Friday, April 18, 2014

To Live and Die … Where?

        When I was a kid, the decision about where to live was easy ─ anywhere but my parents'house.
        After two years of marriage, the decision became more complex. In addition to needing to live far enough from our parents to keep them from meddling in our lives, we cared about job opportunities, apartment prices, and reducing the time we spent in traffic every day. We hated leaving New York City, but in the late sixties, suburban Maryland met our needs.
        Eight years later, we had two kids and a mortgage. Vietnam and Watergate had left us desperate to get as far from Washington as possible, and we’d discovered that 250 miles from our parents wasn’t far enough. Our first thought was to leave all that as far behind us as possible, but our query to the immigration people in Australia was not well received ─ they already had their fill of disillusioned Americans.
        In the seventies, easterners dreamed about Colorado and California, but Denver didn’t have an ocean nearby, and southern California was…well…southern California. San Francisco no longer basked in the glow of the Summer of Love, it was horrendously expensive, and its traffic was as bad as New York’s. Ironically, our obsession to leave Washington as far behind us as possible took us to another Washington.
        Life in Seattle was wonderful, but after eleven years there, our parents had retired from meddling and we felt the need to be closer to them as they aged. Entering our forties, we were far more career conscious than we had been, and to our utter shock, returning to Maryland was the obvious answer. Despite its unpleasantly evolving climate, high taxes, worsening traffic, and the corrosive effect of being so close to our ever more dysfunctional government, the last twenty-nine years here have been fine. But our kids wound up in California and Florida, most of our friends are moving on, and we’re both retired. Once again, we have to decide where we want to live.
It’s funny how things change. We’re fortunate in most ways. Our forty-nine year marriage is alive and well, our financial advisors tell us we never have to worry about money again, and we’re grandparents. We can go anywhere we want. We can have multiple residences if we wish. We want very badly to watch our grandson (and his future siblings) grow up, but we’ve learned to balance that with never making our kids feels like they need to escape from us.

Now, the decision about where to live has taken a strange turn. It’s starting to look more like finding the best place to die, or at least put off dying as long as possible. Maryland has the best concentration of quality health care in the world. We’re both healthy, and it’s hard to contemplate giving that up, but the seemingly endless winter of 2014 and gradually encroaching arthritis made it clear that this will be a decision year.

Last month, MarketWatch published an article called “The Worst U. S. States to Die In”. Not very grammatical, but informative. It turns out that we live in one of only two states that have both estate taxes and inheritance taxes, and Maryland has the third lowest estate tax exemption in the country. California and Florida have neither, and Florida doesn’t have a state or local income tax. But Florida has swamps and one of the worst health care systems in the country, and California has earthquakes, serious drinking water problems, and a bone-crushing tax structure. California has rattlesnakes and Florida has pythons and alligators, but they both have warm days and miles of beaches.
Why isn’t the choice ever easy?

AlanZendell spent more than thirty years as a scientist, aerospace engineer, software consultant, database developer, and government analyst, writing really boring stuff like proposals, technical papers, reports, business letters, and policy memoranda.  But trapped inside him all that time were stories that needed telling and ideas that needed expression, so with encouragement and cajoling from a loving baby sister he plunged into fiction.  Since then, he has written mostly science and extrapolative fiction with three-dimensional characters.  It’s the things they believe in and how much they’re willing to invest to preserve them that make a story worth telling.  It’s convincing interactions and well-researched credible plots that make a story worth reading. And, of course, like any writer, Alan loves having an audience.  You may find Alan’s books here.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Max and Maisie’s Favorite Rose Bush

