May 2011


I am dependent on my technology. What time is it? I look at the lower right corner of my computer and there is my clock. Perfect.

What is the temperature? I have a little app on my desktop telling me weather conditions.

What is my phone number? Well, I actually do know my home phone number, but I don’t just hand out my cell phone number to anybody and so … I don’t know it. The other day, I had to actually call the guy behind the car repair place’s desk so he could see my cell phone number to put into their system so they could call me when the car was done.

Someone recently asked me for Dick’s cell phone number. I know it is auto dial 2 on my cell phone. Craig is 3, Joe is 4, Pam is 5, Cheri is 6, Pam’s cell is 7 (although I don’t think I updated that and so it is her old cell phone), Cheri’s cell is 8. And I almost never use my cell to call my sisters because the battery runs out before we are done talking.

Most days, I have my netbook and my Kindle at work with me. Today, I touched neither one except to get them out of and then back into my purse. Some days I use either one or the other at work. Some days, I even use both.

Command Central (with analog clock and old fashioned phone)

At home, surrounding me at Command Central is the personal DVD player, the netbook, the Kindle, and a variety of snack options. That last is probably why I’m not losing weight. I also have my craft basket sitting there so I can crochet while I watch the DVD player usually showing me one of The Great Courses. I’m getting so dang smart.

I have my favorite programs and my favorite web sites. I flit from option to option. I have many of my files out in the cloud so I can access them from the big laptop or the netbook. And with the netbook, I can access them at work or at home. I suppose I could do the same with the big laptop, but I don’t usually take it out of the house. I guess I could buy a desktop if I’m not going to move it around, right?

At work, I have at my disposal a very powerful database that does all sorts of wonderful things. Or at least, it should. We decided to use more of the capabilities included in this powerful program a couple weeks ago.

Because we wanted to use this thing to better our business practices, I began doing what I needed to do to make that all work. And there’s the rub.

When I tried doing what I was supposed to do, it didn’t work. Well, it worked so well it was non-functional for practical purposes. The only thing to do was call the help desk.

Fortunately, the help desk for our corporation is right here in downtown America. So when I call the help desk, I can understand what they say to me and more importantly, they can understand what I say to them. This is a great help when trying to help. We also have the possibility of remote access which works really well.

So I called and thought they would give me some quick fix. That didn’t work. I stumped the first person. The first person was from the “how to” side of the help desk. She sent me to the technical side of the help desk and there was much technical stuff we could try. We could unload and reload the offending system. We did. That didn’t work, but we did it. Finally, after trying all sorts of things, the tech sent me back to the “how to” side where they could “escalate” my case.

I waited two weeks and then called today. I just wanted a status update. The status is it still isn’t fixed.

Every time I try to open a file, which is really important if you want to actually use the files, it tells me it can’t do it because it needs to update. I dutifully say, “OK then, go ahead and update.” It then takes nearly a minute for the screen to appear and tell me there are no updates available.

I believe the biggest part of the problem lies in the version I have. I am supposed to have version 7.1.0.14 and in one place it tells me I actually have 7.1.0.14. Unfortunately, in another place it says my version is 7.1.0.13 and so … I need an update. But I can’t have one because elsewhere I already have the update. But I don’t have the update and so it won’t open the file.

Technology is my friend. I know it is. I use technology all day long. Oftentimes it doesn’t do exactly what I want it to do, but it really is my friend. If it weren’t, I couldn’t post this and I just did.

I live with a HOA but I don’t really much like it. In fact, I barely tolerate it. I knew better, but somehow we needed a house close to a golf course. It is what it is.

This HOA has sent us a nastygram because Dick put the garbage can out four hours early. He was leaving town and helpfully put the can at the curb before he left. The letter arrived and threatened us with a fine if we did this heinous thing ever again.

The HOA sends out a quarterly newsletter once a year or maybe year-and-a-half. Instead of saying anything nice about the residents in the 860 or so homes, it is usually full of rules and regulations and how we must follow them all to the letter.

