Making my phone smart: Pocket, Coach.me and Goodreads

At 35, I decided that I truly wanted a smart phone. It was time to go beyond Facebook, Pinterest, and Angry Birds. While those apps served as great distractions in my twenties, it was time to level up and make the most out of my idle time. Now, with apps like Pocket, Coach.me, and Goodreads, I’m smartening up, and using my time with technology wisely.

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Pocket.  The Pocket app lets you easily find, save, and share articles, videos and other online content.  The beauty of the app is that it allows you to “pocket” your findings for later, off-line consumption. In the morning, I’ll save a bunch of articles and read them throughout the day. It’s perfect for those days that I forget my book at home.  Also, before long journeys, I’ll browse Pocket for some interesting reads, and then read them off-line on my mode of transportation.  Last year, I saved an article about the history of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, and it kept me awake (and disturbed) during my flight from Calgary to Victoria. I used to proudly assert that I was an INFJ, the Advocate, but now I am not only hesitant to put myself in that box, but to identify with a test that was created by such a woman. Curious? Here’s the article: Uncovering the Secret History of Myers-Briggs.  Of course, there are a wide range of articles to be pocketed in Pocket. The most recent recommendation for me is The 7 Fatal Flaws of Thinking — and How to Fix Them. Pocket is the app that feeds my curious mind.

Coach.me. This app lets you track your habits, set goals, and connect with an online community. Do you want to meditate everyday? Are you trying to create a daily writing habit? Do you want to know how others stay motivated? With Coach.me, you can create or join goals, give props (thumbs up) to support others, and ask questions to help you in your habit shaping. My current goals are Study, Read a book for 30 minutes everyday, Write 500 words a day, Learn to speak a foreign language, no sweets, wake up early, Exercise, Eat breakfast, Drink more water, and Motivational quotes. Some goals are easier to achieve than others, but since I’ve started using Coach.me, I’ve been reading more, and eating breakfast. Baby steps.  Coach.me is the app that keeps me on track, and it comes with messages of encouragement — “Good job, you checked into 3 goals yesterday! I’ll be right here while you eat no sweets, wake up early, and  study (hard).”

Goodreads.  This app lets you rate the books you’ve read, stack your virtual shelves with the books you want to read, and track the progress you’ve made on the books you’re reading. It’s fun to check out the books your friends are reading, and receive suggestions based on your favourite genres or the books you’ve already read. Recently, I’ve also started tapping into reviews, especially when I’m reading a book that has received rave reviews, but I’m not feelin’ it. It’s validating to read a review that reflects your thoughts; it’s comforting to know that even though a book’s a New York Times Bestseller, you’re not alone in your struggle to finish it.  Goodreads is the app that keeps my reading habit alive and lets me indulge in my nerdy side. 

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These are the apps making my phone smart, and in turn, making me smarter, too.  Technology is a double-edged sword; it has the power to boost our creativity and make us more knowledgeable about the world, but it can also do just the opposite.  At the end of the day, it’s up to the user. Do you want to be used by technology or do you want to use technology? With Pocket, Coach.me, and Goodreads, I feel like I am using technology and making smarter choices, but they are still distractions. Sometimes it is better to just sit with my idle time or go fly a kite.

I'd rather fly a kite than play with my phone!

I’d rather fly a kite than play with my phone!

 

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A whole new dating world

“Dating…..don’t wait too long.” This is a memo I store in my phone, because I need to  remind myself that the longer I stand on the sidelines, the harder it will be to get back on the field. Yes, I am ready. My heart beats to its own even rhythm; my eyes stay dry when I think of him; my lips speak his name with ease.  So, what is my next move? At the moment, I’m in the safe-take-no-risks box; there are a couple dating apps on my phone; I’ve gone on a couple pseudo-dates; and I’ve been dissecting this new dating/relationship culture through movies and books.

My favourite kind of coffee minus the bagel

Coffee Meets Bagel? (Maybe my coffee doesn’t need a bagel?)

