The comfort of home.

I started writing this over a month ago. We’ve now been living in our new place for about six weeks.

These days, I tend to sleep through most of the night. Most mornings, I’ve been waking up for the first time at 5:30 or 6:30 a.m.

I grew up having terrible insomnia. While I’ve developed better sleep patterns throughout the years, sleeping through the night is new to me.

Do I feel more rested? Hard to say. Sometimes I feel more stiff. I sometimes wake up feeling heavy. With the transition to moving to a new place, my nervous system is still in adjustment mode. Yes, the place is better. It’s quieter. And it’s different.

morning light

Morning light coming in through the shutters, 6:40 a.m.

I joked to my husband as we headed to get groceries early on a Sunday morning, “We moved and we completely changed our lives.” I was being light-hearted, but we’ve been doing things differently; our routines are changing. Our bedroom porch door faces east, so even with the shutters down, the summer morning light often wakes us up.

So we’ve been getting up earlier. We even got up this past Saturday to go for a morning hike before it got too hot.

Our apartment where we moved from was on a major street. The sound of traffic was so persistent that the noise mostly became part of everyday life. It was also the source of stress. And that’s not counting the other stressors we experienced there, including burglary, car theft (it was recovered the same day), a SWAT standoff on the other side of our building that prevented us from leaving by car for several hours, and more.

When I put it like that, it makes the place sound awful. But mostly, on a day-to-day basis, it wasn’t bad. And perhaps I am minimizing it. I was really done with living there. Since we didn’t want to break the lease, we made do. There were things I enjoyed: I enjoyed taking walks to the nearby park or chatting with our neighbors. My husband appreciated the convenience of the 5-7 minute drive to work.

And…we only moved a mile west. We still live close to his work. That park is still in walking distance, albeit a little farther away. Instead of living on a busy 6-lane street, we are tucked away in a condo complex in a neighborhood, about two or three blocks in either direction from busy streets. While I can look to the northeast and see the Dunkin’ Donuts sign that borders on a major road, I can also look across the street and just see apartments and trees. It is much, much better to live here now.

This monsoon season has brought a few intense wind and thunderstorms. We can stand and watch them from our porch.

Our office had enough space for our new futon couch, so it can double as a guest room. In the living room, I have enough dance space that I can turn completely in both directions without running into anything. In our old apartment, I could only turn in one direction freely.

Some days, I literally hug the walls. Walls that we chose the colors for, and, with the generous help of my mother-in-law, painted.

There are some inconveniences to new home ownership. Getting appliances with the condo, but discovering that not all of them work, and having to replace or repair them. The incessant ads in the mail for this and that coverage or service that we may or may not need. And so on.

And then there is also the quiet. The quiet I longed for, the quiet that because my first priority when we started seriously looking for places. There is the increased amount of space, the freedom to move from room to room. And there is the greater sense and comfort of home.

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Link roundup 8/3

From The Boston Globe: Motherhood brings the most dramatic brain changes of a woman’s life.

Hamilton co-creators receive special honors from the Kennedy Center.

Instead of (or in addition to) having a baby shower, why a postpartum party might be more helpful for new mothers.

Clean green public spaces may make us happier.

An ad from Nature Valley: Three generations were asked what they did for fun as children. From blueberry picking to technology, the contrast is striking.

This weekend is a tax-free weekend in some states. Click here to see if your state is included and what items might be tax-free.

On Twitter, questions on an practice exam for medical students, and a bias towards not believing women about their own symptoms.

On a recent hot summer’s day, someone found a deer in their pool .

Friday link roundup 7/6

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Army is quietly discharging immigrant recruits.

Several suspected rhino poachers were killed and eaten by lions on a South African game reserve.

Bleak stories of family separation.

Halsey’s powerful spoken word poem about sexual abuse from the Women’s March in New York City earlier this year. Both the video and the written out poem are there if you prefer to read rather than watch (or vice versa).

Seattle just passed a ban on disposable plastic straws, and other cities are considering similar restrictions. From Upworthy: On accessibility, disability, and  the downside to banning straws.

New York and Virginia just passed laws that mandate including mental health education as part of health class curriculum in schools.

Summer reads: 10 books Amazon editors recommend this July.

The week without a smartphone, part 2.

Read part 1 here.

My phone was still utterly and completely dead after we took it out of the rice and charged it on that Sunday. No amount of coaxing would bring it back to life.

We decided to order me a refurbished phone. But in the meantime, I was still phoneless.

While I had access to internet at our new place, where we moved into that Saturday, I did not have access to a phone in the following situations:

•  Waiting for the cleaning people to arrive at our apartment for a move-out cleaning. If there were any scheduling issues or changes, I wouldn’t know about them unless my husband drove back to tell me about them. In the end, it all went smoothly.

•  Using maps for directions as I drove to a new medical specialist’s office. I looked up directions beforehand and wrote a note to myself about which street to turn onto. Luckily, it turned out to be fairly easy to find.

•  Receiving e-mail notifications from my clients about possible new transcripts to proofread while I was away from home. I have notifications set on my phone so I can respond to them soon after I receive their message, no matter where I am at the time. Sometimes not responding immediately (especially if it’s a new client) can mean losing out on a job. While this could have been an issue at another time, it wasn’t this particular week.

•  Driving anywhere in my car. Now, I didn’t actually need my phone for this purpose, but I realized that I feel more secure having my phone with me in case my car suddenly broke down, etc.

•  Double-checking digital coupons in the grocery store. I often use the store’s app to reference these when we shop. Instead, I had to go off our list and what I remembered.

Despite some minor inconveniences, I also felt relieved and more free without my phone. When we went out to eat, I didn’t have a phone to distract me while we waited for our order. During meals in and outside our home, my husband and I make more eye contact and connected more with each other. When I didn’t have a phone that I could get out, he used his less.

