Random Moments in Time – 2019 Edition

A collection of different events that occurred last year…when we could still leave our homes and be around each other.

September 28th.

The Raleigh Bluegrass Festival, where we saw the Jewish Bluegrass band Nefesh Mountain.

Also seen at the Bluegrass Festival:

And, in things I’ll probably never do…

October, 26th. At the NC State Fair with my parents.

(My mother said she’s entering the cookie baking contest in 2020)

Delicious

November 15th. An Evening with Margaret Atwood at NC State.

Found via Youtube search

Why I Quit Social Media

In 2018, I lost the ability to read. 

I’d sit down with a novel and get halfway through the first page before a question, completely unrelated to the text, would pop into my head. I’d then spend twenty minutes googling random things. 

Oh, wait a minute, I’d think. I was reading!

Having already forgotten what I’d read, I’d start back at the top of the page. If I was lucky, I’d make it to the next page before the compulsion to check twitter overwhelmed me. 

Forty-five minutes later, after closing the Twitter app, I’d be genuinely surprised to find a book in my other hand. 

Reading has always been a source of relaxation to me. It’s not an over exaggeration to say that time spent books keeps my mental state in balance. But in 2018, I realized that I had lost my ability to read for more than a few minutes at a time. I spent more time with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the texts on my phone than the text on the page. 

Brain fog was constantly depleting my attention span, and reading wasn’t the only activity that suffered.  I had a hard time paying attention at work. I could not hold a conversation without checking my phone. It took hours to fall asleep, and when I did manage to drift off I would wake up several times throughout the night. The first thing I did in the morning was reach for my phone. 

I thought about this (in small spurts, of course) for several months before deciding to do something about it. It was too much for me to quit social media cold turkey, but I could take steps to reduce how much time I spent with it.  

I opened all of my accounts and trimmed the fat. I cut out Facebook groups I didn’t need. I unfriended and unfollowed people I didn’t know- and people I did know who used social media to post inflammatory political commentary (I need to know what’s happening in politics. I do not need to know the opinion of my racist, ill-informed neighbor. There is a difference). I went beyond social media and took a hard look at my other technology use. I unsubscribed from most of the junk email that I received, which cut down on the time it took to organize my inbox. 

The total time I spent online was cut in half, which helped, somewhat. Less content on my feeds brought less commotion in my brain. The clouds didn’t go away completely, but they thinned substantially.

By now it was 2019, and I stumbled across a newly published book called Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. You can follow this link to read about the book, which describes the negative effects of social media and provides guidelines on reducing your use. Other useful books on this theme can be found here and here. Additionally, Newport frequently updates a blog that’s worth checking out. 

Through my research, I came to the realization that I was not made to process information in the rapid-fire way that social media operates.  These platforms pretend to provide social interaction, but it’s not the same quality socialization that happens when I have a face to face, telephone, or written conversation with someone. In fact, many of these platforms are designed to bring out the worst angels of our nature and leave us addicted to scrolling and counting up the likes we receive.

There was no getting around it. I decided to quit social all media and reduce all forms of pointless technology that had crept into my life. 

I closed all social media accounts.*  I also deleted most of the apps from my phone, including email and work-related apps, and silenced the notifications on the rest. I went through my email and unsubscribed from all junk email subscriptions. Basically, I not only trimmed the fat from my digital life, I did away with anything that wasn’t giving me quality nutrients in return. 

I experienced a detox process. The first month was tough, but it passed. There has not been one defining moment where everything fell into place, but I can tell my attention to task is much better than before. My productivity at work and home have increased, and the general brain fog I felt has slowly cleared. And, I’ve regained the ability to read for longer periods.

I was worried that signing off on social media would leave me with a incurable feeling of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Surprisingly, that never happened. About a year in, I have no longing to return to that way of digital living. Rather, by giving up social media I’ve gotten back time I can use for things that actually matter…and the ability to focus on the present. 