A couple years ago, I made a meaningful connection the organic way and swore that I would never date the impersonal Internet way again. Fast forward a couple years and I decided to reconsider that decision. After some research, I found a couple alternatives to Plenty of Fish (Plenty of weirdos), OK Cupid (OK stupid), and Tinder (swipe, swipe, let’s hook up).  Bumble, the feminist app, and Coffee Meets Bagel (CMB), the “quality over quantity” app, made it to my phone.

Like Tinder, Bumble and CMB have a swipe system and both parties have to like each other to send a message. With Bumble, women have to initiate the conversation within 24 hours or the match disappears, and with CMB you are served a “bagel” (potential match) every 24 hours based on your profile preferences, friend circle, and app history.  (Those in my friend circle are partnered up, so I’m not inviting them to this experiment.). The Bumble profile is sparse with a max of five pictures and an optional ‘about’ blurb, while CMB encourages users to flesh out their profiles by answering three questions: Who are you? What do you like? What do you appreciate in your date?  Both apps attracted me with their simplicity and easy setup, but after a week with zero bagels and a bumbling about llamas, I’m beginning to think they aren’t working for me. Maybe I should go back to the organic way of dating.

Bumble - Ladies make the first move!

Bumble – Ladies make the first move!

Enter pseudo-dating. What is this pseudo-dating? This is going out with a guy that you’re pretty sure thinks of you as a friend, and you pretty much feel the same way about him, but there is still this underlying chemistry, and desire to smell and look good for each other. A few years ago, I started taking salsa lessons and met such a guy. In between dances, we’d have heated debates, exchange occasional messages, and gush over our recent loves. I was the one gushing, and he was usually agonizing. When I became single, we started hanging our socially. We go out for dinners every few months, followed by long drives discussing our fears about dating, marriage, climbing the career ladder, etc.  In between these dinners, we exchange long-winded texts and books, followed by his unsolicited reviews of the books. As much as I enjoy our interactions, he makes my blood boil with his unknowingly sexist and closed views, and when I arrive home after our ‘dates’, I wonder why I spent so much time getting ready! That is pseudo date #1.

Psuedo-date #2 is a bit of a hybrid. He’s the old lover that you catch up with after finding him online. When I was 22 I met him through a mutual friend, and there was no underlying chemistry — it was explosive, it was the kind of chemistry that could withstand a year separation, or so we thought. After a few sizzling months, I left for Thailand, and a few months of emails, phone calls, pictures and mixed CDs later, our “love” fizzled. It was bad timing, and part of me has always thought of him as the one that got away, the one that I should have settled down with.  Over the years, we disconnected; he got married and had a child, and I fell in love with Thailand and had a short fling with Korea. A few weeks ago, when I was thinking about getting in the game, and doing my due diligence browsing Plenty of weirdos, I came across his profile. I don’t know if it was his dimples or my curiosity, but I emailed him, and a week later we had a ‘catch-up’ dinner.  It was different; we had this familiarity, but no sparks. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed; I had treated it as a date, but he never even took his jacket off.

Master of None - Noel Wells & Aziz Ansari

Master of None – Noel Wells & Aziz Ansari

I’m not sure if these pseudo dates are good for practice, or just good for nothing. Sometimes I feel it’s safer to just consume books and Netflix. My first book of the year was Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, and I followed it up with his Master of None series on Netflix.  Both look at love in this modern world, and the ever changing landscape of dating and relationships.  In Modern Romance, Ansari  points out that we limit ourselves with online dating.  We select pre-requisites, such as age and income brackets, body type and height requirements, that narrow our choices. I know I am guilty of that.  When it comes to organic dating, I usually end up with someone that I would have never found online! Then there are arranged meetings (dating) that leads to arranged marriages. To be honest, I’ve always wished that this was a viable option for me. Meet the Patels directed by Ravi Patel is a great documentary that highlights the ups and downs of the whole arranging process. There truly are so many different ways to approach dating and relationships.

