LSS: Out for Mardi Gras

A few days ago, one of my friends posted a virtual sign that read, “Out to Mardi Gras. Be back Ash Wednesday.”
He wanted to let his friends know that he would soon be leaving town. His upcoming five-day trip would mark the first time in eight years that he wouldn’t have access to cell phone, laptop, the Internet along with any and every form of social media.
I envy my friend’s opportunity to disconnect.
Apparently, I’m not alone.
According to Travel & Leisure, hotels and resorts where guests can get away from technology are in high demand— no television in the rooms, no phones, no cell phone reception or Wi-Fi. The magazine predicts these “black-holes” will increase in popularity in the coming years, as more and more of us choose to unplug and take a break from the constant connectivity of our lives.
“The greatest luxury of the 21st century will be dropping off the grid. Black-hole resorts will be notable for the total absence of the Internet—even their walls will be impervious to wireless signals. Whether they’re set on mountaintops, in quaint villages, or in sleek urban centers, black holes will become the pinnacle of the Slow Food, slow travel, slow-everything movement—the ultimate in getting away from it all, says Judith Kleine Holthaus, former head of projects at the London-based Future Foundation,” as reported by Travel & Leisure in September 2011.
And it’s no wonder.
Last week, the New York Times reported that, on average, Americans consume about 100,000 words a day from various media — that’s up 350 percent from what we consumed in 1980.
I’m not convinced we weren’t designed to take in this much information.
Calgon, anyone?
But this is where and how we live, so what’s a girl to do? Traveling to or living in walls “impervious to wireless signals” sounds quite lovely,but it’s not the reality we live in. How do we become less connected?
Maybe a partial solution is that we become more diligent about when we respond to texts, emails and even phone calls. Until the last decade, the vast majority of us weren’t reachable by phone every minute of every day.
I realized the time had come to do something last week when my husband, two daughters and I went out for dinner on Valentine’s evening to one of our favorite family restaurants. For the most part, we sat at the table and had lovely conversation and a wonderful meal. However, there was one point between the appetizers and the entre when my phone beeped or blipped. I couldn’t resist the urge and picked it up to check. Within seconds, my 10-year-old daughter was the only one at the table not swishing around on a touch screen.
That’s not OK.
Those people who constantly check their phone for emails and texts drive me a little batty, even though I know and love people who do just that. It’s like they constantly prefer someone else’s company.
However, I also remain hopeful because I know at least one LSU student who deliberately leaves her phone in her car or apartment when she’s visiting with friends. She’s a wise girl who is more focused than most on being where she is.
I won’t lie. I enjoy technology. I like facebook. I appreciate staying connected to friends I don’t get to see often. I like hearing their jokes and watching their babies grow up. Texting and emailing are convenient.
At dinner last week when I realized the Pandora’s Box picking up my cell phone had opened, I ditched it quickly and encouraged the rest of my family to do the same.
I worry my daughters’ generation is missing out on knowing how to be in the here and now, but I trust the issue will work itself out.
Virtual black holes may be part of the answer.
As the fortune cookie I cracked open at the end of our Valentine’s meal read, “It is now, and in this world, that we must live.”

LSS: How do I love thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach.

Liz didn’t get finite when it came to her love.
Nope, Elizabeth Barrett Browning went all out. To the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach.
This week I considered that line in a way I hadn’t before. When I was younger, I focused on the measurement aspect of the poem — the depth and breadth and height.
But in Browning’s world, the measurements mean nothing if the soul can’t reach them.
A soul’s reaching, as it turns out, is more about the person in question rather than his or her partner.
A soul’s reaching is not only about being loved by others. It’s about being loved enough by one’s self that doing what’s in the best interest of the soul’s reaching eventually comes naturally.
When I was younger, I thought I understood love better than most. Boy, did I believe I knew love. Back then, I focused on the “depth and breadth and height” of my love. It consumed me. It was exhausting.
And, of course, it didn’t last.
I eventually realized that the convulsions of the relationship weren’t healthy. While even the healthiest relationships require lots of work (and patience), relationships that require too much compromise from one partner or the other are bound for failure — even when the couple stays together, the relationship may be far from a success. Most often, the signs of a healthy versus an unhealthy relationship are evident early on in relationships.
But in the thick of a relationship, being objective doesn’t come easy, does it?
I have no interest in raining on the parade of Valentine’s celebration of love or young love, in general. I’m not even trying to suggest that young love rarely works. Sometimes it does.
While love is worth celebrating any and every day, this is the week to commemorate love — young, old and in between.
These days I focus more on the latter half of Browning’s take on counting her love — the “my soul can reach” part of the love equation.
I’ve come to believe that the key to a healthy relationship is about both souls having the permission and encouragement from each other to reach as near or far as either has interest in reaching. The best kind of love isn’t about turning one person into what another person wants. The best kind of love is about all-out being exactly who you are.

