December 2010


Today is my birthday. I’m old. I’m not quite old enough to retire, but I’m still old.

to me.

When I was a little girl, I was going to grow up and be a nurse. One year for Christmas, I got the nurse’s cap and cape along with a bag full of medical supplies. I was on my way to a brilliant career in nursing.

When I began college, I was the daughter and sister of a teacher and thought perhaps, I could become a teacher, too. Since I have always loved words (bet you couldn’t figure that one out) I believed I could become an English teacher. The more I thought about that, the less appealing it became to me. The thought of teaching Shakespeare to high school Juniors was enough to make me look once again at nursing.

I graduated from my nursing program when Craig was 13 weeks old. I passed my State Boards on the first try, even though I had this colicky baby at home with me. However, I didn’t begin to work right away. Instead I struck up a deal with my sister. Pam would teach a year and I would babysit Jennie and then I would go to work and she would babysit Craig.

After a year, I went to work and worked as a nurse for over 20 years. I worked at five different hospitals and one nursing home in the years I worked as a nurse.

I also worked as a data entry person. I worked with a company that filed Permanent Partial Impairment Claims for the Bureau of Workers Compensation reports. I learned a whole lot of stuff about computers while doing this. In fact, I became so interested in computers, I went back to college.

I got another miniature associate degree, this time in computer networking. With that degree and my years of experience working with computers and actually spending a year as a computer technician, I took a job teaching high school students. I didn’t have to fight about reading Shakespeare. I taught them how to use Microsoft Office.

From there I moved to becoming the entire technology department for a school servicing students from Preschool through grade 8. I was responsible for setting up a whole new computer lab and that was really fun. I learned a lot about Macs, too. I even fixed one by removing the hard drive and smacking it sharply with screwdriver handle. I had never fixed a computer like that at the college, so it was fun, too.

My next shift came when we moved to South Carolina. I took a job as a substitute teacher, but that  was pretty terrible. I eventually took a secretarial job at the local community theater. I worked there for a year and then opted to become a stay at home wife.

I began writing more but it was still quite boring and when another secretarial job opened up, I asked to be considered. I was hired and have worked as a secretary again for more than a year.

When I look back at my adult life, I see things I didn’t do. My plan, after working as a nurse for a while was to go back to school and eventually teach nursing. I obviously never did that. Instead, I did a variety of other things. Some of the decisions were marvelous; some weren’t quite so right on the money.

When I look back, the smartest thing I did was marry Dick and then have two great kids. From that brilliant stroke of luck, I’ve also gotten four grandchildren. The jobs I’ve held are markers across the decades, but my home life is really what makes all the other stuff worth the bother.

 

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Planning ahead is one of my strong points. I do not like surprises and therefore take great pains to try and reduce the number of whimsical events in my life. I do this by planning.

Approaching with the speed of light - the new year

Since it is the end of December, I have a sneaking suspicion a new year will be starting soon. I’m not one for resolutions. I’m a firm believer in the Yoda Philosophy, “Do or do not; there is no try.” I don’t resolve or try to lose weight. I either commit to an exercise routine or not. I either monitor my food intake or not. I can’t give up smoking since I’ve never smoked. I will not even consider giving up chocolate.

I began writing Little Bits of History (where is was called Patti’s Parenthetical Past) for Really Good Quotes (RGQ) a long time ago. It may be five years now. My first essays  were really just paragraphs and the quotes. But then I started writing a bit more  and then a bit more than that. I ended up with three paragraphs and three quotes. I wrote three essays per week, for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

I asked Bruce, then owner of the e-zine, who owned the copyright to my work and he assured me that I retained rights.

So I began to dream of publishing the essays/quotes. I would create a book or maybe sell them to newspapers. I would have to fill out the work and write 365 or 366 per year. I started with my earliest piece (scroll way down) and turned it into a four paragraph (the link is the same date as it appears on Little Bits of History) work and found an extra quote. I wrote essays for each day of the year.

I can write without much problem. It isn’t always brilliant or even mediocre, but it is writing and I do it with relative ease. Marketing what I write is a whole different problem and I’m not up to the task. So I started a blog and decided to give my writing away for free. At least some people might read it. Maybe.

Someone noticed my blog and suggested I write for Examiner.com. I got lured in and actually made some money from my writing – although not very much. It was marginally better than giving it away for free. And there was some good from it. This is where I got the funds to buy my Kindle. And it is where I am getting funds to buy books for my Kindle, so it is all working out.