For the past while, I’ve been receiving what I assume are spam phone calls. They rarely leave messages. When they do, it’s usually pitching a business loan or something along those lines. I didn’t miss the buzzing of my phone, only to discover it wasn’t a phone call I wanted to take anyway.

Without a smartphone, I didn’t have much inclination to check my e-mail or look at my Facebook feed or browse Yelp. When waiting for my husband to return the moving truck on Saturday, I sat in my car and just listened to a CD. With more of my attention focused on the music, the lyrics seemed crisper and clearer than ever before.

That is one thing to say about smartphones: they’re not terribly helpful for mindfulness. Aside from mindfulness or meditation apps, many of the functions often pull me out of the present moment.

My new phone arrived on Thursday, and we got service on it on Friday. It’s nice to know that I can now reach people and people can reach me if needed.

There was also a certain freedom to having space where I was away from internet and a phone, unreachable. I felt more present with myself than I usually am.

So now that we’re settling in our new place and I have a new phone, I am trying a new thing: to charge and keep my phone in a different room at night.

I also want to be more conscious of how I use my phone in general. It’s just not necessary to be connected all the time.

Not having a smartphone for a week was a good reminder for me to look up, to look around, to keep my phone out of view (or even out of reach) when I want to be present and connect more with myself and the people around me. Yes, it’s convenient to have a smartphone. But there’s so much more to life than having access to phone calls, messages, and the internet at all times.

The week without a smartphone, part 1.

I wrote this last Friday, June 22, 2018.

I’m at the apartment. We officially move tomorrow, so I am taking care of the odds and ends.

We turned in our modem for our apartment and exchanged it for one for the condo, our new home. My computer has no wireless connection here.

My phone is out of service, at least for the time being, because my water bottle leaked in my purse this morning. It is currently sitting in a bag of rice for the next two days or so.

I am disconnected from the internet entirely. I am out of contact, out of reach.

On one hand, it’s nice. There’s a certain quiet I feel when I don’t have internet access. It’s like I’ve shut off all outside voices, ones that are often incessantly on even when I’m physically alone – unless I choose to unplug.

This feeling of quiet definitely helps me regulate after being overstimulated by the morning’s events of taking stuff over to the condo, discovering my phone wouldn’t work, and the stress of moving in general. It’s a lot to take in. I really don’t need to add any more outside stimulation.

I don’t currently have any transcripts to proofread. I have an out-of-office reply on my business e-mail for the next two days.

Other than missing the ability to communicate with my spouse, I really don’t need to be connected. I can pack, clean, do laundry, read, do Nia – all without an internet connection.

Yes, there were days before smartphones, and the time before that I would text. But really, the last time I didn’t have access to instant phone communication of some sort (aside from a few camping trip) was before I graduated from college, before I got my first cell phone in 2005. Compared with many of my college classmates, I was a late cell phone adopter. I remember my ex complaining that she couldn’t reach me easily, that it was annoying and inconvenient to have to leave a message on my landline voicemail and wait until I returned to my dorm room to get the message. I remember the freedom of traveling abroad and being connected only when I went to an internet café or library.

On the other hand, I found myself almost immediately wanting to reach for my phone, to check something, to check anything. Messages? Social media? E-mail? Yelp? Sometimes it actually doesn’t seem to matter what as long as it’s there. Maybe that’s the addictive nature of social media and technology: once you have access, it’s hard to consciously choose to stop. Yes, there are definitely things that I need to check on and keep up with. But how many e-mails do I actually get that are relevant each day? A few. How many times do I need to check social media? Maybe once or twice, maybe more if I’m looking for an answer to a question in one of my proofreading groups. How many times do I need to check the news to stay informed? Maybe twice a day or so, although there’s part of me that balks at that. I don’t need to be informed all the time, but I like to know what’s going on.

I do feel cut off. And it’s nice and freeing and it’s a bit disorienting.

The daily news cycle lately has been even more distressing. While I think it’s important for me to know what’s going on locally, nationally, globally, I don’t think keeping up on every detail constantly is necessarily healthy. I end up feeling distressed, frustrated, somewhat hopeless. More information on how to donate or help in some way adds some purpose and relief. But it’s important to be mindful of how much information to take in, what to do with it, and when to take a break.

I am relieved that I can shut it off for a little bit. Yes, I could go to the condo or Starbucks if I needed to get access to the internet. But I have things to do here.  And I definitely need the time to just be here and do what I need to do. There are certainly fewer distractions this way.

And this is a good reminder that I can consciously choose to step away, to disconnect, and unplug. The internet, with all its benefits and disadvantages, will be there when I need it. For now, I’m enjoying the quiet.

Friday link roundup 6/29

This week, 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won the Democratic primary for New York City’s 14th congressional district. This article describes the powerful design choices of her campaign. Here is her campaign video — I definitely found it inspiring.

5 ways to help someone in a mental health emergency without calling the police.

Every body is a beach body. Tips on how to rock your body no matter what its size and shape this summer.

How to talk about immigration and family separation effectively.

An interview with author Elizabeth Gilbert on choosing curiosity instead of fear.

How silence is vital to our brains.

An exhibit at the U.S. Department of Education headquarters in Washington, D.C., features artwork by young people about racism, sexism, and diversity. This interview/article from NPR features several of the artists.

Friday link roundup 6/15

How to help immigrant children separated from parents at U.S. border: a list of links and places to donate.

A new study points to sensory processing challenges being genetic.

A great article from The Atlantic about how standards for masculinity may limit how boys develop socially and emotionally.

A few ideas on how to make moving less stressful. (We’re currently in the midst of moving about a mile from where we live now. Still, so many details).