The Great Unsubscribe

I read a lot, and I often save items that catch my eye for “later.” Sometimes the stack by my desk has to be thinned out, and typically, I find a few things that I replace, still waiting for that magical future moment when I have time on my hands; and a lot more that’s outlasted its usefulness, or my interest. So satisfying to see a noticeably smaller stack after a clearing!

The digital world is no different, except that when I read something I like, I often click “subscribe.” I need more to do, right?

But if it’s easy to add myself to email lists, it’s almost as easy to undo the damage. So lately, every time I see an email come through that I’m not going to get to, again, I do the mental sort. Is this a site I’ve outgrown? Did I subscribe thinking that this would be a treasure trove of information and advice, only to realize I will never read another thing from this source?

Have I gotten on an email list by mistake? I could swear there are evil things at work in cyberspace. I know some of the junk mail that makes it through my filters is nothing I would ever request. Not sure how that happens…probably agreed to something in fine print. But even those emails have the little “unsubscribe” link at the bottom, usually in the finest of fine prints. Clicking “unsubscribe” is almost as exciting as dropping off at Goodwill…you just know you’re going to feel lighter for the effort!

So, I’m thinning my digital commitments. Don’t ask me how it works, but an email inbox can be almost as overwhelming as a physical stack on my desk. I just know there’s some great stuff buried in there, if only I had time to catch up!

It’s a little like throwing out a box you never opened from a move. The common advice is, if you haven’t opened a box a year after a move, you can safely throw it out, because you obviously haven’t needed or missed whatever is in the mystery box. I’m a little to obsessive for that approach.

But when it comes to digital files, I’m more willing to purge without angst.

The other solution is a little like moving and not leaving a forwarding address. I’ve created new email addresses over the years to better sort who gets what. Now my oldest address is for those annoying times when you need to give an email, but you know you’re not going to maintain the relationship. A second one is for orders, and I use a third one for personal exchanges. Except when I forget and use the wrong one…which is why some friends and family are mystified by my system and just send the same information to multiple addresses. My fault for making it complicated, I know.

But here’s the thing…I find it’s easier to unsubscribe than to abandon my email addresses. Because, you know, I’ve probably set up an account or two along the way with the information, and if I abandon ship, that’s going to be a problem. An old email address is sort of like a remnant from middle school…like a piece of your history that you aren’t really excited about any more, but can’t part with either. I wish I had been more thoughtful about what I would want to follow me around the rest of my life. I probably wouldn’t have made the same choice if I had recognized the reality: I’m likely to be stuck with my digital “names” till I die. What’s up with some sites treating your user name like it’s sacred? Because of course a lot of my user name choices were based on my email address at that time. Apple‘s iTunes, for instance…now that’s one I’d like to update, but I’m stuck with my original user name there forever, apparently.

I think the digital world should allow regular re-sets, don’t you? I’m not trying to do anything illegal…my personal preference in naming convention has just matured a bit over time.

But I digress. I started by saying that I’m cleaning digital house, and how good that feels. I guess I’ve just demonstrated that all issues have sub-issues. My real angst is about email and user names, less about my inbox clutter. At least I can do something about the clutter.

If you want to reach me, feel free to send me a comment here. I can currently be found through my blog; Facebook; Twitter; I have four emails that are trailing around for various purposes; and I have a LinkedIn account that I don’t really use. I also managed to stumble into Google Circles, but I tried to back out as fast as possible. Really, I’m not looking for more ways to be connected…I just need to keep up with what I’ve already begun. And at that, everything I just listed is only for personal use. Work is a separate story.

I’m going to rest now. Feeling overwhelmed by digital forces.

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In defense of Pinterest

It seems there’s a lot of strong opinion out there about Pinterest and its impact on everything from use of time (aka waste of time) to fueling competitive birthday parties to adding new musts to the already jam-packed to-do list of the average American woman. (Notice I’m confining my opinions and observations to the narrow borders of my own country…I haven’t been authorized to speak for all women of the world just yet.)

I was going to be productive today...

I was going to be productive today…

No doubt many of the criticisms are justified. I’ll admit it’s addicting and time-consuming to scroll through my favorite Pinterest theme pages. However, I am still in control of the clocks at my house, and that super power extends to my keyboard as well. So it is within my ability to set an alarm and limit the time I spend on Pinterest.  A little Pinterest surfing is often my reward for finishing a project or task. It doesn’t have to gobble up whole evenings or weekends.

