Software: iOS “Do Not Disturb” Mode

So, half of the holiday season has come and gone (I hope it all went well for everyone!) and, with the constant barrage of digital ways to stay in touch with everyone, it reminded me of an iOS feature that’s become my favorite in iOS6.

It’s called “Do Not Disturb” and it is wonderful. 🙂

Full disclosure: I absolutely adore the people in my life. I really do.

But, there are some times when we all need a break from those little popups that beep and blip, begging for our attention.

And sometimes it’s not even people! I also have a few weather apps that send along severe weather notifications that, while interesting, aren’t exactly worth being woken up at 3AM for.

So with all of these helpful notifications, how do we block them out when we don’t want them interupting our lives? Well, luckily with the advent of iOS6, we have the ability baked right into our devices.

Cool! So where do I find it?

DND Settings screenshot

Head into “Settings” and, fourth from the top, you will see “Do Not Disturb”. To turn it on, just toggle the switch from “Off” to “On”. A little crescent moon icon will show up to the left of the clock up at the top of your iOS device screen, signifying that it’s activated!

So, how does this work exactly?

When “Do Not Disturb” is switched on, absolutly no notifications will come through. This includes emails, texts, Twitter updates, Game Center updates, anything in notification center, even phone calls.

This sounds great and all, but what if someone needs to get in touch in an emergency and I forgot to turn it off?

DND Settings screenshot

Really great question! If you go into “Settings” and then “Notifications”, you’ll find another “Do Not Disturb” section (which is really un-Apple-like, but I digress). In here, dwells the secret sauce that makes “Do Not Disturb” (I am just going to refer to it as “DND” for the rest of this post) so great. In this settings menu, you can schedule when you want DND automatically turned on and off! For me, this is great because I hate getting disturbed by my phone while I sleep, so I set it for 10PM and 5AM every day. Once scheduled, the DND mode is enabled everyday during that span of time until you opt to turn it off.

DND Settings screenshot

The emergency phone call dilemma is handled with the “Allow Calls From” option. I personally set it for “Favorites” so the folks I have listed as favorites in my “Phone” app come straight through whenever they call. You can also set this to “Everyone”, “No One” (if you really mean business), or you can even set it for a specific group you have setup in your Contacts app. Again, this only pertains to phone calls, all other notifcations from apps still will not come in when DND is scheduled/enabled.

DND Settings screenshot

The last setting is for “Repeated Calls”. When this is turned on, a person will have the ability get through your DND setup if they call twice in the span of 3 minutes. Personally, I LOVE this setting, as I often tell people if there is ever a true emergency, please call us twice repeatedly if we don’t answer the first time. It’s a small thing, but the fact that Apple threw this option in, is just genius in my humble opinion! This way, if for whatever reason, someone important to you is calling from a phone that isn’t theirs, they’ll get through.

Oh yeah! One thing to remember…

When scheduled/enabled, DND mode blocks ALL ALERTS, including third party alarm clock apps! So if you are using one (unsurprisingly, Apple’s “Clock” app doesn’t get blocked) make sure you schedule DND mode to turn off before your alarm goes off. Otherwise you may be late for work and we can’t have that can we? 😉

So that’s it! Go enjoy some quiet time!

We all love being connected (maybe we love it too much), but sometimes the act of unplugging can be a nuisance. With the new DND option, it’s a lot easier. So, turn on DND and take that mid-day nap you’ve been promising yourself! You totally deserve it!

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And then there was none…

A little over a week ago we had to let our dear girl Cadence go.  Over the past year, a somewhat nasty skin condition started manifesting on her skin in the form of these crusty, scabby bumps.  We’d fight them off with a barrage of antibiotics and it appeared that some of them worked. But then in a week or two it would all come back. Eventually the condition just stayed and progressively got worse. We took her to NC State Vet School of Dermatology and they ran tests on her bumps and their contents and were shocked (as were we) that they all were tiny cancer tumors. Not a rash, not a skin infection, but cancer.  We then got her rushed to oncology and found that she had not one, but three forms of terminal cancer. They gave her 3 months tops and she gave us 2 before it was getting to be too much for her (and us). So we let her go.