I continued to write these history essays for over three years at RGQ. Then I was asked to take over writing a lead article once a week and felt “piggy” having two spots in the zine. So I stopped writing the history essays.

I had volume 1 with 366 essays and that is what is posted to my blog, Little Bits of History. I had volume 3 with 366 essays and that is what is posted at Examiner.com. You might wonder what happened to volume 2. Well, that volume only had 3/7 of the essays written. All of the topics are selected and there is even a bibliography saved with links to information to write the essays themselves. But only three essays per week are actually finished.

So I’m planning ahead. I have used the essays on Little Bits of History twice now. I posted them in 2009, new and fresh each day. And then I reposted them in 2010. I really can’t do that again. Once a week, I’m linking to my essays over at Examiner, because they won’t pay residuals to me if I don’t post something new. So I’m basically posting a directory to each week’s essays and they will give me money to buy books for my Kindle.

But I have this partially finished volume 2 sitting on my hard drive. And there is a new year starting. I can promise three new essays each week. I have gotten out of the habit or writing except for this blog. I need to discipline myself enough to write for a few hours each week. Since my topics are chosen and researched already, it should not be that difficult. I need to take up my Yoda stance and just do it. Not to try; simply to do – and produce a new year’s worth of essays.

I also have a volume 4 started. Each and every day written already and simply waiting in the wings. However, that volume is only done up to the middle of August. So, there could be a future to my essay writing. I just don’t have a total handle on what it is quite yet.

 

It’s the night before the night before Christmas and I’m getting so excited. I am hoping that all goes well and we can have the imperfect but totally usual time of a family Christmas.

Children celebrating Christmas

My grandchildren are seven, five, four, and one. Last year was the first year I ever got to spend the day with a grandchild. It was heavenly. She was six months old and really had no idea what was going on. Everything was new and different and every day was special. It was really great that people kept giving her boxes wrapped in all this fabulous and delicious paper. She spent the day finally getting hold of a scrap of paper, getting it to her mouth, and having it taken away.

Regardless of that last bit of mishap, it was still a fun day. At least for all the grandparents as well as the parents who got to watch this small miracle – this tiny child – unaware of much at all but being smothered in love.

It was so much fun to have the Christmas experience as the same time as the rest of the world was celebrating the day.

Every year prior to this, I had a different sort of Christmas. I had a Christmas knowing my grandchildren were having lots and lots of fun – without me. They were far away and I wasn’t able to share the special day. For six years I knew first one, then two, and finally three little people were waking up to the wonder of Santa Claus and being so excited they couldn’t stand it. And not being able to share it.

This year, for the very first time – even though this is the eighth Christmas I’ve been a grandmother – this year I get to have Christmas with all four grandchildren. On the very day of Christmas. Not some second rate thing in January, but on December 25.

I get to see or hear about the wonderful stuff Santa Claus managed on the day Santa Claus managed it.

I’ve tried over the years not to be too disappointed in missing this special day. I know there are limits to what families can do. I’ve tried to be understanding and hope I didn’t whine or cause grief to the parents. It has been very difficult to not ask when I was going to get a turn, but it would have only added more stress to parents who were already stressed out anyway.

I am lucky enough to be able to visit the kids frequently, although it means I spend at least as much time in the car as I do with grandchildren. It is a sacrifice I’ve been willing to make, time and time again. I appreciate having the opportunity, even though it is for a short time.

I would like to report that I’m high minded and don’t mind all this, but it would be a lie. I have actually done the math, calculating how many hours I’ve spent in the car vs. how many hours I’ve spent with the kids and compared that against the “other” family’s car time and kid time. I won on car time, but severely lost on the kid time.

And I always lost Christmas.

I should feel really bad that this year, the “usual” Christmas pattern had to be disrupted. I should feel saddened that the kids couldn’t get to the other house and have time with their other aunts and uncle. But quite frankly, I’m not.

In fact I’m thrilled that I get to have this special day for the first time. The kids will have time with their aunt and uncle AND with their cousin, something they have never done before, either.

So, I’m probably a horrible person for being so happy but I can’t help it. For the very first time, I get to spend Christmas with all of my grandchildren. It should be a miracle sort of day.

 

Bad luck seems to haunt all of us from time to time. Most of my days go smoothly, but there are these sudden valleys into which my Lady Luck descends and pouts.