      My grandmother, May “Maisie” Berthelson, was Brooklyn-born, Brooklyn-bred and Brooklyn-married, but she moved to Vermont with my parents right after World War II. The Thomas E. Dewey Thruway had claimed the land upon which her cherished home in Ardsley, New York was built. One of Maisie’s favorite possessions was her mother’s rose bush that always came alive in June with little blossoms that were either pink or white. Her mother, Ellen Parsons, had bought the rose bush back in the 1870’s with her first paycheck as a parlor maid.                              
    Rather than leave that beloved planting behind when her parent’s brownstone was sold, Maisie dug it up and moved it with her to the home her husband built for her on Nepperhan Avenue in Ardsley, New York up in Westchester County.  Then in the 1940’s Maisie gave the rose bush one final move to her daughter’s home in Arlington, Vermont . Her tolerant and kindly son-in-law gave her permission to plant her beloved roses in the place of honor next to the garage. He even built a small wooden fence around it and wrapped the stem in burlap late each autumn to survive the cold Vermont winters. Within one season, the rose bush was in full bloom.
   And then there was Max. Our nearest neighbors in Arlington were the Rudds who were the kindest and best people to have living next to us on our old dirt road. Mr. Rudd plowed us out when the snows fell deeply and Mrs. Rudd always remembered us at the holidays with special gifts that we loved. Whenever they stopped at our house for a visit, their beautiful brown boxer, Max, sat politely between them. Max had perfect manners, listened carefully to Mr. Rudd’s commands, but he had a thing for Maisie’s rose bush. When people were engaged in conversation, Max would slip over to the rose bush and carefully lift his leg for a quick “pee”. Mr. Rudd would correct him and Max would look sad and repentant, but the next time the Rudds came for a visit, Max would hurry over to Maisie’s treasured plant and quick take a “pee” before anyone noticed.
     My parents sold their farm in 1980 just after Maisie passed away and I didn’t bring myself to drive down our old dirt road for years after that, but wouldn’t you know it, I drove by my old house last summer and there was Maisie’s rose bush, blooming away, just where she planted it nearly seventy years ago.  The owners weren’t home so I helped myself to a few blooms just for memory’s sake. Why? I recalled that Max had died at the very old age of 15 and was buried with the Rudd’s other pets in back of their farmhouse. I stopped by to say hello to the Rudd’s grandson, now the owner of their farm, and left that bouquet of Maisie’s roses in the spot where Max was buried. Seemed a good thing to do.


Alice DiNizo was raised in Vermont in those golden years just after World War II ended. She grew up in ArlingtonVermontwhere Norman Rockwell lived at that time with his family. She swam with her friends in the Battenkill River which flowed under the covered bridge that faced his home. Moving to New Jersey over forty years ago was an interesting experience for Alice, who writes under her cat’s name, J.B. But tough old girl that she is, she’s learned to love her adopted state and enjoys writing stories about it. She also reaches into her memory and writes stories about her family and childhood experiences. She lives at the New Jersey shore with her husband, dog and cats and contributes on a regular basis to GeezerGuysandGals.com.

Friday, April 4, 2014

My daughters and I love Nordstrom Rack. But when we shop there, I don't listen to their advice anymore. They want me to look contemporary, but have failed to take my middle-aged body into account. 

In the dressing room they laughed at my ugly, euphemistically named "Classic" style panties. "Oh, Mom! You need hipsters."  Well, I used to wear hipsters, back when they didn't subdivide my belly into two distinct rolls instead of just one. 

My torso is shaped like an apple, with the equator where a waist ought to be. When I shopped with the girls, I used to buy too many pair of cute pants that hit below the bulge, with nothing to hang onto. So they slid, and left too much backside uncovered. They were both uncomfortable and unbecoming. 

To fix that problem, one of them talked me into trying Spanx. They're manufactured out of industrial strength elastic that could restrain a large circus animal. It was a two-woman operation just to get them pulled up. And heaven help me if I needed to peel them down by myself. 

Then one day, I let them wander and I stumbled across a rack of pants whose label called out to me. "Not Your Daughter's Jeans."



  They fit my middle aged body without looking stodgy. They advertise "Lift Tuck Technology", a panel across the front that pulls in my tummy. They're stylish and made of good quality fabric in great colors. I like the way I look and feel when I wear them. My daughters approve.   

And each pair makes me laugh. The label says:






How many times do you come out of a dressing room laughing?



Thank you, NYDJ. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

What you learn in your 60s

I'm Happy Just to Dance with You


So many 50th anniversaries of Baby Boomer milestones to celebrate these days, from the Beatles appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show fifty years ago to President Kennedy's assassination. And expect a lot more, since the Baby Boomer generation spans 18 years of history (1946-1964). Moreover, in 2014 all boomers, even the youngest ones born in 1964, are passing the 50 mark and most boomers are now facing the transition to the second act in their lives.