She was our last pet and, like her siblings (Midnight and Mathias), she was unbelievably dear to us. To see her go the way that she did was heart breaking.  But it was quick for the most part and, in the end, she left this world the same way she came in. Loved and in love with everything that stopped to give her the time of day.

It’s interesting to me how hard it is to write about her. I think it’s because she was just so… so strong in her ways. It’s hard and somewhat fruitless to try and capture her in words. I’ll try though.

Cancer ended up taking Cadence, but in truth she’d already spit in the face of death when she was a puppy (she was diagnosed with Addison’s disease at 8 months) and I think that changed how she saw everything. Like Mathias, she was very intuitive, but where she was different from her brother was that she was also intensely nurturing. This lead her to be constantly dialed into us.  If we cried, she was there.  If we injured ourselves she’d  hover. If were laughing or dancing in the house, she was barking along with us. If we were just relaxing, she’d be snoring 3 feet away. I think she lived for us. We were her comfort, we were her safety, we were her home.

And boy did she love her home.

But she didn’t stop there. She was also mischievous. She’d often grab things and run around with them in her mouth hoping we’d chase after her. She had a nasty knack for finding important things too, like our tax forms or a utility bill and either devour them (when she was puppy) or gnaw on one corner making the document soggy and perforated.  She also LOVED going into our clothes closet because the door swung shut by itself. Once effectively trapped inside, she would then bark until we came and found her. There were other things she liked to do, like wait for us both to settle down on the couch to watch a movie before scratching at the back door to go outside, but I think you get the point. She liked misbehaving. That’s how she played with us.

As I said before, I think the fact that she came so close to death as a puppy, played a huge role in how she lead her life. She did everything with wild abandon!  So when the cancer started making her wear down and whither away, it was her spirit that outlasted the muscle and bone that contained it.

To say she will be missed would be a gross understatement. I think we both still see her in our day to day, expecting her in places she isn’t anymore, enhancing moments that we never realized she played a part in. The house is now unbelievably quiet and somehow colder.  I think all of our pets were woven into our concept of what made our current house a “home”.  It’s more clear than ever that we need to find a new one. One that Mel and I can create ourselves, by ourselves.

Cadence, for all that you taught us and for the memories that you left, we thank you so much. Thanks for your time, thanks for your love, thanks for needing us at least as much as we needed you… thank you girl. I dearly hope that we’ll get to somehow see you again someday.

Thoughts on November…

Self-doubt is quite a forté of mine. I can criticize myself out of just about anything and while there’s value in being humble, there’s also a line to where that logic becomes a grand squandering of… I was going to say gifts, but I what really mean is the act of doing what makes you happy.

I’ve always thought of myself as a writer. I think in scenes and I frame the world around me in stories. I’m happiest when I am imagining things: it’s simply how I’m wired. So you’d think the act of doing what truly makes me happy would be paramount to anything else in my day to day life. In a way it is, and yet, for something so important, I’ve grossly neglected it.

So along came NaNoWriMo, an event I’ve been meaning to entertain (notice I didn’t say “do” or “participate in”) for years. Melinda had keyed me into it originally (a fact that would never surprise anyone that knows her) and every year after that she would ask me gently “are you going to do it this year?” and then follow up with an even gentler “I think you should”.

I won’t bore you with the usual excuses I came up with for not doing it, but I will tell you about the reason why I finally did. It’s quick, I promise. 🙂

I needed to prove something to myself.

That’s the long and the short of it. It’s so easy to define yourself in a sentence or, in my case, a word. But the sum of all of your parts doesn’t even come close to that definition does it? We are all SO many things, and thank god right? Being just one thing, or one concept, would be a pretty narrow scope to be captured in.

So this year I wanted to prove to myself that not only could I write, but that I was in fact a writer. I’ve been writing all my life, off and on and at my own pace. But NaNo takes that pace, your comfort zone and your habits and throws them completely out the window. So if you want to complete the challenge and you value sleep, you need write pretty much everyday… for the entire month of November.