Everything-Before-Us

Everything Before Us – Brittany Ishibashi and Aaron Yoo

 

Sometimes I wonder how this whole dating world is going to evolve, but for right now I am just happy that the Department of Emotional Integrity (DEI) doesn’t meddle in my affairs. What is this DEI?  Well, it’s the fictional government department in the new Wong Fu production, Everything Before Us. This was my Netflix fix last night, and it truly is an imaginative and insightful look at how our relationships and  choices could affect all areas of our lives.  Imagine not being able to get a job because you have one too many failed relationships? Imagine being denied a loan or entrance to an establishment because of your low relationship credit score? Imagine having to register and terminate all your relationships with the government? (This isn’t so difficult to imagine. Hello, marriage, so sorry, divorce.) Imagine staying with someone to boost your score? Although all of this may seem a bit far out, it made me think about an online profile question (How long was your longest relationship?) and our acute interest in the relationship histories of our partners.  I know I am somewhat hung up on the relationship histories of the women in my family. Zero marriages, four marriages and  four divorces, two marriages for two divorces.  Oh dear, my EI score would be so low.

Let’s go back to the beginning. “Dating….don’t wait too long.” Regardless of my score, fruitless dating apps and awkward pseudo-dates, it is time to get out of the safe-take-no-risks-box. I might have to go back to the organic way and take the feminist approach of Bumble, and get the conversation rolling. I’m in no rush though; I’ll get out there sooner or later. In the meantime, I am happy to spend Friday nights studying and watching Netflix.

Organic dating?

Organic dating?

 

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Sometimes

Sometimes I think I am over him, but then I tell a friend how we met, and  my eyes tell another story.  Sometimes I think I need to be over him, when he passes me on the street, focusing on what is ahead, and it’s not me, but my heart won’t let me be.  Sometimes I wonder why I am not over him, when he once told me his heart wasn’t in it, but my patience persisted then and it still does.  Sometimes I feel that I am over him, but then I remember his embrace. An embrace that told me I was his and he was mine, and that maybe it would be like that forever.  Sometimes I know that forever is only in fairy tales. Sometimes a day goes by when I don’t wonder how he is, or if he still reads my blog. Sometimes a day goes by when I don’t whisper his name before I sleep. Sometimes I think of him and am simply thankful for the memories we shared. Sometimes I am free and my heart simply beats. Sometimes…..

flowers

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NBPM #19: My 100th blog post

FanTanSo, this is how it’s going down. It’s NaBloPoMo day 19 and my 100th post, and I’m going to write it in less than an hour. I’m already getting anxious and wondering how I’m going to pull it off. You see, I usually let my fingers hover over the keys for at least 30 minutes before the tapping begins. And that tapping usually involves the delete button being tapped repeatedly. Yes, that’s me, never quite certain how much I want to share, and never planning ahead. I’m sure most NaBloPoMo bloggers have a plan, or some kind of outline. Well, not me. When it comes to this blog, I just jump right in.  Whatever is on my mind is what you’ll find here.  Tonight, I’m quite certain that this will be a random ramble. You’ve been warned!

So, why do I write? Yes, I will write about that.  I like lists. Most of us like lists, so here I will share with you a list, a list of the reasons why I write.

  1. I have a monkey mind, and when I write my thoughts down, I stop swinging from thought to thought. It gives me some mental clarity.
  2. I have a sense of humour, but I rarely let it shine through in my spoken life.  Now that I am getting older, I’m trying to let my light side flow though my life, and writing is helping with this. I’m not the quiet, conservative girl, anymore.
  3. I like to share.  I’ve always liked to share. Whether it’s cookies, flowers, or my words, I’ve got enough to go around. Maybe my words will make someone think, or smile, or laugh, or feel a little less lonely.
  4. I think I’m good at it. Yes, I do.  And to be honest with you, I don’t think I am good at many things. Being able to write helps me boost my self-confidence.
  5. I like being alone. Writing is my solitude. It gives me time to recharge for the next social engagement.
  6. It helps me develop and articulate my ideas. Writing gives me the time I need to process my thoughts.
  7.  It’s my mirror, and I can take it wherever I go. It’s my camera, too, capturing snapshots of my life.