Time to figure out what the sixties decade means!

Warning: what I’m going to say here is based on my own experience (!). When I left behind a lifetime career at the United Nations, I thought I was going to enter into a wonderful period of R & R (rest and recuperation). Hey, I deserved it! But no, it didn’t pan out. Too much to do. There was my writing, I wanted to revive my childhood dream of becoming an artist. But I hadn’t stopped being a wife, a mother (two grown-up children) and…a daughter. My Mom, 100 years old and still thriving (she reads one novel a week on her Kindle but I'm the one manipulating the ereader to buy them).

So here goes. 
  • The biggest transition is realizing that you're the "sandwiched generation". In spite of all the hype about how rebellious Baby Boomers have changed History, the truth is very different. Most of us are not into politics or big events. We find we are responsible for both our old parents and our children. The parents may not be in their dotage quite yet, but they need care. Our children in some cases may still be toddlers (a result of the fashion for late marriages), but for most of us, they are grown-up. With the on-going recession, chances are they’re home, struggling to find a job. As parents, we are happy to have them around, but it's impossible not to worry about their future.
  • You've finally know the distance between the real world and the ideal one. The distance is big and no one can pull a fast one on you.
  • There may be no "soul mates", you've known there weren't since you were in your 40s, but you can distinguish between your real friends who will help you and those who won't. This is perhaps the most surprising thing: it's still possible to make new friends in your 60s.
  • You learn more about yourself, more than you ever thought possible. The last time you learned so much was back when you were in your late teens and early twenties. That's exhilarating. And frightening. For us writers, that transition to greater self-knowledge is a fantastic fount of inspiration to write novels (indeed, that's what inspired Louis Begley with his About Schmidt series or my own Crimson Clouds, a romance featuring a man who’s just retired).
  • On a lighter note: You see the good side of things more easily than before. You've learned to appreciate the simple things in life and honest friendship - because now you trust your judgment and you know you're not going to live forever. Carpe Diem! Catch the joy in each day and spread it around.
  • On a yet lighter note: Now you can buy those tight jeans, you've learned to control your weight (about time too!)

 About Claude Nougat

She is a writer, economist, painter and poet. A Columbia U. graduate, Claude has held a wide variety of jobs before starting a 25 year career at the United Nations, ending as  FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) Director for Europe and Central Asia.
 
Claude is the author of many books, including two in Italian that won several awards in Italy, and six books in English, all fiction except one essay on development aid; she is considered a prime exponent of Boomer literature. Her latest book, “Crimson Clouds”, is a romance, tracing the passionate search for self by a man who has just retired from a brilliant career and the desperate efforts of his wife to save their 20-year marriage. Her poetry has been included in "Freeze Frame", a poetry anthology curated by British poet Oscar Sparrow and published in 2012 by Gallo-Romano Media.


Claude is married and lives in Italy.


Connect with Claude Nougat:

Her blog about social issues, books and art: http://claudenougat.blogspot.it


 Photo credit: The Beatles, Wikipedia file

Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, March 21, 2014

Olympic Men and Women to Machines

 
Photo: Yahoo.com

OLYMPIC MEN AND WOMEN TO MACHINES
By Courtney Pierce

From daring feats to digital art to drones. My voyage of watching the Olympics over the past forty-five years has followed our progression as humans to a non-human age. We held our breath; our eyes filled with pride and tears, but this time around I watched in fear as these young men and women pushed their bodies to feats programmed on computer models, devised no less by BMW.

But even rocks crack. Witness the decision by Russian skater, Evgeni Plushenko, who inched away from the men’s skating competition because his health was more important than winning another medal. I was riveted.

Photo: Mashable.com
He was human in that moment; a star who wanted to remain one to his fans. After twelve surgeries on his lower back before the age of thirty-one, he will surely be thankful he glided off the ice when he watches himself on an archived video at sixty, seventy, or eighty. It takes a true human to make an Olympian call in defiance of sponsors and country.

