Monday, November 17, 2014

More Nooky

Once upon a time, I decided I needed a treat and purchased a Nook Color. I found it handy for reading ebooks, took it with me on vacation when I wanted to be able to check email, etc. (I did not have a smart phone at the time), and of late purchased learning games for my g'daughter to play. It was the latter that drove me over the edge, Nookwise.

The primary issue is not being able to install purchased apps. This has happened repeatedly. Customer service recommends a soft reboot and/or archiving and unarchiving the offending app. These tactics have worked for me once or twice. Their next step is to unregister and reregister the Nook, which sounds too drastic to me. The last time I had this problem (this past week, in fact), the customer service rep tried to load the app on his Nook Color and it failed, which means, I guess, that the app is at fault. I received a refund, then I sent the developer an email: Are you going to fix this or not? No reply.

I decided some shopping was in order. After looking around online, I went to Best Buy (NOT because I was going to buy anything there, but because they are all stocked up for xmas and I could check things out; since it is pre-xmas, the sales staff is in assertive mode and practicing their spiels, so be forewarned). Nothing there appealed to me, especially the price tags, so I headed over to Barnes and Noble.

You might be wondering why I would consider another Nook after my experience with the Nook Color, but functionally and financially, that is what I wanted. And that is what I bought, this time the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook 7. It's like the Nook Color and my smart phone hooked up and produced an heir to the throne. The touch screen looks better and behaves better, it has more memory and is faster, and it weighs less than the Nook Color. Since both devices are registered with the same B&N account, there was no fooling around transferring purchases from one to the other. And best of all, now my g'daughter can play her learning games.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

No NaNoWriMo but I did go to a fair

In a previous lifetime, I dreamed about being a writer. For a while, I wrote pieces for a local small town newspaper, and I did manage to publish a few articles in national magazines before falling down the rabbit hole of software development. My ability to write in complete sentences frequently helped me land jobs because engineers are notoriously poor writers.

I still harbor that dream, so when our county library (which I LOVE) sponsored an authors fair, I decided to attend. Over 70 writers hawked their wares in the Great Hall, plus there were several panel discussions in Meeting Room B. I had never been to such an event, but I thought, Hey, I write (blogs), maybe I should go.

I'll say up front I was not interested in buying any books. I am not much of a book buyer in general - my house is too small - plus there is the library I LOVE so much. But I did want to see who these people were and chat up a few.

I'll also say up front that I am a rather shy person, not given to talking to strangers. After running the gauntlet without making eye contact, though, I put on my big girl panties and sidled up to the tables. Some authors must be as shy as I am, as they did not look up from whatever reading materials were currently capturing their attention, but most were eager to discuss their books. I probably insulted a few by asking if theirs were self-published; I wasn't being condescending, I'm just ignorant.

Many of the books were "young adult" (there was a panel discussion on that topic). None of the titles sounded familiar. I recognized the name of just one author, Betty Tonsing, only because she used to live here and was CEO of the Women's Bureau. Her book, Stand in the Way!, interested me because of my recent experience with my dad's hospitalization. (More information on the book may be found here.) So I did make a purchase, and Betty signed it, a plus I didn't expect because, you know, I'm ignorant.

To relieve some of my ignorance, I attended one of the panel discussions, "Reach Your Readers: How to Survive and Thrive in the World of Self- and E-Publishing". The panel consisted of Stephanie Cain (whose blog includes a series of posts categorized as "Self-Pub 101"), Lillie Barnett Evans, Jan Hinds, and Laura VanArendonk Baugh. I came away with lots to think about and lots to research.

And I am also a little excited because I *do* have some ideas for books. Surely, if these people can do it, so can I. All I have to do is apply my butt to a flat surface and start writing. Even if I only publish a dozen copies and force them on friends and family, I will have accomplished something I have always wanted to do.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Watching TV is too hard

Despite spending a good portion of my childhood glued to the "boob tube", I haven't been much of a TV watcher as an adult. For a while, I was devoted to several sitcoms, but as those ended, so ended my interest in passive entertainment. In recent years, that has changed. I don't have cable or a dish, but I have Netflix, which allows me to binge watch all kinds of stuff, from the inane (e.g. "Desperate Housewives") to the excellent (e.g. "Damages").