So on November 1st I came to the keyboard with an idea that I liked and I simply began writing. I didn’t even have an ending (I always have an ending) and, like anything new, I had some stumbling to do. But eventually the words came and they didn’t (and later wouldn’t) stop. After I turned off my inner editor (and critic) I fell into a daily groove and for the first time ever I really felt like I was doing what I was made to do.

I say that not because I’m necessarily any good at it. Like anything, it’s a process and I have a long way to go. No, I say it because it felt right. The entire time, throughout to process it felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. Was it hard? Absolutely! I already spend 8 hours a day on front of screen to help pay my mortgage and eat. To go home and spend 3 to 5 hours more seems obscene. But here’s the thing; it didn’t feel that way. Sure I was stretched thin at times (WAY thin somedays), but in the end, it was absolutely worth it. As I wrote before, I finished early and in truth, I’m not even done!

But that was never the point really, to finish the story.

No, the point was to write. It was to challenge myself to BE a writer. And it was on that level that I approached all of this. I’d have been proud even if I hadn’t reached my goal really. It was more the commitment to writing everyday for a month that mattered more to me at the outset than “finishing” the challenge. In fact, I didn’t even anticipate succeeding at writing fifty thousand words. In fact, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t. But once I allowed myself to dive in uninhibited, it all came organically, so if anyone deserves a trophy it would be whatever popped the idea for the story into my head.

Me? I’m just glad I did the whole thing! Every second I spent in November was a second of growth. I learned so much during that time, and not just about writing.  I learned about my limits, the depths of my creativity, who really cares about who I am as a person, that I will probably always write in some form or capacity until I can do it full time… So much.

But the one thing I learned the most of all? That one is easy.

The one thing I learned the most is that I need to give myself permission to do certain things. Permission to do what nurtures me. Permission to partake in what feeds my soul.

It was this admission that lead me to see that I’ve neglected what makes me tick for a very, very long time. It was quite the eye opener.

So, if you are on the fence about participating in NaNaWriMo or if you are looking to comb the depths of what kind of writer you are, I fully endorse giving yourself permission to dive head first into the event. It’ll invoke just about every emotion you’ve ever had about yourself (as well as a few new ones maybe), but its so worth it. So go on and give your creativity a great big bear hug!

But don’t forget to save one for yourself.

That too, is worth it. Always.

What’s Going on in November?

NaNoWriMo that’s what!

I’ve been meaning to participate for a few years now (pretty much since I ever read about it) and this year just felt… I don’t know… it just felt “right”.  Like it was time. So I’ll most likely be dropping into some pretty deep radio silence.

I know… I know… what else is new Tad?

If I’m up for it, I’ll put up a post I’ve had in the works for a little while now, but if you don’t see it by next Monday, you won’t be seeing until December. 😉

Life post-Scandinavia has been interesting to say the least, but, I’m doing well.  More soon, I promise!

I’ve been itching to write in this space but I’ve been saving up my creative juices for at least 50,000 words next month.

Until then… wish me luck!

Saying Goodbye to Midnight…

Two nights ago we said good bye to our old cat and dear friend, Midnight.

We came home from our 3 week trip and found that she was purring madly. But after spending some time with her it was clear to us that something was amiss, so we took her to the emergency vet. They quickly did a physical examination and found a pretty large tumor by her digestive organs that appeared to be a bullseye for cancer. We could’ve put her through a barrage of tests but the doctor felt she wouldn’t survive more than a day or two, much less an operation.

So we let her go.

For those that knew Midnight you might’ve known her as a very chatty cat. Constantly talking if she felt the need. And she did. Quite often. She stayed away from people most of the time when she was younger, preferring the company of Mel and I to other folks or animals. That warmed up a little more as she got older but that mostly consisted of her showing herself to dear friends and family. She was never mean, she was just private, much like her parents.

She could also be quite elusive when she needed to be. So much so, a lot of folks who’d known us for years hadn’t even known we owned cat. In a lot of ways I think Middy liked it that way. Either, meowing her head off upstairs when guests were here, only to come downstairs after everyone left to be with us. Or simply going silent, disappearing when she needed to dissolve away and be alone.