One of my favorite things about the site is the at-a-glance appeal…I only check out a recipe or project if the image is appealing. I think this is an enormous time-saver. After all, if the finished product doesn’t look enticing, why would I waste time trying to duplicate the taste or the look? And I love the links that give great step-by-step instructions with photos…no guessing about how to do the tricky parts!

Often when I’m looking for a recipe or product I begin with Pinterest. I’m rarely disappointed…much quicker than checking out links through Google.

As to feeling that I have to decorate amazing cookies or have elaborate theme parties…well, I get to make these decisions too at my house. I understand peer pressure, and I’ve had my share of mom-guilt motivation. But I’m also able to appreciate good ideas and copy what will work for my needs without feeling that I must do everything to the nth degree. I like to think of Pinterest as an engine to fuel my creativity. Actually, a site like Pinterest is perfect for me because I have almost NO inherent creativity. But I know what I like when I see it, and I can copy like a pro! Knowing when to stop is up to me.

I read a post today about the increasing tendency to turn events into spectacle: gender reveal parties, theme parties, holiday celebrations, and biggest and most intimidating of all, engagements and weddings. No one can use every great idea, and few parties are perfect. No one needs the pressure of one-upping or living beyond means to achieve. That’s no fun at all. When the details of the party become the focus more than the birthday child, or decisions about wedding arrangements create stress and tears, something is certainly wrong.

I’m all in favor of reflection, introspection, and honest confrontation here. I’ll admit, as a mom, as a wife, as a woman, I’ve sometimes been guilty of acting out of pride and perfectionism. But the scenario I picture in the planning stage doesn’t always hold up in the light of reality.

Hopefully I’m wiser as well as older now, and I’ve pretty much given up pursuit of perfection if it includes humans of any sort. And now when a dinner flops in a spectacular way, or my holiday dazzle doesn’t quite achieve the double spread gloss of a Southern Living magazine feature, I’m still content. I’ve learned to value the heart beyond the image, and to know that trying and intention count at least as much as any result I could pin on a Pinterest board.

Naughty, naughty!

Naughty, naughty!

So, to my fellow Pinners…let me encourage you to be mindful about this amazing tool. It can be a wonderful source of inspiration and delight. But remember, if you are fortunate enough to live with other humans…short ones, tall ones, young or old…they’ll likely derail your carefully laid plans, and your photos may not be perfect either. You’ll likely not finish all the crafts you plan for the holidays; your amazing new dish may look nothing like the exotic photo you tried to copy.

Never mind: all is well! It’s all about learning from others, enlarging our creative borders to try things we hadn’t thought of for ourselves. And it’s about coming to terms with messy reality: looking around at the kids you love; the person who sometimes is your soulmate and sometimes is just a fellow warrior in the battlefield; the home that isn’t perfect, but is yours, warts and all, and knowing that you love it anyway.

Not sure how to capture that image for a Pinterest pin, but that’s the one I would be most proud to share with the world.

Miami

I started this blog as a vehicle to record random grace notes in my life, and as I observed these moments occurring around me. Some posts live up to that vision more than others. Recently, this has been more a travel journal, although a very sporadic one. And it has been, at times, a chronicle of how I/we (Rob and I) migrate toward a next home, and a redefined work life.

Today is another post on travel. But really, isn’t the best travel about grace notes? And the unexpected pleasures you find along the way? So I tell myself, I’m not really straying too far from my theme, right?

So, Miami. We chose to spend our last full week away from Alaska (heard from a friend there today…it is snowing!) in the south of Florida, partly because you can never get enough sun when you live in a rain forest, and partly to look a little closer at this region of the country. We’ve done the beach, lounged by the pool, sampled some local fare, and today we’re driving down to the Florida Keys. But that’s another post.

Miami in March is warm, actually in the perfect temperature range. Sunny and warm enough to be pleasant, but not too hot, and the humidity is about right. Most of the days have been clear, perfect for being out and about, whether meandering down one of the shopping/dining districts like Lincoln Road Mall or Ocean Drive, or strolling along the beach.