I love the emotion of the Olympics. Hundredths of a second separate a hero from a zero, our new measurement of human achievement. Olympic emotion, though, was mostly relegated to the backstory segments, such as those of the U.S. team members, Amanda Bird and Gus Kenworthy, who rescued stray dogs in Sochi to bring them home for a better life. Or the Canadian free skier, Alex Bilideau, taking on air to please his brother with Cerebral Palsy, his true hero. Those are the heart-felt moments we watched off the ice that allowed us to connect as humans.

Remember when millions of women wanted a Dorothy Hamill haircut? We didn't watch the counter; we watched Dorothy. She exuded personality.

And who would dare whack the knee of Nancy Kerrigan, America’s skating sweetheart? One of our own skater’s entourage stood under the camera lights for that unthinkable act in 1994. The stakes rose. Do anything to win. Nancy went on the ice, buoyed with charged emotion from the fans, and won a silver medal. My own knee ached as I watched. Like a thriller, we wanted the bad guy to go down.

Photo: Nextgov.com
This year, I became fascinated with the strange mechanical shadows as skiers soared to new heights on their snowboards in baggy pants. They were drones. The little flying machines recorded the faces in the crowds and followed the Olympians should there be an act of terror. I get it, but geez. Empty seats. Globalization is kind of immobilizing, the opposite result of its goal. Many were too afraid to go to Sochi because of media-infused threats.

There are still thrills and spills to fascinate us. Comcast even had an on-demand selection for those moments on cable: Olympic light. But then my cynicism vanished as the figure skater, "Queen" Yuna Kim of South Korea, sailed across the ice in a near-flawless performance that dropped my jaw with its beauty. Wow! So young to exhibit such mature grace. Yuna didn't seem real.

Photo: Jackson Hole News & Guide
My uncle, Harry Baxter, has been a professional skier since 1938. He didn't make it to the Olympics due to the war in Korea. A hero of a different kind, but an Olympian nonetheless. After more than seventy years on skies, Harry still competes and instructs young hopefuls to be their best. He does it with my bionic aunt, Martha. A major ski event has been named after Uncle Harry: The Harry Baxter Challenge. And in January, 2014, he won his category at the age of eight-four. (Yes, that's a photo of my uncle on his latest winning run!)

Will Evgeni Plushenko be skating at eight-four? I wonder and worry since he experienced so much pain in his final Olympic moments. My uncle is both a hero and a star while he continues to ski. But more than that, Harry’s an example for human athletes in the future: Achieve, live a full life, and continue to follow your passion. The Olympic spirit shouldn't stop at thirty when sponsorship fizzles and fans have gone home to hibernate for four years.

What heartens me is what happens after these Olympics. Some 2014 athletes will come home with rescued canine orphans, give back to the families and friends who supported their journey, and inspire young athletes to be better than they ever dreamed . . . and thrill us with their backstories four years from now.

Here’s to the true Olympic spirit!


Courtney Pierce is a fiction writer living in Milwaukie, Oregon. After a twenty-year career as an executive in the Broadway entertainment industry, she switched her focus from the magic of theater to her passion for writing. Courtney is currently in the Hawthorne Fellows program at the Attic Institute and is Vice President and board member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association (NIWA). Her short story, 1313 Huidekoper Place, was published in the 2013 NIWA Anthology of Speculative Fiction. Her first two novels of a trilogy, Stitches and Brushes, follow the trail of two sleuthing boomers who want a little magic in their lives—and magic what they get when they find a mysterious artifact at an estate sale. Her third book of the trilogy, Riffs, will be published in 2014. For more information, visit Courtney’s blog: www.stitchesthenovel.blogspot.com. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Creaming


By Linda Wood Rondeau


I pulled out my recipe for snicker doodles, an old-time favorite. As I put in the shortening, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla, the recipe said to blend until creamy.

 My mind flashed to when I first learned how to bake, back in the day when cake mixes were a novelty or used for last minute church suppers.


The kitchen was my mother’s paradise and her instructions were gospel. To deter meant banishment from the stove.
First: “Wash your hands. No good cook comes to the kitchen with dirty hands.”
Next: “Now read the recipe, and put all the ingredients on the shelf.”
Third step, to my mother the most crucial in the whole process: “cream the shortening, butter, eggs and sugars.”

I stuck in the rotary beaters, set it on high and splashed wet globs from one end of the kitchen to the other. “Done,” I said.