I often envied her ability to do that.

She was also quite old. Mel got her full grown from a shelter when she attended college in New Hampshire. She had rented her first apartment and needed some company while I was away finishing up at UVM. Melinda picked Middy because she danced for her when she reached down to pet her. In fact she danced like that all the way until the end (I like to think she’s doing it right now). We estimate she was anywhere between 15 or 18 years old when she passed, so she lived a good long life.

Still, we feel her absense acutely. For such a small creature she had a huge presense. She slept with us everynight, joined Mel for yoga every morning, and always seemed to curl up next to me whenever I/we read a book, took a nap, or watched a movie on the couch together. She was slight, but heavy at the same time, constantly letting us know she existed in this big world. She also loved to play at the most random times. Mostly by herself, but also with us once and a while.

She was many, many things. But mostly she was one of our oldest friends and advocates. She was ever critical of the trivial things we did (moving around in bed, not paying attention to her quick enough, closing the bathroom door when we showered…etc), but she also was the quickest to forgive. For such a small package she seemed to have endless space in her heart for us and all of our faults. We’ll always love her for everything she was, good and bad.

She was truly one of a kind and as sad as we are with her absense, we are grateful for the space she made for us in her tiny world. We’ll miss you Midnight. I’m not sure where you went, but where ever it is, they got damn lucky this week.

Thank you for everything you gave us. I can only hope we gave you a fraction of the same.

The Discovery Phase…

Ok… Full disclosure. For the first time in a long time, I think I’ve written, deleted and then rewritten this post three, no… four times including this pass at it.

I’m typically a bit of a “go with your first draft” kind of writer because of the raw nature of it all. The writing seems to come more from your gut and less from that state of trepidation you have after you hit “send” or “publish”. But this particular post has been handcuffed to that part of the ribcage that’s close to the heart.

You know that place. It’s where the ribs have tiny cracks from a heart that beats hard for so many reasons, if only keep you alive so can see how this big grand story ends.

So let’s give this a go shall we?

This blog has taken an interesting turn in the last year. I’m suddenly way more introspective and seeking, rather than assured and jaded. A lot has changed in my life and it’s been interesting to see what has shaken out of what is shaping up to be quite the rediscovery. Most of this I think has come from a body that’s finally starting to weather, parents that are visibly aging, and opportunities (both serendipitous and manufactured) finding me rather than me chasing them and previous affirmations not being as solid as I originally thought they were.

Not doubt, it’s been a lot to wade through. But I seem to be getting there.

The body end of things has been the most obvious one for me so I’ll start with that one first. High school excluded, I’ve always been of the volition that our bodies are merely vessels that carry whatever we are around, providing a conduit for us experience this life we wake up to everyday. Vanity has never been a strong suit for me so, in hindsight, when I look back at how I’ve treated my body I’m ashamed to say that I should’ve done better. Way better. More physical activity, eating healthier, something other than a desk job, you name it… my life decisions weren’t the brightest as far as my body is concerned. I’m not beating myself up, the past’s long gone, but I am hoping that I still have enough sense to enjoy this body I’ve been given. So for the last few months I’ve followed Mel’s lead and wandered back into the local yoga studio and it’s done wonders for me! I’m more conscious of every inch my body than I ever have been and I feel for the first time that I’m actually saying “thank you!” to my body rather than taking it for granted.

It’s also healed some emotional wounds as well, so if your looking to be realigned in more ways than one, I suggest yoga. Bar none, I’ve figured out more shit on my yoga mat than I have in years of simply being angry at the world.

On my parents. What can I say? They are finally getting “old”. Its always amazing and somewhat difficult to see the people who made you who you are, age significantly and visibly. I’m not sure when this vision of them in my head changed, but in last year I’ve realized that, just like me, they won’t be here forever. It gets you thinking about time and how everything has a final page waiting patiently to be turned. My time with them has been filled with ups and downs, but rather than focus on bad times, I really just want my remaining time with them to count. I’ve been applying the same theory to all of my relationships actually, but especially with my parents. No doubt, it can sometimes be a challenge but I’m finding more and more that it’s worth it if you have the energy to invest. Some do, some don’t.

