Technology Frustration

I am afflicted with a self-diagnosed condition, Technology Frustration (TF). The symptoms of TF are many and varied, but a wide range of component configurations housed in various sizes of hard plastic cases cause this condition. The symptoms of my condition were exacerbated during the past week, thanks to two of these component-housing devices. One is referred to as a laptop, and the other as a cell.

Laptop dependent might describe me. The first thing every morning I check MSN News, Email, my brother’s blog, and Facebook. Since I still have a land-line, cell phone dependency is not a serious problem for me, but when I travel or shop, my cell is a constant companion.

Thanks to the trusty anti-virus program on my laptop, my condition worsened about six days ago. That was when Anti-virus started posting a series of messages on the screen. None made sense to me, so I closed all of them. Then one morning as my Email downloaded to the inbox, helpful Anti-virus informed me of a malfunction in the program and instructed me to click on “Fix Now.” I fixed it, all right. After the computer rebooted, all of the Email that had downloaded to the “Inbox” was gone, and spam messages were located in the “Business” folder.

Logic might say that the vanishing Email would be in the trash. Not so! It was gone, totally wiped out. I hope nothing of great importance was there like, maybe, a message telling me I had won a million dollars and needed to contact someone within twenty-four hours. Email marked as spam continues to go the Business folder, but I’m not taking any chances by entering the world of anti-virus settings and attempting to fix that.

I was still recovering from the laptop incident when we renewed our cell phone contract. That meant a new type of phone since the old model is no longer carried or supported by the company. Getting the new phone was not a problem. Using the new phone was a problem. The features on my new phone are not even distantly related to the features on my old phone.

While learning to use my phone, I sent my daughter-in-law a text that had “G” as the message. Fortunately, I have daughters-in-law who don’t question my motivation, though they may, at times, question my sanity.

The camera feature should have been easy for me to figure out. Right? Wrong! I soon discovered that my right eye is very big, much bluer than I had previously thought, and that I should maybe be using anti-aging eye cream.

Those of you who still have children at home probably don’t suffer from Technology Frustration. You can just ask your fifth-grader (or kindergartener) to fix things for you. But the only person who lives with me requests my help when he has problems with his technology devices. Unfortunately, no techies live in my household.

For a short period of time I considered becoming one of the world’s unwired citizens. That was before I started thinking about the friends I like to hear from, the pictures I receive from family, the digital photos I upload, and my editor, who has gone paperless.

So, I’m still here and probably won’t be going away soon unless my anti-virus friend decides to take care of my dependency. Putting my frustration with technology into perspective, though, the problems I have in the digital world pale in comparison to opening one of those rigid plastic clamshell packages. At least I can solve my laptop and cell phone problems without a pair of pliers and a knife.


Full Circle

While I watched “The Lion King” with my grandchildren, I identified many adult messages in that animated film and its songs. The lyrics of one song includes the lines, “It’s the Circle of Life and it moves us all through despair and hope, through faith and love, till we find our place on the path unwinding in the circle . . .” ~ Elton John

A week ago I thought of that song as I watched a grandson pick up his baby girl and head down the steps with her in his arms to lovingly care for her needs. It seems only yesterday that he was headed off to elementary school with his backpack slung over his shoulder. I will say that he was holding his little daughter with far more care than the backpack received!

This is not the first time I have witnessed a grandson accepting the challenges of fatherhood. Who would have imagined that a high school grandson out there running track could one day so easily make the series of transitions that changed a carefree high school student into a loving and responsible father?

When we had our children, most child-care responsibilities were considered to be those of the mother. The moms got the diaper duty while the dads got the “lets see if you laugh when I tickle your feet” duty. Not so now! Dads have “everything duty”: diapers, feedings, car pools, and laundry, along with playtimes and reading. However, if modern fathers have any inherited traits at all, I suspect they pretend there is no stinky diaper in the room until everyone else finds an excuse to make an exit.

I had my ______ birthday this week. (No filling in of the blank, please!) Having grandsons who are now fathers means that my life has contributed to the creation of new little lives, and that a new generation of our family has begun. Maybe having a birthday reminded me of the preciousness of the gift of life. And, maybe the fact that circles have no end serves to remind me that my influence also has no end. The special milestones in my life propel me forward to a place where I have never been before, and always to a better time in my life. I cherish every day and love my many roles. How blest I am!

Grandson, Josh, making a snowman with his daughter, Olivia (2½). He's now looking forward to a son who will arrive in July.