We actually got a newsletter this spring. In it were admonitions to all home owners here. They were reminded to edge around sidewalks. They were told that lawns must be weeded and mowed regularly. They told us we had to keep our yards looking nice OR ELSE.

Mud below, power lines above. The beauty of a HOA

The above is a community area where the HOA itself is responsible for the look of the island. This roundabout serves no truly useful purpose. It was put there simply to slow traffic down because all the precious children playing PS2 or Wii or Kinect might be frightened by speeding cars outside.

The entryways to the neighborhood are meticulously maintained. They are also expensively maintained. Rather than putting in plants that would survive year round, they plant stuff twice a year, ripping out the previous season’s stuff and slapping in new. It is pretty. It is expensive. It is wasteful.

And then there is this mudheap. There were some plants in this when we first moved in. But there is no irrigation system to it and so the plants all withered and died in the heat. Instead of finding something that could live here, they just ignore it. The boulders and the sickly magnolia are left there because they are terrified that speeding drivers will just ramp over the middle of it, I assume.

We are supposed to have all the drainage ponds aerated as well. They should all have fountains in them to keep them from scumming over and becoming breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other pests. Of course, since the HOA is so busy sending out letters about the important things like garbage cans, this also is still waiting to get done.

They tell me a HOA is supposed to protect property values. I bought this house before the housing market crashed. The market crashed and my property value crashed with it even though the HOA was assiduously collecting my yearly dues and making sure my garbage can was hidden away from sight. They have made sure that there are no FOR SALE signed posted in yards as this is unsightly. Apparently the foreclosure notices pasted inside the windows are not offensive.

The only people who make anything from having HOAs are the people running the HOA and collecting their yearly fee.

I wish these abominations would be outlawed and removed from the planet. They serve themselves and only themselves and idiots like me can’t buy a house without them because they have convinced builders to institute them as they create neighborhoods. Regardless, they are leeches and should be shunned.

I’m reading a book entitled Goal Setting: Discover What You Want In Life and Achieve It Faster than You Think Possible from SelfMadeEasy.com. Other than the ridiculously long title, it isn’t all that bad.

Except for one thing. I’ve never been able to set goals. I have dreams and aspirations, but I have a terrible, horrible, very bad time in trying to set goals. They are either so long-term that the outcomes are not at all clear in the present time (I want to have enough money to retire – which started being a goal when I was in my 30s and I have found now that “enough” isn’t what I used to think it was) or else they are so short-term that it makes little sense to write it down (I want all the laundry done by this afternoon).

Reaching for the moon.

Most of my dreams simply came true. Of course, there was a step-by-step process to reach them, but I didn’t think of them as individual or incremental goals. I wanted to be a nurse. I went to nursing school, graduated, passed my boards, and became licensed. Each of those steps was an intermediate goal, but I just plodded my way through school and then got a job.

When I got tired of being a nurse, I wanted a job where nobody died or puked and bled on me. I have often been told that these negative goals, stating what you don’t want, are bad sorts of goals. But really, when I stopped being a nurse, that’s what I wanted.

When I got my business/computer degree, I was sure I would have a job that would allow me to dress nicely and not have bodily fluids spattered on me by the time I came home. I was correct.

Today, I have a fun job. Even on days when it isn’t fun or when things irritate me, I at least have something to talk about. So even when it is bad; it is good. I like my job. It is part time which is a plus. It is not overly demanding, also a plus. And it is a place where I can go to work nicely dressed and come home without nasty stuff all over me.

While I was in my retirement phase or between jobs, depending on my method of description, I began writing in earnest. I have been having things published for about twenty years now. I started writing the Montgomery Hills section of the Landen Living news magazine put out monthly way back when.

I moved on to other writing ventures and have my stuff plastered in a variety of places now. I would love to have a book published under my own name and I suppose that could be a concrete goal, but frankly I’m too lazy to make that happen.

Instead, I blog. Now there is a spot that would be particularly good for a goal. Little Bits of History is published each day. I have most of the year finished, but not all of the year. I need to keep writing or the time will catch up to me and I will have to have time constraints. I like writing more when it isn’t rushed.