Mother knew better, knew I was always in a hurry to get to the end of a project. “Nope. It’s too grainy. Set the beater on low, scrape the sides frequently, fold the batter together and repeat. Let time and the ingredients do their magic.”

Reluctantly, I started again, following her directions blowing out my frustration all the while. “This takes too long.” 

“Creaming is the most important step in the whole process,” Mother said. “If you hurry the creaming, the cookies will come out crumbly. Creaming is what makes them chewy and delectable. Don’t rush the creaming. It takes time but the result is worth it.”

I slowed down and watched with wonder as the goo gradually melded into a creamy, light texture, the ingredients transforming before my eyes.

As I carefully creamed for the snicker doodles, Mother’s words came back to me. I thought about our instant society, how we crave immediate results, the growing tendency to hurry through life in the fastest checkout line. In our haste we blunder through the mix of it all, leaving globs of broken dreams in the muck of our speed.


I thought how the creaming principle is true in all the rooms of our lives, not just the kitchen. We tend to rush for the pleasure without enduring the process. God has given us the recipe for a rich, textured life. If we take the time to cream it, not be satisfied with grainy goo or toss it aside because of its unpleasantness—if we repeatedly scrape, fold and beat for as long as it takes, the grimy gook of our shattered hopes will become that creamed foundation that awakens the flavor of our human experience.  


An award winning author, Rondeau’s stories provide a wide assortment of unforgettable characters who journey paths not unlike our own. Her debut novel, The Other Side of Darkness, a novel dealing with PTSD, won the 2012 Selah Award in its category. Her story, It Really IS a Wonderful Life, featuring a war widow, continues to be a best seller in its category. The popular A Christmas Prayer (renamed A Father’s Prayer) reaches an audience for special needs children. Days of Vines and Roses features an estranged couple battling demonic forces. Joy Comes to Dinsmore Street demonstrates the destructive influence of family secrets. Her loved non-fiction, I Prayed for Patience/God Gave Me Children demonstrates how the experience of parenting teaches us what it means to be God’s child.

Contact her through her website, www.lindarondeau.com, or email lindarondeau@gmail.com or through her social media pages: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.  


               


Friday, March 7, 2014

Two Goats, a Falcon, and a Wedding Night in Jail

This is a story that could only happen in the ‘60s. Those days of muscle cars. Days when they threw real rice after a wedding. In some ways it wasn't as bad as the title sounds. In other ways it was much worse.

Our wedding was finally over and my beautiful bride ran beside me through a shower of rice as we hurried to the little blue Ford Falcon with a big V8 engine that, with my best man at the wheel and the maid of honor at his side, would whisk us away from the church. We would outrun those in pursuit to where I had hidden my car at a rest area along the freeway north of town. You know, so it wouldn't be molested by those pesky wedding vandals.

My wife of only a few minutes glanced at me when we jumped into the Falcon. I’d known her since we were kids, so I could interpret the look in her eyes. Let’s get to our car and get out of Dodge. My sentiments exactly.

I had rented the honeymoon suite at a place about 70 miles up the freeway. We just needed to shake anybody following us, get to my car, and drive for an hour up the freeway and … But back to the Ford with us in the back seat.

My best man, and buddy of 15 years, leaned over and whispered something to the maid of honor sitting beside him. They were plotting something. I started to lean forward and listen, but honking horns behind us drew my attention.

As we pulled from the curb, I looked back to see who was honking and got a close-up view of the grill of my uncle’s GTO. Suddenly, losing the chasers became a little dicier. You see, my buddy and I had sat in the back seat of that Goat when my uncle showed us it could hit 100 MPH in quite a bit less than a quarter mile. As he accelerated down the highway, we must have pulled 5 g’s. Couldn't even move my arms. And now that vehicle was chasing us through town.

The little Falcon with its over-sized engine could really scoot, but the Goat was raw power and speed. Realizing this, my buddy tried to shake my uncle by circling blocks and weaving through town on side streets. I looked back. Now another GTO was also in pursuit, hanging close to my uncle’s car.