Am I a good son? A good brother, uncle, nephew? A good friend? I have no idea. But it is becoming more and more important for me that when I lay down at night I am able to say “Today? Today I did my best.” Somedays I fail miserably at this, but being more cognizant of it has helped a lot.

That and the occasional deep cleansing breath ;).

The last two, opportunities and affirmations, both kinda spring from the same well so I’ll just say this: it’s somewhat crushing and liberating when you realize that you were really full of shit about quite few things in your life. This has been happening a lot to me of late and while it’s incredibly easy (not to mention safe) to laugh off the notions of your past self, I recommend giving then a good look square in the eyes, smile and say goodbye. When they go for the obligatory handshake brush it aside and give them each a big hug. At one time each of those ideas about life came from pure place, they all deserve at least that much.

Which brings me to the whole point of everything written above. The act of accomplishing everything above has made me discover something I’ve kept buried so deep inside of myself that I honestly didn’t think I had it in me at all. That thing is the key to just about every second you will spend on this gigantic rock hurtling and spinning through space.

That thing is love.

I’m not talking about the Hollywood cliche either. I’m talking about that Herculean attempt to apply what makes you happy to everything. And this includes yourself. Especially yourself. If you can find it in you, you’ll be shocked at how many other places you’ll find it.

At the end of the day, it’s homework for all of us to hand in. Whether we like it or not. I know the lessons can be a bitch sometimes, but do your best.

I know I am.

Thoughts On Trees…

linked with gratitude from the folks at 4perspectives.com

… and not the ones I’m often accused of hugging a little too tightly :), but of the ones that represent family.

Family trees have been something that I never really got into. I’ve encountered quite a few intrepid historians in my lifetime and I have always loved their enthusiasm (and their stories on plenty of occasions). But when it came to my own family tree, I honestly have never had that pull that grabs people into the thrill of documenting the history of those who came before them.

It’s an odd admission for sure. My parents love passing down stories and I love writing and telling them. So you’d think I’d love to tell the story of characters that actually lived and breathed. I mean what could be more fascinating than the true tale of the folks that ultimately added to your very existence? It sounds pretty enticing doesn’t it? It sure does typing it. 😉 But beyond that whimsy, I’m confident (and tiny bit ashamed) when I say that I’ve never gave it much thought.

I think it stems from the fact that I’ve never been given reason to. This is only partially my fault, but I’ll own up to it. I’ve always felt that if a person doesn’t effect your life in anyway at all, than what’s the use in placing value in a connection that isn’t even there? Is a family member you’ve never met any different than a stranger you’ve never laid eyes on?

The literal answer is “no”. Because in my big existential hippie mind, I truly believe that we’re all family on this huge, spinning rock hurtling through space. That every human on this planet deserves at least the genuine prospect of the equal love, compassion and attention that a family member gets (I know, I know, easier said than done right?).

But… there is something more to being amongst your family members isn’t there? More than the simple act of caring for anyone and everyone. There is some inherent pull or symbiosis. An uncanny sense of belonging.

For some it’s more pronounced and obvious (for better or worse). For others? Not so much (also for better or worse). My situation isn’t a whole lot different. I’ve always been pretty guarded about my life, sharing my passions only with folks who had shown me genuine interest.

But now that I’m in my mid 30’s I’ve started questioning that exhausting protectiveness of mine. I still keep my cards close to my vest, but I’m slowly shedding that aspect of self-preservation/low self-esteem. One byproduct of this, is now, when anyone seems to want my opinion? I’m fine with giving it. So when my parents mentioned wanting to go and visit Dad’s cousin and her family in Sweden I had my usual knee-jerk reaction: “Why spend all that money on a trip to visit some folks you’ve never met?”

Well, it turns out it’s because they are awesome that’s why! 🙂 But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. So let’s rewind a bit.