Baby Emma being held in the arms of her daddy, grandson, Robert.


No Peas, Please

If you think your know your spouse, really know who he/she is, think again. Just when you come to believe that you have everything figured out, that’s when a curve ball will, undoubtedly, come your way.

While our kids were still at home I cooked meals every day, and I made sure each meal was balanced according to the way my mom taught me to cook. Each dinner included a protein, a vegetable, a salad, and a starch. Sometimes I even tossed in a dessert. So I was sure I knew the food likes and dislikes of all of my family, including Hubby.

Olives, raisins, green beans, mushrooms, liver, and dry beans of any variety were some of the foods on the “won’t eat that” lists of my kids. One or two kiddos even questioned whether or not some of the food I served actually qualified as human food. But really, are oatmeal cookies without raisins really oatmeal cookies? And chili without beans is what? Well, not Texas chili! Where did I get these kids? Hubby had the shortest “don’t like” list. Leave off the asparagus and all seemed to be well for him in the world of eating.

After our children were all married and had homes of their own where they could include what they liked on their menus, and discover that their kids had a whole list of “don’t likes” of their own, I cooked pretty much what I wanted without fear of anything being rejected.

It was when my dad came to stay with us during the winter months in his later years that I made a shocking discovery. I knew that Dad loved sweets. Cakes, pies, brownies, cookies, even bread pudding or a dish of fresh fruit added the crowning touch to any meal so far as he was concerned, and hubby loved this because I had always been careful not to include too many desserts in our diet. What I didn’t know was if there were foods Dad didn’t like.

One evening when we passed the dishes at the dinner table, I noticed that Dad didn’t take any peas. So, of course, I said, “Dad, don’t you care for peas?” To this question I received a long answer that included imagery from the Great Depression and a time when the family had only canned peas left in the pantry. It seems that after a few days of keeping nourished by eating peas, he developed enough dislike for that particular veggie to last him a lifetime. But learning that Dad did not like peas wasn’t the shocking discovery I made. At the end of Dad’s story about the depression and shortage of food, Hubby, the man I was sure I knew very well, put in his two cents worth. Looking at my dad (not me, please note) he said, “I really don’t like peas either.” Of course my response was shock and chastisement that he had never told me that.

So now I eye Hubby suspiciously while he is eating and wonder what else he might not be telling me.

So you think you know your spouse? Just wait!


Emotions and Writing – My Observations

This morning I purchased another book. This is my new addiction now that I have a Kindle. It was a magazine review of this book that got my blood pumping and created within me a desire to find out what a little boy could possibly know about a murder. So, at the Kindle Store, my fingers pressed the right keys, thus causing the title to appear on my Kindle home page. As with all addictions, I was helpless to control this process.

Reading what others have written has always been part of my life, and, if the story is well-written, I’m soon experiencing the emotions and feelings of the characters. During my childhood, my mother read to me almost every night. One of my favorite stories then was Peter Rabbit. As Mom read to me, I became caught up in the emotions of Peter, an adventuresome bunny, who just couldn’t seem to be good like his sisters. When Peter had a close call with the angry farmer, my heart beat faster and I felt anxious about his safety, even though I had already heard the story many times.

I have to believe that Beatrix Potter, as she wrote, felt what that little bunny felt each time he was discovered by, and then slipped away from, the farmer. I believe that’s what made her such a great author.

A few months ago I read Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and as I read, I experienced the emotions of being in Hank Morgan’s life-threatening situations. It would be unimaginable that Twain was passive and distant from his characters. I think he had to “be” the people he wrote about in order to make them and their situations real to me.

I’ve heard writers say they can’t understand why they often get questions from readers such as: “Did you pattern the main character after your life?” or “Were the things that happened in the story your experiences?”

From the many novels I’ve read over the years, what I have learned is that the answers to those questions are probably both “yes” and “no.” No, in that the character is not the author or even like the author, but yes, because the author managed to crawl inside the skin of the protagonist and live as one with that character, thinking the thoughts, experiencing the emotions, and feeling the pain as each scene unfolds on the pages of the book. I suspect that it is when the heartbeat of the protagonist and the heartbeat of the author become one that the emotions and actions of the story become real. Thus, the reader of this “real” account is transported through time and circumstance to live inside of the story.