We were now leading a long procession of vehicles, racing through town with horns blaring.  This was not good. I looked at my bride and caught her gaze just before another sharp turn threw us to our left. Again, her eyes spoke what I was thinking. Our wish to get out of Dodge had morphed to getting out of Dodge alive.

Things had gotten out of hand. I tapped my best man on the shoulder, “Just head for the freeway and get out of town before—“

Too late. Red lights flashed and a siren sounded. My bride tensed beside me as a cop brought our whole procession to a stop, cutting us off.

My best man rolled down the window and put a cheesy grin on his face. I was anxious to get out of town, but I was also anxious to see how he was going to talk his way out of a ticket, because I knew my buddy would try. He always did. But things didn't go like I planned. Not one bit.

The cop, a big, middle-aged guy who had mastered the look of authority and intimidation, stuck his head halfway in the window. Good. He’s going to get right in my buddy’s face. But he didn't.

The cop’s gaze locked onto me and my bride seated in back. I’ll never forget those 12 words that came out of his mouth as he gave us his laser look, “How would you two like to spend your wedding night in jail?”

What do you say as a comeback to a question like that? Maybe something like, “But we would lose the honeymoon suite we rented at—“

“That’s the general idea,” he said in his gruff voice as he raised his eyebrows and stared at me for a moment.

They say patience is a virtue, so I closed my mouth and waited.

Eventually, he pulled his head back and turned to the driver, the guy who had caused all of this. “What in blazes did you think you were doing?”

 “I was just trying to get these two out of town.” My best man used his best imitation of an innocent kid’s voice. But it was a poor imitation by any standard, and I was now hoping he would get a big ticket. He deserved it.

The policeman thumbed over his shoulder in the direction of the hospital. “Do you want to send these two off on their honeymoon or to the morgue in a body bag?”

If there was anything romantic left in this evening, it flew out the window with the mention of body bags.

The cop gave my best man a lecture that seemed to last for an hour. Eventually, the cop’s threats slowed to a trickle, and he looked back at my bride and me again. “I’m going to let you go just this once. But if anyone honks their horn or starts speeding again, you two will spend your wedding night in jail.”

In hindsight, I figured out what the guy was doing. He knew how badly we wanted leave his area of jurisdiction. And he probably knew I could handle my best man better than anyone else and would do so long after the policeman had driven away.

He was right. I threatened to kill my buddy if he didn't drive below the legal limit straight to where my car was parked. Told him I was sitting right behind him, so he wouldn't even see it coming when I wasted him.

In conclusion, my best man drove us safely and sanely to the rest area where I had parked my car. After he exited from the freeway and decelerated into the rest area, the whispering between him and the maid of honor resumed. But only after the Ford Falcon stopped behind my car, pinning it to the curb, did we realize what the whispering was about. The two people in the front seat hopped out … carrying bottles of black shoe polish in their hands.

 H. L. Wegley served in the USAF as an Intelligence Analyst and a Weather Officer. In civilian life he performed research in atmospheric physics. After earning an MS in Computer Science, he worked 20+ years in systems development at Boeing before retiring near Seattle, where he and his wife of 47 years enjoy small-group ministry, grandchildren, hiking on the Olympic Peninsula, snorkeling Maui whenever possible, and where he writes inspirational thrillers and romantic suspense novels. He just released his second novel in the Pure Genius Series from Pelican Book Group, On the Pineapple Express


Friday, February 28, 2014

Customer-Service Nightmare




All I am trying to do is get a deed for a piece of property I own! It’s a long distance from here so I called to get a copy. Thus began my “customer-service nightmare”!

Now, just in case there are any lovely customer-service agents reading this, let me assure you that I’ve had some wonderful experiences – just not this time.

I started off with the management company who sent me the property tax bills. After going through three menu selections and repeatedly hearing “your call is very important to us,” I finally reached live person. Sorry, he didn’t know a thing about deeds so I should call the broker company – whatever that is – who handled the paperwork. He kindly gave me the phone number and told me to have a nice day.

So…I dialed that number. A couple menus and a disconnect later, someone answered my very important call. No, they didn’t have the deed. They were sure they’d mailed a copy to me. Sorry, they don’t keep copies. Perhaps I should check with the management company…do you see the trend?

By then I was a bit frazzled so I decided to wait until the next day.