So, there you have it.  My 100th ramble on lotusgirl80!  Thank you for reading. (I hope it was time well-spent.)

 

 

 

 

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NBPM #18: Wordless Wednesday

Oh, Wordless Wednesday, you have arrived!  After a long day at work and an evening of cleaning, I am out of words. However, I’ll share with you (whoever you are) a little story about the photo below. Every morning, I catch the bus in front of a trendy, retro hair salon. The flowers in the window change weekly, and I usually Instagram them. They bring a bit of joy to my mornings, so I like to share them.  This morning, a young artist was painting a tree, and when I arrived home tonight there was a lovely, winter scene. It was too beautiful not to snap and share!

Happy Holidays

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NBPM #17: Arabic Lessons

As-salamu Alaykum  (Peace be upon you), NaBloPoMo day 17, and all my blog readers!  Thank you for taking this 30-day journey with me. Today was a bit monumental for me for several reasons: 1. A year ago today, I started working at my school. Although I’m no longer a teacher there, I’m the one behind the scenes making sure everything runs smoothly. 2. A year ago today, I was fighting off spontaneous tears throughout the day. (It was a wonderful first day at the school!)  I was heartbroken – part of me still is, but I’m moving on. 3. Today, I wrote my first Arabic conversation. I’m taking baby steps.

Learning another language is so humbling; it puts me in my students’ shoes, the ones they wear after they’ve just arrived in Canada.  I can relate to their pauses, their smiles, their blank stares, their nervous laughter, because I have been doing the same thing for the past 6 weeks. When they skip school, or are late for class, I don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that they are lazy students.  Learning another language can be exhausting and discouraging — sometimes, you need to take a break.  For many of my students, they’re also adjusting to a different culture and/or living on their own for the first time.  I get it; I understand their need to sleep in, speak their own language with friends, and just take some time ‘away’ from English. I took some time away from Arabic, as my class was cancelled last week, and the children at the Sunday Arabic school had a fieldtrip. However, I am back at it — making progress, slowly, but surely.

I have to be honest; I’m not the most diligent student. I don’t study much, but I do my homework and seek ways to practice my Arabic outside of class.  At school, I greet my students with MarHabaa, thank them with Shokran, and bid them farewell with Ma’a Salaama. On Saturdays, I volunteer with a woman from Saudi Arabia, and she checks my homework and helps me with pronunciation. Her brother is a speech therapist, so I think she has some special insight. On Sundays, I greet the children at the Arabic school, and during their break time, they help me with my writing. I know I’m making progress; last week, when I was volunteering, one of the senior residents gave me a chocolate wafer.  I think his family must have sent them from Vietnam. There was French, Vietnamese, and Arabic writing on the small wrapper. I could read the word halal (lawful or permissible). And my manager received a gift from Jordan recently – a small bottle filled with a colourful desert scene and his name in Arabic inside. I could read it, and I knew he had the wrong bottle on his desk!

I love these little language victories! My weekend assignment for myself is to organize all my worksheets, and make some flashcards.  My teacher’s homework for me is to write a conversation in Arabic script. With a little help from my friends, I will manage to get it done, inshallah.

Tonight, I will leave you with a picture of my conversation in class. It is a dialogue between two strangers, Zayeena and Sameer, one is from Libya and the other is from Syria. Zayeena has a sister named Samyra, and Sameer has a father named Jameel, and a mother named Jameela.

Arabic

 

 

 

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NBPM #16: Mourning Monday

I wish it were Wordless Wednesday. I’ve run out of words tonight. I feel exhausted, emotionally and physically, and cannot explain why. Is it this rain that never seems to stop? Is it this news of terror and discrimination that never seems to cease? Is it hearing the words, “I don’t mean to be racist but….” from a colleague? Is it this sadness that overcomes me when I see all the ignorance, subtle and not-so subtle, in my world? Is it this awakening to my Lebanese roots, a yearning to know more? These questions are too much for me tonight. My heart aches for the lives taken and their families left behind;for the refugees trying to find their way and a safe place to stay; and for those who have lost their way and their respect for their fellow beings. As this viral Instagram post starts, “It is not Paris we should pray for. It is the world.”