While I was writing my novel, only a select group of people was allowed to read my story. Those who were allowed to read it received the manuscript along with instructions to be honest. As with most authors, the first readers were family. You would have to know our family and the security we have within the ranks to understand the brutal honesty from my nearest and dearest.

Following circulation to kin, I expanded my readership to include trusted friends, critiques by fellow members of my writers group, and, finally, I ventured out into the waters of writing contests.

From each of my readers, I received comments and beneficial evaluations, but one I have come to cherish is one I received via a phone call. The reader simply said, “I laughed and I cried.” It was then that I knew I had become one with my protagonist and the feelings she had were the feelings shared by the reader.

Anxiously awaiting the November release of Child of Desire!


Is It Illegal? Should It Be?

The car I was following on a four lane street swerved over the center line several times and, feeling certain there would be a crash soon, I slowed down and dropped back several yards. Then, just as the driver regained control and got the car back into the appropriate lane, a red light appeared ahead. Seeming to have regained control, the driver brought the car to a stop.

Now that the car was no longer moving, I put on my brave hat and, pulling into the lane beside the now under control car, I stopped. The door panel on the passenger side of the car declared in bold letters that the occupant was a realtor with a local company. Thinking the driver might be in distress, maybe even having a heart attack or stroke, I peered through the car window. There, sitting behind the steering wheel, was a middle-aged lady who was, as they say, “Dressed to the nines.” Holding a large city phone directory in the middle of the steering wheel, Realty Lady was thumbing quickly through the pages. Her head was tilted to the right, and I could see that she was squeezing a cell phone between her ear and her shoulder.

Since I was in the right lane, I decided to turn right and find another way home. I didn’t read anything in the paper that would indicate otherwise, so there was probably not a mishap.

Should driving while looking up numbers in a phone book and talking on a cell phone be illegal? Maybe not! Maybe society should find some way to connect the issuing of a driver’s license to the level of common sense possessed by individual applicants.

While some laws we have in Colorado would be unnecessary if people just used good old fashioned common sense (e.g. the law against texting while driving and the law that does not allow smoking in spaces shared by others), some of the laws in our fair state cover actions that no one would suspect might be illegal.

When we first arrived in Colorado, I suggested to a friend that the little flower spaces in our condo commons (they aren’t big enough to refer to as gardens) might thrive better if we attached expanding downspouts that uncoil when it rains and, thus, disperse sky-water onto the little garden patches. Of course, this would assume that we get rain, which I later discovered is a celebration-causing event in our dry climate.

Can you imagine my surprise when I was told that it is illegal to collect or disperse rainwater? The only residents of Colorado who are allowed to do this are those living in areas where their main source of water comes from a well. For us city dwellers it is illegal. The reason given for this quirky law is that the water that falls from the sky belongs to down-stream water-rights owners. (FYI, it is not to be collected in barrels or buckets, either. I’ve read that the fine for barrel users is $500. So much for the idea of rinsing one’s hair with rainwater to make it soft.)

Other stuff you might need to know about in case you decide to visit Colorado:
• One may not mutilate or remove a rock from a state park (this law also applies to some city parks). I suppose this is because we have a rock shortage out here in the Rocky Mountains.
• One may not pick wild flowers located on public properties. This is because the seeds are all needed to produce more wild flower in public spaces. This one makes me wonder where the garden shops get the wildflower seeds they sell.
• Cloud-seeding with the intent of making the moisture favor a particular community requires a “weather modification license.” So, my question is, “Are Native Americans fined for doing rain dances?” I can’t help wondering.
• Illegal hunting carries a mega-fine. One such hunt recently cost a Colorado outfitter and three of his clients a whopping $40,000. So, maybe everyone should just let those beautiful creatures live!

I won’t even go into the “Make My Day” law. That one might cause you to lose sleep.

Still, you need to come visit beautiful Colorado. You will love it here!


Kansas Gems

After reading an article in which the author put down the great state of Kansas, I became defensive about the state I called home for eighteen years. It seems that this author traveled with his family from Kansas City to Denver on Interstate 70 while he was in a very negative frame of mind. Probably a nagging wife and irritating kids were the real source of his problem, but he seemed to associate creative Kansans and their attempt to make an honest living with his pessimistic mindset.

The trip from Kansas City to Denver on I-70 is long, really long. Each mile driven across the plains is roughly equivalent to five miles driving along a curving, beautiful highway in, say, Michigan. At least that’s how it seems.