Months ago, my Dad got correspondence somewhat out of nowhere from a Swedish cousin he’d never met (or if he did, it was LONG time ago). Her name was Lis and she was tracking us down to work on her own genealogy project, documenting her/our own family tree. To say my parents were smitten with this contact would be the understatement of the year. Before long Lis and my parents were in somewhat regular contact via email, finding out more about us and us about them. Always quick to share the emails, I started to learn a little about them. They seemed nice!

So when Melinda and I were planning our trip last year to Scandinavia, I took a chance and contacted them myself to see if they’d like us to visit. It’s always hard to glean intent or personality from emails when you don’t know the person very well, but immediately Melinda and I felt welcomed. The replies from Lis and her husband Ingvar were so warm, kind and more than generous. So planning to stay with them on the last leg of our trip was kind of a no-brainer.

Then this happened. And the trip was yanked from our tear-soaked hands (ok, a little over the top, sorry, but we were really bummed we had to cancel it).

It would seem like this opportunity to meet would be completely lost, but, it wasn’t. Through our last few emails to each other before we were supposed to leave on our trip, Lis often offered up the challenge:

“Now the question is, who will meet who first? Will the Swedes come to the U.S.? Or will the Americans come to Sweden?”

That thankfully got answered months (not years) later when Lis, Ingvar and their daughter Kristin visited the states and made the trip south to spend a week with us! Once the living arrangements were set up, we all agreed to meet for the first time at Tessa’s place. What was wonderful for Melinda and I was that my parents had previously shared tadandmel.com with them and that gave this wonderful foundation for them to build on when starting their new relationships with us. So much so, that when they came through the door, they new who we were by simply looking at Melinda and I. It was great! There wasn’t the usual awkwardness associated with meeting someone for the first time. Just smiles, hugs and immediate familiarity.

Of course, we had a lot to learn about them! And we did. The week they were here, Mel and I did our best to get time off to spend with them and though it was way too short, it was enough time to experience something I hadn’t really felt before. Or at least hadn’t felt to such an extent.

It was that pull, that inherent comfort, that you get from being around family. You know, the folks that accept you for all of your faults, know most of your secrets ;), and love you unconditionally. Of course, they made it really easy as they were amazing folks! Just as kind and warm as I had imagined.

Me and my Dad's cousin, Lis.

I immediately felt comfortable around them and that doesn’t happen very often with me. I particularly felt an awesome connection to my cousin Kristin (who all the pics, aside from the top one, in this post were taken by). We discovered that we made a lot of the same decisions growing up. From our passion to write, love of nature, love of music, all the way down to our senior thesis focus in college (I went with Poe and she went with Sherlock Holmes), it was pretty uncanny how much our lives traveled in parallel. We spent a lot of time getting to know each other (I hope I didn’t blab too much, my family is a bunch talkers. Sometimes to our own detriment.), and we when had to say good bye, I really wished I didn’t have to.

Me and my cousin, Kristin!

Which was a surprise really. In the past when I’ve visited with the few family members we are in touch with, we’ve all kind of known when it was time to depart. I imagine that this is because my immediate family is filled with pretty strong personalities (putting it lightly). We’re incredibly different from each other and though we love each other deeply, we also know when each of us needs our space. So when our Swedish family visited I naturally assumed they’d grow tired of us and want to leave LOL!

But they didn’t, or at least they didn’t seem to. All told it was a pretty amazing time! We did lots of stuff during their visit, showing them the area. Baseball games, historical landmarks, live music, art exhibits, museums, pubs, southern food, it was amazing what we got to wrangle into that week. During all of it, a thought came frequently into my head: “Man, these folks are wonderful aren’t they? And they’re FAMILY. Family from far away.”

So, just like that, my “out of sight, out of mind” theory about family/people, started crumbling. Before long, I not only was happy to find a branch on my family tree that I could relate to on many levels, but was also feeling a good amount of pride.

Bar none, I wasn’t expecting that from this visit.

The whole crew from that week!

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting the opposite. It’s just that, while I knew I’d like our Swedish family members, I didn’t think I’d genuinely love them as people and enjoy their company so much. I certainly didn’t expect to miss them after they left. At least not as much as I do.

And I do.

The story’s not over though. We’ll keep writing it when we head over the pond to visit in September. 😉