Today, it is my Mourning Monday, and I will leave you with some hopeful sunsets.

Symphony Splash Sunset 2<a

Symphony Splash Sunset 1

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NBPM #15: Creating routines

I’ve reached the half-way point, NaBloPoMo day 15. Honestly, I wasn’t sure that I would make it this far, but here I am. Last night, I almost didn’t make it. I posted at 11:55pm, and then returned after midnight to edit my post. I’m taking this blogging thing quite seriously, you see. It feels good to get into the routine of writing everyday.  It feels good to get into another routine. I like routines – they ground me.

I’ve continued my routines in three different countries.  Although my routines have varied, they have most definitely been established.  Even when I travel, I like to create somewhat of a routine, and do things that I might do, if I lived there, like eating croissants, sipping on cappuccinos, and staying ‘home‘. I like the consistency of routine; I like having an element of predictability in my life. I like knowing that I have a plan, and that there are certain things that I do on certain days. Life is filled with uncertainties, and having elements that I can count on, brings me a sense of peace. And with routine, I am the engineer. I’m not leaving it up to chance. I’m the one creating my own habits and rituals; I’m creating my balance. However, at times, routine has crept into my life, and it wasn’t all my own engineering.

As a student in Salaya, routine crept into my life.  First, I started wearing a school uniform, then I offered a ‘wai’ twice a day after the national anthem, and  stood at attention in the movie theatre to show respect for His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. I also started creating my own routines –   Monday to Friday aerobics to ’80s music, Friday lunch in the  market, Saturday morning in the campus pool, and Sunday temple outings and dinner with Thai friends. When I returned to Thailand to work, I created more routines.  Although I no longer wore my school uniform, I wore the appropriate colour for everyday of the week. (Mondays are yellow, Tuesdays are pink, Wednesdays are green, Thursdays are orange, Fridays are blue, Saturdays are purple, and Sundays are red.) During mourning periods, I blended in with the Thais and wore black, grey, and navy for three months. And I still did aerobics to ’80s music, but this time it was in Bangkok, and my Sundays were reserved for laundry and somtam. Near the end of my five years in Thailand, I was an office worker at the university where I was once a student, and I resumed my routine of Friday market lunches. When I tell people I lived in Thailand for six years, they assume I must miss the food and the people.  I do, but more than that, I miss the routine, which made it my home.

As a teacher in Uijeongbu, routine was something I created in my life over time.  I also chose to opt out of some ‘routines’. With odd working hours, 2:30pm to 9:30pm, I let myself fall into some laziness in the beginning, but I soon realized that I could do a lot in the morning hours. I reconnected with my love of running, and went for morning runs along the Jungnangcheon River, and took Korean lessons at my Canadian friend’s hagwon. After work, I would join friends at Kimbap Heaven for a late dinner, and then head home to bed. As time went on, I started volunteering one morning a week with North Korean refugees, and going on Seoul excursions, and out-of-town hiking trips on the weekends. I never fell into the after-work drinking and socializing with co-workers routine, because it didn’t mesh with the rest of my routine.

Back in Victoria, my routine is still evolving, but it’s not so different from my routines in my other countries. I am studying Arabic every Tuesday night, I go to the market and volunteer every Saturday, I do laundry every Sunday, and I’m trying to develop a daily exercise routine. Actually, routine seems more difficult to sustain in my home country.  I’m not sure why. For a long time, I think it was because I felt unsettled here, and didn’t have a stable job.  Now, I think it is because I’m still adjusting to a fulltime job, which isn’t always predictable, and a side job, that has it’s own set of demands.  Like I said, routine is grounding for me, and I know I need it to weather the changes, and become more settled in my life.  For me, writing is my new routine, and I hope to continue writing, even after NaBloPoMo ends.