With renewed confidence, I gave it another try. I started off with the broker company. It rang and rang. Finally a recording told me it was searching for the party I was calling. Searching? More ringing, listening to some really bad music; I stood my ground. Another recording, only this time I had the privilege of leaving a message and someone would get back to me. I left a message, figuring I’d never hear from them again.

Well, miracle of miracles, my phone rang a couple hours later. A nice young man who sounded about twelve years old assured me that they’d sent me the deed. I explained that I’m a super organized person and, if they’d sent it, I’d have it. He got a bit testy and told me I should check with the management company because they’d received a copy, too. Hmmmm……

Back to the management company. After a song and dance or two, I got through. I asked for the person I’d talked to the day before and, when I was transferred to her, she remembered our conversation and politely reiterated that they didn’t have a copy of the deed. I remarked how that was strange because the broker company had a record of sending them one. A sputter or two later, she agreed to check again and – voila – there it was! Yes, she would happily put a copy in the mail; it would be no trouble at all. I sweetly thanked her and rejoiced when I received it two days later.

Can you relate? Put on hold, passed around between menus, and dealing with people who act like you’re irritating them by calling.

All of this made me think. My husband never treats me like a nuisance when I call – well, not very often. I have close friends who never put me on hold. Messages I leave are always returned.

And what about prayer? We don’t have to wait on hold, suffering through choir music or listen to a voice inform us that all the prayer-answering agents are busy but that our needs are very important to them.

Family, friends, the Lord. Nice to know someone loves to hear from us!



Sherry Carter is a retired engineer, slowly being reformed into a Bible-study author. She draws on over 30 years experience as a Bible teacher to give depth to her writing. Her first Bible study, Storms of Life, won the 2007 Award of Excellence at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer's Conference. It's available at amazon.com, christianbook.com, or at local bookstores.

She's the grandmother of two perfect children and a sports fanatic (especially the Oklahoma Sooners). She and her husband of 42 years live in west Texas and are servants to their retired-racing greyhound.

Above all, she wants to grow closer to God and to learn from other believers as they travel down this path of faith. Journey along with her by following her blog, Sherry's Light Blog, her Facebook page, and her quarterly newsletter.


Friday, February 21, 2014

KINDLING A LOVE AFFAIR

I never thought I’d want an e-reader.


I was one of those kids who always had her nose in a book.  One of the things I liked about those books was the variety in design—the heft of the Oz books, the slim elegance of Alice in Wonderland. I savored classic drawings by Tenniel and Shepard, end papers with exotic maps, and the occasional volume with deckle-edged pages.  All my life, I have loved the feel—and smell—of a book in my hands.


So why would I trade that for a tiny screen?


Economic necessity, for starters.  As an independent author, I network with other authors.  Many, like me, are not well known.  My local library doesn’t stock their books.  I wanted to read and discuss those books, but the cost of buying them all was prohibitive.  Enter the e-reader—and a world of freebies and low-cost promotions.


I chose an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite because it’s a well-established brand and touted as easiest on the eyes.  (No, Amazon didn’t ask me to say that!)  A friend recommended the Kindle Fire, but I wanted a dedicated reader, not another mini-computer that needs to be charged every night like my smartphone.  Amazon claims the Paperwhite can run eight weeks on a single charge.  That hasn’t been true for me—my usage is probably above average, and I keep Wi-Fi turned on to facilitate downloading.  But I still charge it weekly, not nightly.


I requested the Kindle as a gift for my sixty-sixth birthday.  My husband bought the reader, my son supplied the case, and I solicited gift certificates from others—to buy books, of course!


I love the convenience.  I can read in bed without another light source.  My reader slips into my purse for a solitary luncheon or a stint in my doctor’s waiting room, and I can’t wait to travel with it.  I have the Kindle app on my smartphone, and I switch between e-reader and phone.  The system “knows” how far I’ve read and takes me to the latest page.


I heartily recommend e-readers to my contemporaries.  Best-selling author Anne R. Allen wrote a blog post in December, Why Your Grandma Wants an E-Reader for the Holidays (Even Though She Doesn't Know It).  Ms. Allen cited three physical reasons why e-readers are ideal for older people:  adjustable font sizes, lighter weight, and the ability to download books instantly without traveling to the bookstore or library.  You can read her entire post at http://annerallen.blogspot.com/2013/12/why-your-grandma-wants-e-reader-for.html.