Imperfect Reason has no constraints whatsoever. That’s my problem. I don’t have to do anything with this. I post and a few people read it, but not enough to make me feel compelled to write daily. I would like to write daily, but … not enough to actually sit down each day and write.

So what kinds of goals can I set? I need to write at least five history essays each week and usually more. I have been in a slump of late and haven’t written much at all for a few weeks. But there is no reason other than laziness and slacking off. I really should do this.

I will do this. I will write at least five history essays each week.

I will also write at least three blog posts for Imperfect Reason each week. I need to do something less defined, more creative. This is what I will do.

I also have no idea why I stopped cooking with recipes and went back to just slapping meals on the table. Dick and I both liked eating new meals. I will have to work on getting back to that. I have no true goal for that right at the moment, but it is on the horizon.

What is a pretty picture? Some pictures are pretty because the subject matter is pretty. Some pictures are pretty because of the treatment of the subject matter. Some pictures are more stunning or captivating than pretty, but I consider that to be “pretty” as well.

Taken at the Biltmore as we we toured the greenhouses

I had hundreds of pretty pictures on my computer that I was using at My Writers Circle for my profile pictures. I changed them every day. However, they had a file size restriction. So I took my files and made them all small.

I thought it would be fun to change my profile pictures on Facebook and I had all these pictures – so I tried to use one.

Facebook also has a file size restriction. They say all profile pictures must be at least 180 pixels.

I had shrunk all my pictures to “small e-mail” size. Unfortunately, that size is only 160 pixels. So I have all these really pretty pictures, but they are too small to use.

Yesterday morning, I went out online and found 50+ pretty pictures. I captured them and shrunk them to be a more manageable size. I can have a new pretty picture every day.

I suppose I could look on my big computer and see if I have all the older pretty pictures not shrunk to a too small size. But I actually had a good time looking for new pretty pictures.

No matter what happens, I have a new fun little game to play. Seeking out new pictures is fun. Looking at something pretty makes me smile inside and out.

There are so many pretty things out there. Finding them is just a few clicks away. Surrounding myself with pretty things is completely within my power. I think I can have fun. Fun is good.

My mother was born on May 6, 1921. She would have been 90 on Friday but instead, she died on May 10, 2005. In that year, like this year, Mother’s Day fell between her birthday and the date of her death.

Mom, Aunt Kathy, Aunt Babe

I want to remember my mother without crying. I want to celebrate my mother’s life and all she accomplished and I want to do that without tears. My life, in comparison to hers, was so much richer because I got to keep my own dear mother a lot longer than she did. Her mother died when she was nine.

My mother was the eldest of four children. Three girls and a boy. After their mother died, an aunt helped to care for them for a while, but they eventually lived in an orphanage. Their father was alive, but was unable to care for four small kids without any help and he would not allow the siblings to be split apart. They were all they had and they were sticking together. He visited the orphanage frequently, or as often as he could.

The Great Depression affected their family, too. My grandfather painted houses which was not a good business during that time. Being a good Irish person, he opened a bar to make money. It was, however, Prohibition. This led to a few more problems and many stories.

The three girls grew up and married. Mom, being the oldest, managed to get married first. Ricky was born in 1942, Dad was drafted and sent to Europe. I think the saddest thing we found while cleaning out the house was Dad’s letter to his son for his third birthday. Ricky died two weeks short of that birthday, but letters were not instantaneous at the time and the news of his son’s death and his birthday wishes crossed in the mails.

Mom’s brother was killed in World War II. He was aboard a ship that was sunk in icy waters of the Northern Pacific. But her Army husband made it home. Both sisters also married veterans of that horrid war.

Mom went on to have three lovely, wonderful, nearly perfect daughters. Aunt Kathy had two daughters and two sons. Aunt Babe loved us all but never had children of her own.

When Cheri got into school, Kent State University opened a satellite school offering evening classes at the local high school. Mom had always wanted to be a teacher, and she began college. Having deferred this dream for so long, she was able to attend college with her daughter. Sometimes, Mom and Pam were in the same class together.