As I write this, I think back to the time when social media was invented and took over our lives.  I was in the undergraduate phase of my life when smart phones, Twitter, and Facebook become the giants they are today. My use of these platforms, like most other people in my age group, increased, throughout my graduate school experience, my capstone internship, and as I found my footing as a newly credentialed occupational therapist. All of these situations are stressful by themselves; however, I wonder how much I added by infecting my mental capacities with social media. If I had tackled these projects with a clearer mind, how much easier would the experience have been?

I’ll never know. 

I’m not in the habit of telling others how to live, so this is not meant to be a call for everyone to delete their social media accounts. Everyone must decide for themselves what value social media brings, if any, to their lives. For me, it brought distraction, and I am happier without it. I hope that by sharing my experience that others who are struggling with social media will realize they have options. Believe it or not, life occurs even when you don’t document it on your feed.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m got some reading to attend to.

* I have not deleted my Twitter account, but I have removed all information from it and do not access it. My husband, a Twitter user, occasionally texts links to tweets containing articles (rather than sending me the article itself), and it’s easier to open them this way. Again, make it work for you.

Asheville – May 31st, 2019

Some pictures from out trip to Asheville last month.

On the drive up, we picked up dinner from Wild Wok, on of my favorite restaurants, and took dinner to my parents. We rolled it up with my mother’s homemade strawberry ice cream for desert.
Hotel room view
Hotel room view
Hotel room view
A quiet morning in downtown Asheville
One of my favorite bookstores
Stopped for dinner at Phoenix at Greensboro on the way home.

Crops

I decided to try my hand at gardening this year. I found these biodegradable bags from Amazon. You can plant vegetables in them with no need to transfer them to the ground. I was able to move the bags around the house till I found a spot that provided the best sun. If all goes well, next year I might graduate to actual  raised garden beds.

These pictures were taken in May 2019.

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From left to right: cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes.
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Cucumbers…and a foot.
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Sweet Peppers. I bought a package of various colors, so we’ll see what comes up.
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Tomatoes. I’ll need to buy a cage soon.

Passover 2019

Some pictures from Friday, April 19th and Saturday, April 20th.

An awkwardly angled picture of the Sunday table, mid-meal.

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On Thursday, there was a party for the girls. No pictures were taken.

Those in attendance know why.

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They enjoyed the balloons, though.

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Ansley picked out some jewelry for me and Uncle Mark.

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Uncle Mark reading.

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Saturday night was the girl’s first Seder.

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The kids.

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Noah showing Uncle Cody his Nintendo Switch. He beat me at Mario Kart.

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Uncle Mark and the girls.

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Charlotte and Ainsley.

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New York & Toronto – Day 7 – April 9th, 2019

A couple of Toronto shots as we drove to the conference center one last time.

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Sat and ate some Starbucks while Mark attended one more morning session.

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The history of educational research, seen as we walked to the subway.

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Some final pictures as we rode to the airport.

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Once we checked in, we had dinner at the lounge.

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And a drink as well.

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Then, through a complicated series of events, we were bumped up to first class!

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Let me show you how the other half flies.

First, they give you a water. You have to drink it like this.

I don’t make the rules.

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Then you get some headphones.

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And next a towel. I’m not sure what this was really for, but I took it.

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“Do you want something to drink.”

Mark: “Coke Zero.”

“Ice and lemon.”

Mark: “No and no.”

Me: “I want a Coke Zero with ice and lemon.”

*Big smile*

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A bag of chips.

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And finally, some peanuts.

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Cities are beautiful at night.

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And, finally, back at RDU, where it all began.

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Chow.

New York & Toronto – Day 6 – April 8th, 2019

This morning was rainy, so I took my time getting ready and had breakfast at the hotel.

They only serve medium sized iced coffee.

I won’t hold that against them.

Too much.

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By 10:30 the rain had given way to beautiful skies, so I walked to the convention center.

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More pictures of the CN tower.

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I arrived at the convention center with about 30 minutes to spare before Mark’s session ended, so I ducked into a Starbucks. It had a nice walkway behind it.

I couldn’t make the whole thing fit into one picture.

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We had lunch at Kelly’s Landing with one of Mark’s coworkers, who was also at the conference.

This light fixture hangs above the entrance.

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The sat us beside the fireplace, a nice contrast to the windy Toronto streets.

