All The Small Things

Steve with his remote

My husband and I have been together 28 years, married for 26 of them. When you know someone as well as we know each other, keeping things fresh and fun can take some work. One way I like to keep my husband on his toes happens periodically when we are watching television. We use an Apple Siri tv remote. We have a family account with Apple, and it is linked to my Apple ID. So, when Steve starts searching for a show to watch using our remote, the Apple remote app on my phone opens up. It’s easier to enter your search via the text function on my iPhone, so sometimes I do that. And sometimes, just for fun, I mess with Steve while he is laboring to enter his search using the remote to execute the awkward right-left scroll through the alphabet.

Messing with his mind

For as many times as I have done this to him, it can still take him a surprisingly long time to realize why his remote is not doing what he is trying to make it do. There he is, busily scrolling, laboring to enter a search for a video on YouTube, and I hijack the whole operation with my fast-texting thumbs. Sometimes I simply erase what he has entered. Sometimes I enter complete gobbledygook. Sometimes I type messages like, Hi Steve, so he figures out what is going on. I should tell you he finds this whole game not nearly as amusing as I do. I smirk quietly to myself as I am doing it, waiting for him to catch on. When he finally does, I laugh out loud. I am a hoot.

It’s a harmless, small thing I play at. I know it’s not very nice, but it cracks me up. The world is a mess right now. This little thing brings me joy, and I know he wouldn’t want to deprive me of joy. And if I die first, I know someday he will be using a remote to search for something and he will remember my game and miss me. He probably won’t miss having to enter his search fourteen times, but I bet he will smile at the thought of it, anyway.

Electronic Detox

Photo by Rasheed Kemy on Unsplash

I have been thinking that I am due for an electronic detox. I spend too much time on my phone. Too much time spent checking out mentally or feeling the need to be in touch with others or using my phone to check the weather for next week when someone else already knows what the weather is. I keep feeling I don’t have enough hours in the day, but the truth is that I have plenty of hours and am just using them poorly. I would like to read more, meditate more, ride the Peloton more, and write more. I would like to stop being pulled away from my conscious life every minute of the day by breaking news that is not worth my time. I would like not to look like everyone else…head down, staring blankly at a screen, tuned out to the real world. I would like some peace and quiet in my head. And, let’s face it, my phone is not giving it to me.

I’m not sure I could go cold turkey and ditch my iPhone altogether for a period of a week or two weeks, so I think I will maybe try to go electronics free for three hours a day to start. I’m sure it will be difficult. So I am thinking that while we are in Hawaii I will turn my phone off and give it to a family member to hide. That way if I am tempted to sneak a peek at a screen, I won’t be able to. I just keep thinking that if I want peace in my life, if I want focus in my life, I need to train myself to have it. I’m so distractible lately, and I know it is because of electronics.

Has anyone tried this? Did it help? How hard was the detox?

Meow Wolf: You Are Here

Meow Wolf. Have you been? Have you heard of it? Do you have any idea what I am talking about? Meow Wolf is a lot of things. It’s a permanent art installation. It’s an immersive experience. It’s a mind-bending imagination and creativity trip. And it’s not to be missed, if you can help it. The first Meow Wolf, the House of Eternal Return, was opened in Santa Fe in February of 2008. Thirteen years later, Meow Wolf Las Vegas, called Omega Mart, opened in February 2021. The Denver Meow Wolf experience, called Convergence Station, opened September of this year. And it had been on our list of things to do since we learned about its planned opening. Today, we made it!

I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I think the best way to give you an idea of what the over 200 artisans of varied mediums do to create a Meow Wolf experience is share some photos. Convergence Station is otherworldly. Combining some items from our current reality within a futuristic, alien world, it’s a walk through both the familiar and the fantastical.

This is not your typical art museum. Here you can touch the art and take flash photos and no docent will reprimand you. There is no set path to follow, no recommended journey to take. It’s all about letting the creativity pull you through. We spent two hours entranced, wandering from room to room, through random doorways both obvious and not so obvious. We marveled at the variety of materials were used in fabricating this world, from felt to plastic, metal to paper. Everything you see is art. It’s unbelievably overwhelming. I’m positive we could return and notice myriad details we missed the first time. I’m ready to visit the installations in Santa Fe and Las Vegas and discover their wondrous worlds as well.