We have been in a technology vortex here. Dick’s computer was dying and we were able to get it to work in Safe Mode only. We got all his files off the computer and then went out and purchased him a new one. It is much nicer and it fresh and new and should last for a while. We hope so, anyway.

I wanted to see if I could get the old one to work good enough to give to the grandkids so they could perhaps play some simple computer games. That would be fun for them and keep them off their Dad’s expensive Apple, too. That was my hope, but it wasn’t looking too good. I ended up having to do an entire system restore and then spend a day getting hundreds and hundreds of Microsoft updates installed. But it does work right now. It’s still a crappy, old computer but it works enough to play some easy, small kid games.

Kindle just like mine

I love my Kindle. I thought people who were mesmerized by the technology were nuts. I thought it was a marketing ploy, and a good one. I thought I wouldn’t be such a proselytizer. I never dreamed I would preach the Gospel of Kindle. However, I love my Kindle.

I love the feel of it in my hand. I love the ease of getting books. I love the entire experience of reading on my Kindle. I’ve begun reading books again because they are on the Kindle. I have even figured out an income stream to help me pay for books on my Kindle.

There is a program that turns non-Kindle files into something the Kindle will work with and that program is free. I have it on my computer. I cannot get text books from the library and use them, but I can get text books from the library, convert them with Mobi, and then put them on my Kindle, theoretically anyway.

I have figured out how to get books from the Internet, but not Amazon, and move them via the computer to the Kindle. They work that way, but they were already formatted in a Kindle friendly way. I have to work on getting my intermediary step done and then I can even use the library, all from the comfort of Command Central.

So, I was reading my Kindle at work yesterday and enjoying a book called Stupid Christmas. It was time to go home and so I packed my belongings up, stopped at the grocery store, got home and was ready for a lovely evening.

We went to a neighborhood party and had a wonderful time. This is another story and I may write about it at a later date. We got home and I was tired, but still too keyed up to just fall asleep.

I got into bed and turned on my Kindle to read. Well, I tried to turn on my Kindle to read. The pretty picture that is its sleep screen was showing, but it wouldn’t open my book. It is supposed to have a longer battery life than this, but … I would plug it in and then read.

I tried that. Nothing happened. But I really was tired, so I left it plugged in and just fell asleep. That would teach the dumb thing, I thought.

This morning, I powered up the Kindle. Well, I tried. Nothing happened. I plugged it into a different outlet thinking perhaps that plug was broken or something. Later that same morning, nothing happened again.

I looked all over Amazon and finally found a number to call. I called it even though it was only 7:20 AM. I had less than a minute to wait to talk to someone right here in America. I explained that my Kindle was just sitting here doing nothing and wouldn’t turn on. I was told how to power start it and that worked.

Then, the helpful woman on the other end of the  phone told me how to update my software. I explained that my Kindle was only two weeks old, but … there was indeed a software update. For some reason, it doesn’t check for this and update automatically. So she walked me through how to get it done. I did it and my Kindle is now the perfect little toy it was when I first opened the box.

I love my Kindle. And the help person was actually, truly, really helpful.

 

The “Don’t ask; don’t tell” policy of the United States armed forces is being repealed.

Quite frankly, I do like half the policy. I like the “don’t ask” part as I feel unless you are seeking a date with someone, their sexuality is really none of your dang business.

I have been in any number of jobs, none of them in the sex trades. So my sexuality is of absolutely no consequence. Whether or not I’m straight, gay, bi, or all of the above in some alternating pattern is no one else’s business. Unless we are dating.

There have been armies and wars and all this nonsense since time immemorial. I’m watching a Great Course on the History of War and the Great Battles fought in millennium past. I also just finished reading Sunzi’s book, The Art of War.

Fallen soldiers - they all look the same here

There have been campaigning men wandering about the globe trying to conquer and pillage since the first guy looked over there and saw something he wanted for his own and could convince a group of guys to go and get it with and for him.

Since the percentage of non-heterosexual people seems to hold constant across the globe and across time, certainly in all these groups of guys going off to kill and pillage there were some gays. There have been stories of some spectacular battles filled with brave men who held the line or sacrificed their lives for the common effort. And in those stories, I’m sure there are any number of gay or bisexual men.

Not all armies could afford to support the camp followers filled with wives and children as well as prostitutes and loose women. And men after battle weren’t always in a position to rape with the pillage, especially if the battles were fought in large fields away from a city. So what were they going to do? What do you think they did? I’m guessing they either took care of business by themselves or turned to their comrades in arms and became more “in arms.”

