Road Construction: Learning to Savor Life

By Joseph Geliebter, Ph.D.

Leo, the building inspector for my village, knows a thing or two about Unplugging and Reconnecting. An Italian immigrant, he grew up in the Italian wine country, where he experienced a simpler way of life.

I met Leo during a road repaving project on my block. When I told him about how the road construction project was forcing neighbors to live a simpler life, albeit only briefly, he immediately appreciated how the benefits might possibly outweigh the inconveniences of having our street inaccessible for a few days.

Leo believes that, like water that flows from the freshest of mountain springs, we’re born to simplicity. The further water flows from its source, the more polluted it becomes. The same is true of our lives, he says. How we choose to maintain the simplicity to which we’re born is up to us.

As might be expected, food – especially savoring a good meal – is very important to Leo and his family. That’s why meal time is Unplug and Reconnect time in Leo’s house.

“We don’t use any technology while we’re eating,” he says. This rule also applies to Leo’s six grandchildren who, he admits, are as attached to their technological gadgets as any of their generation. “We hold onto the old ways at meal times. That’s when we discuss family matters.

Watch the “Road Construction” Video!

Road Construction from Unplug Reconnect on Vimeo.

Once, Leo and his wife were dining out in a restaurant and noticed a couple at the next table. They were “parallel texting” on their cell phones, Leo said. “My wife pointed out to me, ‘I don’t think they’re enjoying the food – their minds are set on whatever they’re texting.’ ”

It’s true. In order to truly enjoy food – to savor a meal or a good wine – one must devote a certain degree of attention and focus on the task. The same could be said about the way we choose to live our lives.

TOMORROW — Dr. Geliebter remembers “Road Construction,” a video classic.



The Conductor on the Train Says ‘Shhh!’

A growing number of commuters traveling on New York’s Metro North railroad apparently like to unplug and reconnect during their morning commute – so much so that the MTA recently announced yet another expansion of its pilot “Quiet Car” program to include rush-hour trains on its New Haven line.

The transportation agency’s Quiet Car initiative asks customers to refrain from using cell phones and to disable the sound feature on pagers, games, computers and other electronic devices during travel. Commuters riding in these specially designated cars are also asked to conduct conversations in subdued voices and to use headphone devices at a volume that cannot be heard by other passengers. If riders don’t comply, conductors hand them a card that reads “Shhh!”

According to the MTA, Quiet Cars have been catching on across the northeast. New Jersey Transit began its Quiet Car program on the North East Corridor Line in September 2010. Following a positive reception, Metro North partnered with NJ Transit to expand its Quiet Commute program in June 2011 to include all of Metro North’s peak West of Hudson Service, both the Pascack Valley and Port Jervis lines.

The pilot then expanded to 36 peak Hudson and Harlem Line trains in October 2011. The following December, the Long Island Rail Road launched its Quiet Car pilot program on select peak hour trains that operate between Far Rockaway and Atlantic Terminal.

MTA spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said it’s likely the initiative will be made permanent, due to overwhelming favorable response.

Want to enjoy some unplugging time during your rush-hour commute? New printed timetables show a “Q” to designate trains with a quiet car, which are usually the first car for morning trains and the last car for evening trains.

Unplugging Your Kids from Technology

If your children are a little too plugged in to technology, you might have noticed some unwanted side effects. Digital overload has been associated with a host of problems, including attention difficulties, low grades, impaired sleep, obesity and withdrawal from family life, among others.

But there are practical things you can do as a parent to help wean your child from technology overuse. Here are a few ideas:


  • Know how much is too much. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that young children shouldn’t spend more than two hours a day plugged into technology. If your child is spending more than that – and the average child does spend an average of eight hours – it’s time to set limits.
  • Declare ‘Unplug and Reconnect’ time. Specify a special tech-free time of day. Enjoy a meal without interruptions. Plan a family game night. The goal is to disconnect from technology and to find time to reconnect with your family.
  • Offer alternatives. Help your child develop a list of entertaining, technology-free games and other activities they could do by themselves or with the family. Show them that there’s a world of fun beyond the Internet.
  • Get moving. Today’s technology-addicted children are more sedentary than is good for them – which may explain why childhood obesity and Type II diabetes rates are soaring. Encourage physical play – perhaps even a family touch football game now and then.
  • Foster a balance. Establish a rule that technology use must be balanced with other activities. Tell your children that every hour spent surfing the Internet must be offset by an hour playing a non-technological activity.
  • Set a good example. Your children will often emulate your behavior. If you think they’ve become too consumed by technology, make sure that the same isn’t true of your own technology use.

Unplugged Toys are a Healthy Choice in the Digital Age

Top 10 Low-Tech Toy Picks for this Holiday Season

What’s on your child’s wish list this holiday season? Chances are it’s something that plugs in, lights up, rings, zings and pings. And chances are they will be able to “connect” with unknown “friends” from around the globe, while oblivious to family and friends sitting around the dining table.

With this in mind, Unplug & Reconnect is recommending its pick of the hottest “unplugged toys” of 2011. These recommended toys, culled from myriad top toy lists of the current season, all have one thing in common – the only plug-in they require is a child’s imagination.