Two things make Meow Wolf a fully worthwhile endeavor. First, Meow Wolf makes art accessible to people of all ages. You don’t have to know a thing about the Impressionists or Picasso to appreciate the creations inside the building. Second of all, Meow Wolf’s mission is to elevate art in such a way that artists are no longer “starving.” It’s hard to make a living as an independent artist. This collective, though, allows artists the opportunity to use their skills, to show their work, and to be compensated fairly for their time and talents. This makes these alternate-world art exhibits a win-win.

The sign as you enter commands you to remember and utilize your own creativity. After leaving Meow Wolf today, I can tell you that it did inspire me. As I was walking through, blown away by the art, I was also excited to realize we weren’t on our phones other than to snap an occasional photo. We were in the moment…for two whole hours! Everywhere I looked families and friends walked together, discussing the art around them, pointing things out to one another. It was heartwarming to see faces (behind masks, but still) looking directly at you as you passed instead of into phones. It made me think about how fractured my mental life has become since becoming addicted to my phone. It made me think it’s time to start a detox from devices that draw my attention away from the present. It made me think about checking in with myself and my environment daily instead of checking out on social media. It also reminded me that I’ve always wanted to try knitting and welding.

The sign on the building says, “Meow Wolf…You are here.” You are here. It’s kind of nice for a change.

If you haven’t been to a Meow Wolf yet, make plans. It will be worth it. If you have been, I’d love to know your thoughts!

Rediscovering Our Offscreen Personas

My offscreen persona likes hanging out in hammocks, sipping cold piña coladas, and playing cards with my three boys.

We’ve been home from our trip for 18 hours. As I worked my way through eight loads of dirty laundry today, I was reflecting on what made last week so special. Certainly a large part of the joy found in the Galapagos Islands was attributable to creatures we had never before seen, landscapes that were harsh and yet strikingly beautiful, and new endeavors we were just trying on for size. But, what is more important is not what we found but instead what we were lacking. Last week, we were devoid of television, video games, Netflix, and Apple TV. We didn’t have shows waiting for us on our DVR. The boys weren’t glued to YouTube videos on their computer or busy mentally purchasing new action figures on Amazon.com. Without his Legos, Luke sat with other kids in the Kids’ Corner of the ship’s lounge for hours playing Monopoly and working out his chess skills. Joe got lost in the ship’s library looking at nature books. As a family, we played cards, listened to lectures, and spent time outdoors. Without my iPhone, I wasn’t absorbed in Words With Friends or Mind Feud or texting. Life without screens was as miraculous of a new world as the Galapagos Islands were.

So, I’ve been thinking about some changes I can make in our household lives that might bring us some of the peace and simplicity we enjoyed last week. I’m considering some type of family enrichment program. Nothing too extraordinary, mind you. I don’t want to send my children into culture shock. But, there must be a way to bring things down a notch while still staying connected. Perhaps I put a moratorium on iPhone usage between 5-9 p.m. when we’re all together. Maybe I limit the boys with regard to screen time. A couple hours a week of games and cards rather than television could be beneficial. And, we could make a nightly family walk a ritual rather than a rarity.

A week ago, my sons were present in my life. They were plugged into life and not screens. They woke up early and went to bed early. They weren’t talking to us about things they wanted but instead told us about things they learned. As much as I already miss the islands, I miss the people we were while on the islands more. I’m giving them a down day today. I’m letting them catch up on Ninjago and their Superhero Squad videos. We all needed a break after two consecutive travel days, colds we’re trying to beat, and the chaos that ensues when you return home after 10 days away. But, I’m going to do some research. Maybe we can’t make any big trips like the one we just took again anytime soon. But, I can go to the library, find some videos on far away locations, and take us out of our insular lives occasionally. I mean, I’m never giving up my iPhone. But, I can put it down once in a while and remember what life is like offscreen. Maybe I’ll take the boys outside to stargaze or get a book on local plants and see how many we can scout out during a hike. I’d love to have the boys pick out a recipe we could make together. We’ll still have family movie nights, but maybe I’ll let them teach me chess or challenge them to write a comic book they can share with me. I need to get back to reading to them because we loved that and it got lost. To find ourselves again, I think it’s best that we turn off our screens more often because the reflections we get from them aren’t as true as the reflections we get from each other.