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I discovered that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is located across the street from  the convention center.

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I stopped in the Penguin Shop, a small little shop at the bottom of a hotel.

The very chatty bookseller informed me that it was the only Penguin shop in the world.

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I bought this book, by a Canadian author.

I got the tote bag for free.

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The reverse side of the bookmark.

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I met up with Mark when his session ended, and we walked through the convention center towards the subway.

Pictures from inside the convention center.

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Turtle.

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His Royal Highness.

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The Duke of Edinburgh.

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Fancy moose.

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Trains.

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Riding the subway.

Never my favorite thing.

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We had dinner at Dirty Bird Chicken and Waffles.

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The first picture is mine, the second is Mark’s. We split the fries.

The food was great, but very spicy.

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It’s not soda in Toronto, it’s pop.

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A nice window across the street from the restaurant.

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I don’t know where it’s from, but it’s not Carolina.

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Mark’s response to this poster.

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The Comedy Network has played nothing but The Big Bang Theory since we arrived. If we ever move to Canada and need to bring our parents with us this is how I will convince my father.

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New York & Toronto – Day 5 – April 7th, 2019

Some pictures taken around Toronto and at the Toronto Convention Center.

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My first stop of the day was at !ndigo, which is Canada’s answer to Barnes and Noble.

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I bought these books and a Starbucks coffee.

Louise Penny is a Canadian author.

Pro tip: You can get to the Starbucks from inside Indigo, but it is not a part of the store. If you take your unpaid books to the Starbucks counter and try to pay for everything there, the cashier will give you a surprised look and ask you to return to the store and pay for the books first.

Who knew.

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After narrowly escaping Canadian prison, I met up with Mark and we ate lunch at Poutini’s House of Poutine.

%EohRowgQQejjU592hROWQPoutine, a traditional Canadian cuisine that originated in Quebec, is fries with gravy and cheese curds. The serving on the left has bacon, chives, and sour cream. The serving on the right has smoked meat.

Both were made with gluten-free gravy.

(vegan gravy was also available)

Both were delicious.

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Some pictures taken at Poutini’s.

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More proof that everything is in English and French.

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Afterwards, we walked down the street to Flying Books, a very tiny bookstore.

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Then, after a quick nap at the hotel, we walked around the nearby LGBT neighborhood.

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We stopped in this LGBT bookstore.

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Then had dinner at T-Swirl Crepe.

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From left to right: BLT crepe, shrimp and avocado crepe, and a peanut butter, Nutella, and banana crepe.

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In case you wondered what Canadian money looks like.

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New York & Toronto – Day 4 – April 6th, 2019

Some pictures taken while walking around Toronto.

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Playing the drums.

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This was some kind of rally/protest.

I couldn’t figure out what kind.

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The CN Tower.

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I met this gent for lunch.

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We ate at this restaurant.

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Amazing food.

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After lunch, I stopped at this bookstore.

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And bought this book.

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The reverse side of the bookmark.

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We attended the NC State reception at AREA.

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Some sights from the Uber as we made our way to dinner.

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Dinner.

Very gluten friendly.

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Seen after dinner as we made our way to the subway.

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New York & Toronto – Day 3 – April 5th, 2019

Today was a day of traveling.

And it started with another hotel breakfast.

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The view from LaGuardia airport.

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Moving sidewalk.

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My engine was running low, so I bought some Tart Fish to regulate.

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And I also tried my first Cel-Ray (celery soda) and really enjoyed it.

Apparently, this has the Sambergs stunned.

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Rainy weather.

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No view.

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But you can watch some high quality programing during the flight.

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First view of Toronto.

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Seen at the airport.

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Also seen at the airport.

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At the airport, too.

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More Toronto.

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The view.

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Union Station.

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More Toronto.

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Displayed at most Starbucks I’ve seen.

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After checking into the hotel, we had dinner at Bangkok Garden.

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It’s got a dragon in it.

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It has delicious food, too.

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Keep Calm and Curry On.

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Blurry lights.

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Everything is in English and French. So polite.

Tout est en anglais et en français. Tellement poli.

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