I actually caught up on a couple of network shows and now try to watch them when they air (which requires I set an alarm on my phone to remind me to tune in). The first one was "Grey's Anatomy". In previous years, if I missed an episode, I could catch it the next day on Hulu. Last week, when I tried to do that, I discovered I would now have to wait eight days to watch it. Baffled, I complained to my daughter, who explained that the idea behind this eight-day wait is to get devoted fans to *pay* to watch a missed episode. (I don't quite know how this works because I am obviously dumb about these things.) The eight-day break put me into a quandary. Do I watch the next episode, then catch up on the missed one? That would be like reading chapters of a book out of order. Alternatively, I could stop watching in real time, always running a week late. Or go back to binge watching an entire season at a time, once a year. Halloween saved me this time - a holiday special bumped GA, allowing me to catch up.

Another show I decided to watch when aired is "The Good Wife". Usually I watch NFL football on Sundays, but I find I am losing interest. Football causes other problems, though. If CBS carries a late afternoon game, the evening shows get pushed back. If the game runs over, the shows get pushed back even further. Last Sunday, TGW didn't air until 10:00PM, way past my bedtime. So, again, do I stop watching in real time? If so, do I watch it online, week by week, or on Netflix, a season at a time?

Once upon a time, we collectively scheduled our lives around prime time TV. For one thing, television was a relatively new phenomenon. For another, there wasn't much else to do. Now there are *plenty* of alternatives. On a scale of 1 to 10 in importance, this dilemma rates a 0. But it gives me something to complain about other than Daylight Savings Time.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Turn the page, stir the soup

In one's younger days, the death of an agemate is usually from something like a car accident, completely sudden and random and rare. Eventually, death from natural causes starts becoming the norm, beginning with the heavy smokers and drinkers, which is somewhat easily accepted and expected. But when the seemingly health-conscious ones start toppling, we are suddenly facing our own mortality.

The most recent agemate death is that of a college friend whom I knew and liked but was not particularly close to. I wonder if she had any regrets other than wishing she had gone to the doctor sooner (although I doubt that would have made any difference - a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is basically a death sentence). She was an English teacher, and during the summer embarked on some interesting adventures such as attending a Shakespearean workshop and participating in a pilgrimage through Spain. We tried to get her to Women's Weekend, but she was usually involved elsewhere.

What regrets will I have when the time comes? There are some things I would like to do while I still can, but they are not critical to my happiness. I'm not inclined to take a trip around the world or write the Great American Novel or become an expert in anything other than dabbling. I actively seek inner peace, but that is a process, not a goal. I really can't think of anything all that critical that I need to do before I pass on.

The few regrets I do have are based on things I could have done better. I could have been a better parent, could have made some different decisions regarding my education and career, could have been kinder at times. But most of those things would require that I be someone other than who I am. And I am stuck with being me.

The husband of a friend of mine suffers from chronic heart disease. After his first near-death experience, he took stock of his life and focused on completing a long time goal. After his second near-death experience, when asked how that affected his outlook on life, he just shrugs. Been there, done that.

I love my kids, and am proud of them. I absolutely adore my granddaughter and am happy to be a regular presence in her life. I made it to retirement, which I hope to enjoy for many more years (knock on wood!) Someday I may have to give up the gardening, the knitting and spinning, the rest of it. But not yet. Please, not yet.

Friday, October 03, 2014

No naps for you!

One of the delicious things about retirement is, if you get sleepy in the afternoon (or morning or evening), you can stretch out on the couch and take a nap. My usual MO is 10-to-20 minutes, just enough to reset the meter, like a power nap. Follow up with a cup of coffee or tea, and I'm ready to go again.

Occasionally, though, I fall into a deep, deep coma-like sleep that lasts 90 minutes, about the length of a full sleep cycle. During this dead-to-the-world state, I may try to rouse myself, struggle to open my eyes, to no avail. Sometimes I dream I am trying to open my eyes and can't, even though I am doing something sight-worthy like driving a car.

