Woman Sherrie for passing along the link to this very thought-provoking clip. The video was shown at a meeting for parents at her daughter’s school and served as a jumping-off point about preparing students for a rapidly changing world. What a Wise School!

What does the video stir up for you?

Putting the Brakes on Reckless Teen Driving

race-carI may end up in the doghouse with the teenage set (in particular, my teens) by writing this post. I can already hear the howls of protest “You don’t trust me!” But I just have to share the results of a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety on the effectiveness of in-car monitoring devices to thwart reckless driving by young drivers. The study concluded:

Electronic monitoring of teenage drivers can reduce the incidence of risky behavior, especially seat belt nonuse, which declined in all treatment groups. No consistent effects were achieved for sudden braking/acceleration for any treatment group. Consistent reductions in speeding were achieved only when teenagers received alerts about their speeding behavior, believed their speeding behavior would not be reported to parents if corrected, and when parents were notified of such behavior by report cards. Parent participation in the monitoring process is key to successful behavioral modification, but it is yet to be determined how best to encourage such participation.

If you’re intrigued by this idea and curious about what types of gadgets are available, check out the article The Latest Tech to Keep Tabs on Your Kids at the online car site Edmonds.com. Some devices rely on GPS technology, while others have a dashboard camera. There’s even a device, Speed Demon, developed by a young man when he was 16, after another teen from his town died in a car crash.

While my teen has had her license for a month, we’ve yet to let her drive solo in the car. But that day is coming. Soon. And, while she does not appear to have a “need for speed,” I can see how this technology could help educate any young, inexperienced driver. I can also see the Big Brother-ish aspects to it. (Although, for the record, I am NOT one of those people who oppose red light cameras. I’m a big fan of them, even though my picture has been snapped once or twice.)

I’m not sure where I come out on this issue of electronic monitoring of young drivers. However, we’re buying a third car for the family in the coming months, so the time to install a gadget, if we go that way, is quickly approaching. Thoughts, Wise Women?

The Heart of it All

itouch1A few months ago I wrote about the allure of the Apple.  This was about at the time that i-Phones were being introduced, and thousands were lining up outside Apple stores.  Apple never ceases to amaze me – I can be in the mall on the slowest day of the week, and the Apple store is still bustling.  Any day, any hour – it’s busy and vibrant.  My husband wanted to buy Apple stock last fall when it was way down (around $80).  Of course, he didn’t, and it’s now in the $140s.

Well in the past couple of weeks, my husband has become an i-Phone owner, myself an i-Touch owner.  I received it for my 21st anniversary (21 years must be the technology year, since I received an i-Touch and he received a Kindle).  We both are totally impressed by our new gadgets.  Luckily his is a company benefit, as the monthly fees are quite high ($100+/month).  Benefit-wise, the only real difference between the two is that fact that the i-Touch is not a phone, and only has internet access in wireless areas.  

I was fortunate to be traveling with my sister last weekend, so I was able to turn over my new aquisition to her, who got it up and running for me.  What she said about the i-Touch would be a brilliant ad campaign.  ”I call it my heart , she said.  ”Everything that I love in life is on here.”  Pictures, family videos, her favorite music, all the key contact information of family and friends, her calendar, pod casts, the ability to manage email and access the internet … and of course those ever-enterprising apps.  I’ve realized that you can spend a lot of time browsing the app store.  Many are free downloads – so I’ve downloaded pandora, facebook and dictionary.com (yes, I’m a walking dictionary now).  So far I’ve purchased a grocery list manager, and a to do list manager.  I haven’t started using them yet, but I know one day they’ll make me super organized.  Anyone who has any favorite apps, please let me know.  I can see how buying these very inexpensive applications can become quite addictive.

One of the best things is that I am no longer a bad mom who doesn’t carry pictures of my family in my wallet – now I literally carry thousands. That first person who asks to see, will be sorry.

 

I believe the art of living consists not so much in complicating simple things as in simplifying things that are not.
Francois Hertel

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