The Top Ten Unplugged Toys for 2011

  1.  What’s not to like about LEGO building blocks, featuring colorful interlocking plastic bricks and an accompanying array of gears, figurines, and various other parts – with themes for every age group? Hot this year is LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts (Age 8+), which lets young wizards build and recreate the battle between Harry Potter and his friends vs. the Death Eaters and Dementors ($116.97). For the younger set, try LEGO Duplo Learning (Age 3+), with big, colorful, numbered bricks for endless hours of learning through play ($24.99). Also promising hours of fun is the LEGO Toy Story Western Train Chase (Age 7+) – roll down the tracks with Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Jessie, Bullseye, and Rex while trying to escape from the “Evil Doctor Porkchops ($70.99). Families will enjoy the LEGO Creationary Game (Age 7+), which challenges players to guess what other players have built, charades style ($32.30).
  2. Playmobil is an enduring line of collectible action sets featuring small plastic people and animals – from pirates and police officers, dragons, Vikings and fairy tale princesses – amidst castles, ghost ships, puppet theaters, western forts, and a variety of other settings. Hot for 2011 is the Playmobil My Take Along Puppet Theater (Ages 4+), which lets children stage their own puppet show for the Playmobil characters to act out ($49.99), and the Playmobil Figure Set Furnished School Set (Ages 3+), providing a great setting for hours of play school ($99.99).
  3. Lalaloopsy Silly Hair Doll by MGA (Ages 4+). This season’s “it” doll, the Lalaloopsy were once rag dolls who magically came to life, taking on the personalities of the fabrics that were used to make them. The Lalaloopsy have silly hair that bends every which way, and come with their own hair styling brush, clips and beads. Clothing and accessories sold separately ( $29.99).
  4. Angry Birds: Knock on Wood Game by Mattel. (Ages 5+) A hands-on, unplugged version of the touchscreen phone app, for two to four players. This game follows the same goals as the online version: launch the Angry Birds toward the egg-stealing pigs’ wooden castles to destroy them to advance to the next level ($26.99).
  5.  Real Construction Deluxe Took Workshop by Jakks Pacific (Age 6+). A great way to strengthen problem-solving skills and nurture creativity without a mess! Featuring a real saw, hammer, screwdriver and more, the workshop lets children come up with their own projects and figure out different ways to build them ($24).
  6. Squinkies Cupcake Surprise Bakeshop by Blip (Ages 4+). The hot new toy for 2011, Squinkies feature miniature worlds of imagination. Put a “coin” in a slot, turn a dial, and the fun world of Squinkies begins in the palm of your hand! Once you open the cupcake you will find your own bake shop and hours of fun playing with the Squinkies figures ($29.99)!
  7.  Rory’s Story Cubes by Gamewright. (Ages 8+). Everyone who plays is transformed into a master storyteller with this pocket-sized idea factory. Just roll the dice and use the pictures that come up to create a tale. A great party game and ice breaker ($6.71)!
  8. Eco-Kids-Eco-Crayons available at (Ages 2+). No childhood is complete without crayons, so why not get them nontoxic and eco-safe crayons? Features six crayons handmade with natural and organic fruit, plant and vegetable extracts, soy, bee and palm wax ($9.99).
  9. Hot Wheels Wall Tracks Starter Set  by Mattel (Ages 4+). Hot Wheels racetracks are always fun. Now take it to a whole new level. Using the wall mount track, your child can expand the world of Hot Wheels and create stunts and tricks up and down the wall ($27.99)!
  10. Magnet Levitation Kit by Dowling Magnets (Ages 10+). Challenge your child to learn about equilibrium and magnetic fields while constructing an incredible gravity-defying train. Designed for older kids who love science, this kit comes with tons of educational components and a comprehensive “how to” guidebook with step-by-step instructions. A must-have for science fairs ($25.95).



A Step-by-Step Guide to Taking a TechBreak™ from Facebook

Never Fear – You’re Still in Control!

Here’s a challenge for you if you’re one of the estimated 750 million users worldwide who can’t get enough of the popular social media site, Facebook.

Take a mini-vacation.

That’s right. Give up Facebook for a day, a week, a weekend, a month. Do it today!

Does the very thought of disconnecting from Facebook fill you with dread? Don’t let it. Thousands of others have tried it and liked it. In fact, the alternative – being a slave to technology instead of its master – should send chills up your spine.

With Unplug and Reconnect’s new TechBreak™ Solutions, a service that offers simple strategies for those who want to step back from technology, taking a break from Facebook couldn’t be simpler. Here’s how to do it:

TechBreak From Facebook in Five Easy Steps

1. Click “Account” on the top left of your page
2. Go to “Account Settings”
3. Select the “Security” tab
4. On the bottom of the page you’ll find the button to deactivate your account –click it
5. Scroll to the bottom of the next page and click “Confirm”

Don’t worry – reactivating is also easy. Facebook won’t let you deactivate your account permanently, so when you decide your TechBreak is over, you can reactivate your account by simply signing in.

If you like it, tell your friends and try it again. Spread the word on Facebook. Share this simple TechBreak solution with your friends.

Do you want to receive more hints and suggestions from Unplug and Reconnect’s TechBreak Solutions? Simply give us your email address and we’ll be sure to keep you posted whenever we post another in our series of TechBreak Solutions!

Comments or questions are welcome.

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