LSS: In search of…

We have a giant armoire in our living room. We bought it years ago, and the people who sold it to us told us it was from France. It’s probably the only piece of furniture we own that could be considered beautiful, with stained glass windows in the upper cabinet doors. It’s old, really old. It came with the original skeleton key to unlock the drawers, upper and lower cabinet doors. I tied a lovely tassel on the key and stuck it in one of the locks. We moved the key from lock to lock as we needed. We used to put special things in this cabinet — photographs, important school papers, small keepsakes (and other ephemera). In one of the cabinets, we kept the limited bottles of alcohol that came into our home.
Our system worked fine.
Until several years ago.
And I’m embarrassed to admit just how many years ago it was, but I’m going for it.
Our system worked fine until about six years ago.
You see, our then 4-year-old daughter thought the aforementioned lovely tassel and key were too much to resist. She had played with it since she could walk. There had never been a problem. I didn’t think it could become an issue.
I was wrong.
One day, and we don’t know exactly when, said child took said key with said tassel and placed it somewhere unknown.
We have searched high and low for that key. Every time there’s a lull in our lives, one of us will say, “I wonder where that key to that cabinet is.” And we’ll take turns suggesting remote places a 4-year-old girl could put a key with a tassel. We even get excited from time to time and are certain we’ll have just the spot. We’ll run and look. But to date, we’ve found nothing.
At this point, we think we know what’s inside the cabinet. But the truth is, we don’t. Whatever else is on the inside at this point is a mystery to us.
It’s kind of like a time capsule.
So now, we call it the time-oire.
We’ve tried every skeleton key we’ve been able to get our hands on. Nothing works. We’ve taken turns, alongside friends and family, trying to pick it. Whoever made these locks were serious about keeping the contents of the cabinet safe.
Fortunately, the drawers happened to be unlocked when the time-oire’s key went missing. So, we’ve had access to all the school papers in the six years since.
Of course, we know we could hire a locksmith and get the time-oire open. Or we could carefully move the very large time-oire and take the back off to at least get to the items inside, if not unlatch the locks.
But as of yet, we haven’t done either of those options.
It’s kind of convenient actually. Anything that goes missing has an automatic alibi. “I bet it’s in the time-oire,” one or the other of us will say. In fact, we’ve said that hundreds of times through the years.
Now there’s no way all the stuff that we’ve speculated on could possibly fit in the time-oire, but there’s always the possibility that whatever it is we’re looking for is locked up safe and sound. We keep thinking that key will turn up somewhere. After all, where could a 4 year old put a key on a giant tassel?
But as of yet, we’ve got nothing.
Yes, eventually, somehow or some way, we will open the time-oire. I just keep thinking we will find that key. In the meantime, I believe each member of our family secretly appreciates at least one arcane aspect of our lives. Having a little mystery is healthy. If we were Nancy Drew or Scooby-Doo, we could call it The Strange Case of the Giant Cabinet.
At this point, I realize the risk of over-selling the contents of the cabinet to my children. I still remember Geraldo Rivera and Al Capone’s vaults.

Long Story Short columns appear Sundays. Should you happen to know the whereabouts of the aforementioned skeleton key hanging on a large green tassel, please email Jan at