We’ve sampled some great food. Cuban food is everywhere, but this is a cosmopolitan city, so you can find great food of any cuisine you like. The local restaurants we’ve visited have been good, not necessarily expensive, but authentic. I Google “best…” and read reviews to see where to go for the best Cuban sandwich, burger, etc., in Miami. People – reviewers – are amazingly frank and generous in giving their opinions, sharing the good and bad. A plethora of restaurants along Ocean Drive have outdoor dining. You can also find an amazing variety on Lincoln Road Mall, everything from Italian to Sushi to pub grub. Eating outdoors is a particular pleasure in this season because it is warm. Not hot. Warm. And if the evening gets even the slightest bit chilly, the big outdoor patio warmers appear, and then it is warm again. Mmmmm, my favorite.

We’ve had the benefit of Google maps to help us navigate the city, so haven’t gotten too lost. The traffic has been good in the evenings, not so good during the day. This is a metropolis, after all, and a big one. The drive into Miami Beach from Doral, where we’re staying, is lengthy, up to an hour, depending on traffic. Driving over during the day, you get a beautiful view of the waterways and the huge skyscraper buildings that are iconic to downtown Miami.

The historic Art Deco section of town is amazing, with old buildings that have been lovingly preserved or restored to perfection. You can learn about celebrities of the past who used to stay in this hotel, or frequent this restaurant. There are restaurants and night spots, upscale stores and tourist traps, positioned randomly throughout the district. Imagine my surprise at seeing a “Duck Tour” bus yesterday (amphibious vehicles that take tourists around town and into the water.) Ketchikan has Duck Tours too. You walk down the streets of Miami Beach and see a mix of people, the ones who are obvious tourists, like us, and the “beautiful people,” the rich young residents of this area who typify the South Beach look. And there are the hawkers who are trying to persuade you to come in to their restaurant, shop their store, buy cigars. Yes, cigars. There are actually cigar girls, who stroll around with boxes of cigars for sell. Makes me think of old artwork I’ve seen or magazine ads that show “cigarette girls” from some long-ago era. But this is today, and they are selling cigars. We actually watched cigars being hand-rolled at a street shop. Very labor intensive.

Little straw fedora hats are in style here, for both men and women, and huge heels. I’m fearful for some of these women walking around on the heels I’ve seen. Now, I like a good heel as much as any short woman, and in my work environment, or any time I go out “dressed up,” I wear heels. Just part of the look. But I’m talking about a whole new animal here. These women are on stilts!

Clothing is all over the place. I see a lot of long (I mean floor length) knit dresses that are worn any time of day. On the other end of the spectrum, yesterday I saw a string bikini that gave new meaning to the word “string.” And prices of swim suits…I looked at a few that were in the $200 range…nothing special. I know Miami Beach is a high rent district, but still…there are a few stores in the area that haven’t heard of recession.

Well, if you visit in March, be prepared. You’ll want to reserve in advance (this is spring break season, you know). And if you’re driving, be prepared to park and walk for a while. We parked a few blocks away from the beach yesterday, but to really experience Ocean Drive, or the Art Deco district, or any of the other major downtown areas, you need to walk. Taking in the sights, sampling a little of this, a little of that…you can almost feel like you’re one of the “beautiful people.”

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Ginger Peach tea and other finds

Rosemary scented water is popular.

Rosemary

Found some fun new things this week. Mind you, when I say new, I mean new to me…my discoveries may not be cutting edge. But in case I’m not the only one…

Favorite new tea: Republic of Tea Longevity Ginger Peach. This is wonderful as a hot or iced beverage. The flavor is amazing, refreshing, and the tea comes in individual bags with no messy string or paper tag to fuss with.

Google Chrome web browser: thank you Rob! He introduced me to this browser and I like  it better than Internet Explorer…seems faster and offers some great new features.

Amazon Windowshop Beta App: A new way to shop Amazon…this is an app from the  Google Apps site. Easy to navigate through the page and lots of links to explore…Amazon just gets better and better.

Rosemary scented wash cloths: Place a lightweight wash cloth and a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary in a bowl and cover with water. Microwave one to two minutes until water is very hot. Let the cloth steep in the herb infused water. The longer the cloth steeps in the scented water, the stronger the fragrance will become. I like to reheat the bowl in the microwave just before using so the cloth is a perfect temperature…warm but not too hot. Find the Goldilocks spot for your taste. This is a refreshing way to revive after a busy day or a calming wind-down before bed. Check out the baby department for small perfect sized cloths. This also works well with a few basil leaves or any herb you prefer to substitute for the rosemary.

The best part of these finds is that they add fun, variety and functionality to routine. What’s new with you?