All I can say to any of this is, “Who cares?” As we learn more about history, there is various speculation about who was or wasn’t gay. Why does this matter?

I don’t see why it matters now or why it mattered then. Someone’s sexuality is perhaps a pervasive and inclusive part of their life, but it isn’t what most of us are known for. I guess if one was using his/her sexuality to influence the outcome of whatever major work they dedicated their lives to, it would matter.

But overall, who someone is sleeping with – unless you are one of the people he/she is sleeping with – is of no import. I don’t care, you don’t need to care. Don’t ask.

However, if you want to tell, go ahead and tell. Tell all you want. Sing it from the mountaintops for all I care. You are valuable as a US soldier not because of your bedroom activity, but because you are willing to accept the horrible jobs involved in wars.

If you are not a soldier, but perform some valuable service for the greater good of society – that is if you are a participating member of the tax base or some such ideals as “important” work – if the world is a better place because you are here and helping create improvements – who in the world needs to care about your preferences for sexual partners (as long as you leave the underage children alone). And if you are some creep, you won’t be redeemed by being heterosexual. Sexuality doesn’t make or break the deal on usefulness. Making the world a better place is all that matter and most of us do that outside our bedrooms.

Two adults are free to interact in whatever ways they see fit, in my opinion. It is no one else’s business. However, if the person chooses to advocate for a better treatment of all citizens regardless of sexual orientation, for goodness sake, let them.

Peace on Earth would be great. Acceptance of differences is part and parcel of creating a peaceful planet. Live and let live. It is really none of your business. Unless, of course, you are being asked for a date.

 

Basket of Pretty is part of the Opalmine Publishing network and a place I have befriended on Facebook. They post something pretty often. Perhaps it is each weekday or just as the mood strikes. I don’t know for sure.

I went to their site and found my prompt for today’s post. I was having difficulty coming up with something to write about that didn’t have me spewing invective. I wanted something light and not the swirling masses of darkness I had percolating. So I thought of this space and opted to go with this as a beginning point.

Beautiful pink roses

Samantha sat in front of the window looking out over the hills falling away from the farmhouse she called home. She held a steaming cup of coffee cradled in both hands. Her eyes peered into the distance, hoping to see a trail of dust coming up the long drive.

A delivery truck had snaked its way to her door earlier in the afternoon. Some chipper young man, probably not more than a teenager really, stomped up to her front door and pounded too loudly. It irritated Samantha. The loud noise and the intrusion. She was busy pouting and didn’t want to be disturbed.

But she was too curious to not answer the door. Besides, the kid was pounding for the second time creating even more noise and further irritation. She went to the door and tried to plaster at least a fake smile on her face. It wasn’t working well.

She opened the door and there was a tall, gangly teenager holding a vase full of beautiful pink roses. His clumsy, large hands were partially crushing the pink ribbon tied at the narrow portion of the vase. His smile was real and his eyes were dancing.

“Somebody sure thinks a lot of you,” he said as he handed over the vase.

Samantha blinked rapidly and nearly dropped the heavy glass. Her smile turned real and she buried her face among the dozen blooms and inhaled. “They smell wonderful,” she said so low the kid was straining forward to hear her words.

“Well,” he said as he turned, “have a great day and enjoy your flowers.” He walked quickly back to his still running truck and hopped in. He slammed the door as he popped the gears into reverse and quickly drove out of Samantha’s life.

She stood in the door transfixed. She smelled the flowers again, breathing deeply and sighing out loud. She watched the retreated cloud of dust as the truck disappeared into the wide world out there. Quiet once again descended.

Samantha took the flowers into the house and gently shut the door. She looked around her tiny living room for a spot to set them down. The end table next to Dan’s easy chair was also just to the left of the window. She placed them there.

After setting them down, she took the card from the little plastic holder. She opened it and found written in a feminine hand. “Love always. Happy anniversary. Dan.”

She thought back the fifty-two years and remembered the strong, tall, young man Dan had been. He had been her one true love. The person she could always depend on. The man of her dreams. They had raised three sons and a daughter together. They had nine grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. They had run this farm and been successful for over fifty years.

She looked out of the window again and searched for the cloud of dust. She waited patiently for her daughter, Darcy, to drive back to the farm. She saw the fine trail of dust coming and set her coffee cup down.