Sunset

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NBPM #14: Sage advice

“Aren’t you too young to be living on your own?” All I could do was chuckle and reply with a question of my own for the white-haired sister, “How old do you think I am?” She looked me up and down, and came to the conclusion that I was a teenager.  When I told her my real age, she smiled and said, “Oh my, you’re well-preserved!” In that moment, she had made my day. Then she continued to ask me the same questions, she’d asked the week before, and when the movie credits started rolling, she asked where she lived. I told her she was home, and she looked around at all the fancy wheels, some fancier then others, and nodded, smiling, “My brother is here, too.” I thought silently, “Oh yes, I know, and he always tells the volunteers they have erotic/exotic names.”

It’s funny, but the more time I spend with older people, the less worried I am about reaching their milestones.  I’ve volunteered with seniors since I was a teenager (a real one), and over the many years, I’ve learned so much.  And I am realizing more and more, that I don’t have to wait until I have white-hair and fancy wheels to incorporate their wisdom into my life. So, I’d like to share some sage advice that I’ve learned from the centennials (or near centennials) thus far.

  •  Be yourself, and don’t apologize for who you are. It takes too much valuable energy being someone else.
  • Ask for what you need. We all need help sometimes; don’t be afraid to ask for it.
  • Say No. If you’d rather stay home on a Saturday night than go to that party, that movie, that dinner date, then just say, “No.” And don’t feel guilty about it.
  • Take the time to listen. We all want to be heard. Listen to someone, even if you’ve heard their story before. Smile and nod (like you mean it), it shows that you’re there.
  • Ask questions, even if you think they’re silly. Questions help you understand the world, and show others that you want to know more.
  • Don’t stop reading. Read large font books or use a magnifier, if you’re eyes are failing you. You also have the option of listening to audiobooks. Keep your mind active and learn new things.
  • Say nice things. Notice the small things. Take note of your friend’s new haircut, or headscarf. Compliment your friends and family, and even strangers. Sometimes, nice words can make someone’s day.
  • Laugh at yourself. Don’t take life too seriously. If you’re locked out of your house, don’t fret, just crawl through the window. If you spill coffee on your favourite shirt, wipe it off, and laugh about your clumsiness. When you are nearing the 100 mark, you’ll have a lot more than spilt coffee on your shirt.
  • Establish a routine. A routine provides stability and comfort. It can promote calmness and greater awareness. It can also help us build our relationships. How so? Read more.

There you have it. That’s my sage advice, in a total random order (that’s my way and I’m not apologizing for it).  I’d like to write more on routine, but I’ll save that for another post.

Good night, NaBloPoMo day 14!

Paris

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NBPM #13: Friday for Paris

post cardsLast summer, I went to Paris for five days with a dear friend of mine. We stayed with a British/Spanish family in Malakoff, a suburban commune in the southwest of Paris. The couple had fallen in love in Paris many years ago, and had decided to make it their home. They welcomed us into their home, like we were their teenage children, and almost every morning and night, we would eat together.

In the morning, I’d have tea and toast with the Spanish academic, and we would talk about everything from politics to gender identity. During the day, my friend and I would be off doing what tourists do in Paris, visiting the Eiffel Tower, Musee D’Orsay, Arc de Triomph, the Seine River, Notre Dame de Paris, etc.  Then in the evening, we would return for a family dinner with their real teenage children.  Most nights, dinner was out on the patio, but one night, we lounged around eating fresh bread, foreign cheeses, and  fancy salads, watching Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette starring Kirsten Dunst.  The next morning, we took the train to Versailles. Versailles was exquisite, but to be honest, my best morning was in Malakoff at the market. The market was a fusing of cultures, breads, olives, cheeses, fish, vegetables, fruits, and household goods. It reminded me of an Asian market, filled with the energy of the local vendors, and the haggling clientele.

I had a good five days in Paris, and as much as I enjoyed the museums and monuments, it was the food (bread and cheese) and the family in Malakoff, that left a lasting impression.

A house in Malakoff

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