Mom started teaching at St. Jude School and worked in the sixth grade. This meant she was working at the school I was attending which had both good and bad points. When Cheri got to sixth grade, it was obvious which teacher she was going to get – not Mom.

Mom taught for many years and then opted to retire. Like most fresh retirees, she figured out soon enough it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. She became the librarian and eventually opted to really retire. It still wasn’t all that good.

She went to St. Mary’s School across town and worked half days. She had junior high classes in Math and English and worked until lunch time. Then she came home and had the afternoons and evenings to be “retired.”

Eventually, she even retired from that job, but she never stopped being involved in school. She volunteered on an “as needed” basis at St. Jude School. This meant Pam, the assistant principal, would have some task that needed done, would call Mom, and Mom would come and do whatever needed to be done.

Mom had visited her baby sister in Texas and while there, called the nurse of the family. She wasn’t feeling all that well. Her blood pressure medicine was working too well. She kept telling us she was “weak as a kitten” and didn’t feel good. But she was like the Energizer Bunny and just kept going and going and going.

After she returned to Ohio, Pam had another job for her. She needed to know how much construction paper to order for the next school year. So Mom went to school to check on what was in the supply area as well as what was in each classroom. She got half done before she said she would come back another day and finish the job.

The next day was too busy, however. She was meeting a friend, Sister Mary, for lunch. So she would come back the day after that. When she didn’t show up for lunch, Sister Mary grew concerned and went looking for her. She had had a heart attack while getting ready to go out. She was gone. Forever gone.

Except she lives on in my mind. I see her talking to Ann with her coffee cup empty and being bounced in her other hand. I see her driving me to the orthodontist and being so busy we had to study in the car. I see her breezing into St. Jude’s and looking for some of my flavored coffee. I see her kissing boo-boos and drying tears – for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I see her walking through Ireland and loving the trip.

What I want most this weekend is to celebrate without tears. I want to remember how great it was to have Johanna Francis Roberts with me, guiding me, loving me, for so many wonderful years.

But I’m already crying.

I don’t like to worry about my lunch. I want to know I have something good to eat each day. I like to have particular food available even when I’m at work. And, most importantly, I hate having to remember to bring the dirty dishes back home.

I have my own stack of paper plates at work so I can eat whatever I bring for my lunch. I don’t much care for sandwiches, so I have to pack my lunch carefully.

I’m also not all that interested in spending a lot of time on food preparation. I don’t mind really cooking for dinner, but lunch isn’t worth too much time. So what I have done is create a way to pack my lunch in under ten minutes, have a healthy lunch, and actually have food I like to eat.

First, I shop smart. I know what I like to eat and what is easy to pack. I therefore, make sure I have what I want for lunch is always on my grocery list.

Assembled ingredients and implements.

I assemble the ingredients and implements first.

Salad half made ... moving right along

As I said, I don’t want to have to remember to bring my dirty dishes back home. This may not always work, but for something as easy as a tossed salad, I can manage easily. As I said, I have paper plates at work. I also have salad dressing at work ready and waiting.

Layered ingredients, ready to close

Putting the salad into a plastic bag makes it really easy to carry, since I don’t have to cram stuff into a plastic container.

Closed and ready to pack up

I have match stick carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, shredded cheese, sunflower seeds, a hardboiled egg, and lettuce mix. I learned that putting the lettuce on top works better for loading the bag. I also learned that you should then place the lettuce on the plate before dumping the rest of the salad out or heavier stuff goes on the bottom.

Packed lunch

Having a plate of salad for lunch fills me up. I’m never hungry in the afternoon because I had so much to eat for lunch.

Delicious and healthy

I also have nothing to take home. I throw out the brown bag and the plastic bag, the paper plate, and the plastic fork. I would actually wash plate and fork if we had running water in the office, but we don’t. I don’t really like taking my dishes to the bathroom to wash up for the next day’s meal, so it all gets tossed.

It takes me less than ten minutes to pull out the ingredients, make the salad, put the ingredients away, pack my lunch, and wash off the countertops. I really enjoy my lunch and I really, really enjoy not getting to the car and then remembering there is some plastic container back at the office that really needed to come home with me.