Folks who occupy the vast prairie lands of Kansas are extremely intelligent people who no doubt said to themselves, “Those people out there on that long stretch of interstate are going to be bored. How can we make money while fixing that for them?” And that’s exactly what they set out to do. So as you travel across Kansas you will be enticed by signs that suggest you visit the Dwight D. Eisenhower Center, tour the boyhood home of Walter P. Chrysler, learn history while you explore the Museum of Independent Telephony, stop to see a 24’ X 32’ rendition of a Vincent Van Gough painting (next to the town’s eating places, of course), and detour over to The Garden of Eden with its “visionary sculptures created from concrete and native post rock.”

If heading east to west, by the time travelers can see Oakley in the distance they are bound to be dog-tired and have totally worn-down defenses. This is where the sign that points to the World’s Largest Prairie Dog appears along the roadside. And this is apparently where negative author, tired of nagging wife and irritating kids, gave in to temptation and paid to see a huge “prairie dog” constructed of concrete.

But lest you think I don’t appreciate the I-70 corridor and the trip across the plains, there is a Kansas “gem” that I think anyone traveling that route should take the time to stop and see. The sign before the little town of Victoria announces that the Cathedral of the Plains is located there. Only a minute or two from the highway, anyone taking the time to do so will find a beautiful early twentieth century Romanesque design church that seats over a thousand people. This beautiful structure, constructed with native limestone blocks, has towers that are 141 feet tall, and it features amazing German stained glass windows and works of art, Austrian hand-carved Stations of the Cross, and an Italian marble altar.

So you don’t need to take a trip to Europe, or even to New York City, to see a beautiful cathedral. The next time you motor across Kansas on Interstate 70, just pull off at Victoria and tour majestic Saint Fidelis (open to the public from dawn to dusk).


Natural Healing

The doctor said it - out loud, “Osteoarthritis.” I know I’m much too young to have arthritis, but apparently, even though he had my chart right there in his hand, he didn’t pick up on that fact. Okay, so the knees hurt, especially when I need them to help me get out of a chair. But, arthritis? I’m just too young!

That was week one. At year one I had to face facts and I went to my trusted friend, the internet. There I discovered that a person suffering from osteoarthritis will find much relief with a drastic change of diet. So, weighing giving up my favorite foods and lifetime eating habits against the restless nights and pill-popping, I decided to try healing by controlling what goes into my mouth. More accurately, by what is not allowed to go into my mouth.

The “can’t have” list for those with osteoarthritis includes potatoes, white flour, milk with any fat content that would distinguish it from water, beef, pork, sugar, butter, excess salt, vegetable fats, coffee, alcohol, and tobacco.

I don’t use alcohol or tobacco, but I definitely had to think long and hard about the coffee. My habit won. (Well, as long as I’m confessing, maybe also the beef.) How could my knees possibly know if I had only a couple of cups of coffee a day and a little beef once in a while?

The “can have” list reads much like a vegetarian’s dream: raw vegetables, cooked greens and carrots, sweet potatoes, avocados, sprouts, brown rice, whole wheat products, oats, barley, sea weed, soy products, and, occasionally, chicken, salmon, herring, or tuna. The drink of choice on this diet is green tea.

Bravely, I plunged in, and for the first meal I had an egg white omelet with spinach, avocado, artichoke hearts, and feta cheese. (I think the cheese was legal since the healing website said nothing about avoiding sheep’s or goat’s milk.) Since then I have had many interesting dishes and combinations.

Apparently the diet to relieve osteoarthritis works because my knees have much less pain when I call on them for support. But in the future what may be hurting is my wallet. At the very least I’m going to have to shop for new jeans. This arthritis diet plan needs to have a warning that reads, “Caution, this osteoarthritis diet may cause weight loss.” Though I’m sure that extra ten pounds had nothing at all to do with my knees hurting, I’m glad I am no longer having a reaction to those “can’t have” foods.

Now, where can I find jeans made in the USA?


Super Grandma

Most of the grandmas I know adore their grandkids. When my children where young, my mother carried in her purse a little photo album with gold letters on the front that read, “Grandma’s Brag Book.” And that she did. Whenever she was with friends who had not yet seen her grandchildren, out came the little book for a brag session.

This and all of the special things my mother did for her ten grandchildren created the model that I think of when I think of a remarkable grandma. But a little over two years ago, my sister became a grandmother, and she has taken the role of grandma to a whole new level.