Samantha didn’t know how the flowers were paid for. She didn’t understand how for the first time in fifty-two years she was getting flowers. Now, when everything was so bleak. She plucked one beautiful long-stemmed pink rose from the vase and went to the door.

Darcy hurried up to the door to help her mother to the car. She saw the pink rose and asked, “Where did you get that?”

“Your father sent it to me. I want to show him how beautiful they are.” Mother and daughter walked slowly to the car and Darcy drove to the cemetery so her bereft mother could visit her dad on this special day.

 

Technology is our friend, but it sure makes a lot of work for us. At least it has made a lot of work for me. Dick’s computer was a cheap thing that wasn’t going to be used for much of anything. It was three years old and pretty dang tired of the whole thing. It stopped just being sluggish and got all the way to not doing anything.

Burning a CD, but this isn't what I did yesterday

When he reported this to me, I asked if this meant he was telling me he wanted a new computer. He hemmed and hawed. We tried a couple things with the old computer and it was cranky. It keeps saying the disk is full and it doesn’t want to play anymore.

We moved his most precious files off his computer while it was still working. There were a few documents and spreadsheets of importance, but most of his files were pictures. He doesn’t take nearly as many pictures as I do and he still had folders and folders of the things. He had 1.35 GB of pictures.

I was going to burn them to a CD from his computer, but it was only working in Safe Mode and wouldn’t do that much. So we moved his wanted files to a 2 GB memory stick and then went shopping for a new computer. We also went shopping for other things and after we got home, he got busy learning how to set up a computer.

On the way home, I mentioned that one doesn’t need a computer degree to set up a computer. It is all “follow the prompts” and I was sure he could do this himself. I would assist as needed. I had to find a WEP key for him but then he got connected to our wireless router and once that happened, he could get himself over to the wireless printer. He was doing great.

He loaded Office 2007 by himself, but even I had problems getting Outlook to like our ISP. I then asked what he wanted to do with the pictures. We don’t really go back and look at them. Each year, I make scrapbooks for the kids, but when I do that, I print out the pictures for us to keep, too.

But he didn’t want to really just throw all the pictures away. What to do? We both have DVD burners, but I only had blank CDs. I suppose I could have bought some blank DVDs and burned to those, but I didn’t think of it (and I’m too cheap).

I could burn his pictures to two CDs, but I did it wrong and ended up with three. It wasn’t a big deal and I was done. Then I looked at my computer. I had a bazillion or more pictures on my computer. I did have them arranged nicely. Each year was in its own folder and each month was separate and each visit in the month was separate (this is because of naming conventions).

And I had far more than 1.35 GB of files. I had more than 1.35 GB of files for each of the last three years. I was going to have CDs coming out of my ears. So I went through each folder, opened the pictures in  Microsoft Picture Manager, selected all, went to the edit menu, and resized them to 640 x 480. Then I had to save them. And then went to the next folder and did it again.

After doing that for each folder, I had a year’s worth of pictures saved in less than 500 MB and a CD holds 704 MB. I could save each year on its own CD.

That doesn’t sound so bad, but it took me nearly six hours to do each folder and save it. I ran in to some technical snafu that meant some of the files didn’t save right and I had to redo them. I figured out how to not make that happen again. On the last year, once I got down to enough space on the CD, I didn’t shrink the rest of the files.

But I got three year’s worth of pictures – thousands and thousands of pictures – on three CDs. Then I deleted the files from my computer. Thousands and thousands of files deleted. This set up my computer to be a mess, so the next thing to do was defrag the hard drive. I did set that in motion and then went to bed.

This morning, my computer is nice and neat. The CDs are stored and more than likely will never be looked at again. But I couldn’t stand to think of throwing out all those pictures. Some of them, taken by small children really should have just been thrown out as I downloaded them to the computer. But, it is done and it took a whole day.

So this morning, with nothing to do, I finally figured out how to get books I’ve downloaded to my Kindle. Gutenberg Press has a format friendly to Kindle and I had saved several books to my computer. But I kept thinking it was going to be too hard to get them to the Kindle. So six books sat here, mocking me for four days. I plugged the wire into the Kindle and into the netbook and it found some software to install.

It was all ready, what did I want to do? I asked to see the files, found where books were stored on the Kindle, dragged the books I had saved to my hard drive over. That was it. I have the books now on my Kindle.

Technology really is my friend. Making it all work together isn’t always easy, but how much easier than doing it all by hand.

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