Another thought:  For boomers who are downsizing their homes, an e-reader is an alternative to a library of bulky books.


One of the best parts is discovering a myriad of websites that provide links to free and discounted e-books.  Here are just a few:








In addition, I purchased an Amazon Prime subscription.  One of its many benefits is a free, not yet released, Kindle book every month.  I can borrow a second book monthly.



 
With minimal cost and maximum convenience, I’ve stacked up hundreds of books on my Kindle.  Some are efforts from newbie authors, each hoping I’ll review their book favorably on Amazon and Goodreads.  But others are classics and best-sellers.  I’ve downloaded Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, Stephen King’s The Shining and Doctor Sleep, and the Anne of Green Gables books I loved as a child.


The only problem now is finding time to cook, do laundry, or keep up with my own writing—anything but sneaking off to download and read books. This feels like an illicit love affair.


Have I changed your thinking about e-readers?

***

Linda Lange has never forgotten what it was like to be a teenager living in Green Bay, WI, during the Sixties when Vince Lombardi coached the Packers.  She shared her memories in Incomplete Passes:  Reflections on Life, Love, and Football. The memoir, Linda’s first book, was a finalist in the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.  
A graduate of Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, Linda worked in broadcasting stations and as a copywriter in the advertising sales promotion department of U.S. News & World Report magazine in Washington, DC.  After moving to Cincinnati, OH, in 1983, Linda took on free-lance writing assignments and served on the management team at Save the Animals Foundation, a no-kill shelter for dogs and cats.  She is currently working on a novel with a shelter setting.  Linda has been married since 1969 to Scott Lange, an announcer.
Learn more about Linda at http://lindalange.authorsxpress.com/


Friday, February 14, 2014

A Valentine's Day Twist

The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change."-- Carl Rogers,American psychologist

Many Baby Boomers consider themselves educated. A good thing—we’re in a season of life that requires learning and change. Fighting this exhausts us, so we may as well comply.

But complying is easier said than done—after all, we’ve been trained to remain the same.



How so? Often, the underlying core values we hold dear defy change—don’t rock the boat, keep a stiff upper lip, God helps those who help themselves . . . need I say more?

But I have a boomer friend whose vision encapsulates change and growth—and on this Valentine’s Day, I must add true love.

Her nursing career expanded into Parish Nursing, which melds professional and spiritual care. (Often a hospital and a church share the costs involved.)  A born teacher, she instructed parish nursing classes for seventeen years, and in retirement, has taken on even more taxing ventures.

At seventy-two, she reached out to Pakistani nurses in Pakistan. In 2012, she established a core Parish Nursing community. Now, picture yourself entering an unstable Middle-East society—flying there, making contacts, and creating a foundation for ongoing instruction and care.

What does this have to do with Valentine’s Day? Well, I think St. Valentine would approve—my friend’s effort is all about committed, sacrificial love that reaches out to meet both physical and spiritual needs, especially in impoverished areas.

What has my friend overcome in order to launch this exciting, dangerous project? A lot—her childhood upbringing did not qualify her to attempt such a feat, nor did her years as a victim/enabler married to an alcoholic.

But anyone who bears/rears six children possesses stamina—and that monumental work prepared her for further exploits later in life—as did finding her voice and starting a new life on her own. Al-Anon instructed her, along with her faith’s foundational tenets—but she faced vast changes.

She made them. Succeeded in her career, and initiated compassionate outreach to those on the outskirts of love. The Outskirts of Love—a great book title, eh?

This remarkable woman also has encouraged me in finding my own voice and following my writing passion. Read more about that at my website.

Happy Valentine’s Day—may yours be filled with what St. Valentine would have intended—far more than just flowers and chocolates!





After teaching English as a Second Language and expository writing, Gail Kittleson enjoys her family (married 35 years, two children and two delightful grandchildren) and writing. Her nonfiction (Catching Up With Daylight/WhiteFire Publishing, August 2013) and fiction (World War II era) share a consistent theme—empowerment. Find her book at Amazon and B&N