While most of us grandmas frequent Borders and Barnes & Noble to find the latest children’s stories and their accompanying stuffed representations of the characters, that isn’t good enough for Sis. She, herself, had to become the author/illustrator/photographer in order for the book to be special enough for Carter, her handsome little grandson.

The first step in my sister’s writing career was to enroll in a class to learn to write Children’s Fiction. The expectation for this class was that students produce an age-appropriate book and have it ready for publication within a specified time frame. It was at this stage in her new career that shades of the past crept into Sis’s thinking as she recalled what it was about college instructors that made her crazy.

As Sis attended classes, I received regular updates from her on the progress of the book. I heard about the frustrations of learning to draw illustrations, the challenges of taking and choosing photographs of Carter that exactly pictured the message of the text, and the aggravations related to page layouts.

After several months, the new book was complete and Sis’s creation went to press. Then, on Valentine’s Day, her book was presented to her special little Valentine. On the title page was the picture of a beautiful red apple that was taken during a fall trip to an orchard, along with the words, “O-Shaped Apples and Other Round Things, by Grandma Ilene.”

Capitalizing on her grandson’s knowledge of letters and his special fascination with the letter, “O,” Sis created a delightful story about Carter exploring his world and finding o-shapes everywhere from the hole in his donut to the wheels on a big red fire truck.

So hat’s off to Sis for earning the title, “Super-Grandma,” and for becoming the star student in her fiction writing class. (The instructor now uses her book as a model for his incoming students.)

On page 3 of Carter’s book, he has just discovered that it is raining and he will not be able to go to the park. Love those big, beautiful, blue eyes!

Grandma Ilene - Author, Illustrator, Photographer



Evolution does occur. I know this based on years of observation. One of the things I have watched evolve over the years is the way Hubby shops for my gifts. Receiving gifts from Hubby is always a wonderful event but, in addition, it is also an interesting process.

As newly-weds, our budget for purchasing gifts was what one might call paltry. Housing, food, transportation, college tuition, and clothes on backs took priority over gifts for any occasion. So, during those years, Hubby consulted with me and we made joint purchases of inexpensive “gifts” for our home.

As good fortune would have it, that phase of gift-giving was short-lived and, subsequently, I received a variety of lovingly-chosen gifts including, but not limited to, beautiful suits and dresses, shoes, and place settings of my china. Sometimes Hubby made the choices by himself, but often he purchased gifts for me in consultation with our children. I always loved the gifts I received regardless of whether they were chosen by him alone or with the kids on a stealth shopping trip. (And I am extremely grateful that he never gave me a garden tiller for Mother’s Day. Yes, I had a long-ago acquaintance who purchased such a gift for his wife. Soon after, he was single.)

When all of our children flew from the nest and our household again became a two-person abode, I started unwrapping boxes that contained jewelry, cologne, and items to add to my collections. This empty-nesters’ phase was a great period in the evolving process of gift-giving. However, this year at Christmas-time, Hubby’s method of choosing gifts for me evolved to what I consider to be the ultimate phase in gift-giving. He has now become totally clueless about what to give me as a gift and asks what I want.

I’m sure I felt much like a little kid whispering in Santa’s ear as I told Hubby I would really like to have cologne for Christmas. But this revelation presented Hubby with another dilemma. What kind? So he asked me that very question. Thinking that some element of surprise should probably be a part of opening my gift, I wrote the names of two of my favorite colognes on a piece of paper, thus creating a “shopping list” from which he could choose.

When the big day arrived, Hubby proudly handed me a beautifully wrapped box that was much bigger than needed to hold either of the colognes on my list. I don’t think there is even a bottle of cologne that big on the market. Now curious as to whether he might have misplaced my list and tried to wing it from memory, I carefully removed the bow and paper and peeked inside. Imagine my surprise when I discovered both colognes, plus two additional related items, surrounded by pretty tissue paper.

So why, you might ask, were all of these items in my package? The story played out this way: Since Hubby didn’t know which cologne I liked best, he decided to cover his bases by getting both. Enter helpful saleslady in the cosmetics department. Using her knowledge of driven male-types and their innate compulsion to snag the best deal, said lady convinced Hubby that it would be a much better value if he took a packaged set that included not only a bottle of cologne, but shower gel and lotion as well. Bless those pretty ladies who work on commission and charm husbands!

But I should get off of the computer now. I have a birthday coming up soon and I need to make my list. You can trust me when I tell you that my list will contain more than two items!