The long naps would not be a problem except sometimes I can't risk being unable to wake up in a timely manner. Like today, I'm dying to doze off for a bit, but I'm making bread and don't want to ruin it or burn the house down. (I can see me dreaming I am trying to escape a burning house but can't see because my eyes won't open.) Or the days I pick up my granddaughter after pre-school. Can't fall down on the grandma job.

Usually, those long naps occur after a poor night's sleep. Sometimes they also cause a poor night's sleep, like last night. Not only could I not get to sleep, but once I was asleep, a storm woke me. Betsy is afraid of storms but also getting kind of deaf, so she didn't waken then. She waited until about an hour before I had to get up (contractors coming today) to make sure my sleep was shortened at both ends.

At least I don't have to go to work on top of a crappy night's sleep.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Not according to plan

The idea was for all the siblings to convene to celebrate my father's 95th birthday. His chronically healthy body had a different idea, though. We still gathered but in his hospital room instead of his favorite restaurant. And there was no cake since he could not yet eat anything post-surgery.

For the generally healthy, we are perfectly fine until we are not. In this case, for unknown reasons, an adhesion put a twist in Dad's small intestine, causing a blockage. The surgeon called it a "best case scenario" because she did not need to resect the intestine, just snip the adhesion to release the twist.

This kind of surgery might leave someone in their 30's, even 60's, unfazed. But in the 90's? Recovering from the anesthesia takes days, mostly spent sleeping. As we age, the skin becomes more fragile, speeding the possible development of bed sores. Pneumonia is a potentially lethal complication.

And then there is the mental confusion. Lahey Hospital has a program whereby new nursing assistants spend six months serving as one-on-one "sitters" - they simply stay with the patient to make sure no tubes or IVs are pulled out and the patient stays in bed. This usually prevents the need for restraints, plus the newbie learns how to interact with patients and their families while also getting some on-the-job training when assisting in patient care. Dad required one of these aides for a few days post-op.

All was going reasonably well. I was particularly surprised Dad had no pain because after my abdominal surgery, I held the plunger for my morphine drip in a death grip. But then the oxygen level in his blood dropped. The first sign was a sudden lack of cooperation with the nurses. He became more and more incoherent as they tried to determine exactly what was going on and what to do about it. At first, this downturn was heartbreaking, but once he became more docile, the ensuing conversations grew highly entertaining.

Most of his babbling centered around the voices telling him to find the paper with the instructions about what our next steps were regarding the two bodies on the table; I used this fantasy to tell him his job was to cough up the phlegm in his throat. At one point, he lost track of who I was ("Do you have a sister?"), then he confused me with his second wife ("Time for our tea and a cookie"), and then with my mother ("We have a baby now. We need to take care of him.") And yet, when distracted by the construction of his bed, the plastics engineer in him spoke quite lucidly about the process and materials used to make it.

This story has a happy ending. The staff managed to short circuit the fluid gathering in Dad's lungs, gave him Nebulizer treatments to break up the mucus, and put him on oxygen. After a subsequent day spent with him thinking he was in Chicago, he became his old self again. He is eating solid food, the tubes and IVs are gone, and he should be released today from the hospital for a several week stay in the rehab unit of his retirement community. Then it will be back home to his apartment.

Of course, while witnessing all this, I couldn't help but think, This is my future. We like to ignore the fact we will get old and sick and someday die; that is something that happens to other people, not us. The getting old part is annoying and the dying part incomprehensible. The getting sick part, though, is scary. If we are lucky, we get appropriate care. But even the best facility, the brightest medical staff, a bevy of caring relatives cannot guarantee anything, not even a peaceful passing.

Dementia and Alzheimers are the scariest of all. Confusion in the elderly can be mistakenly attributed to either of these when the problem may be fixable, like low blood oxygen. Unruly dementia patients are often treated with psychotropics when frequently the actual problem is pain that can be relieved with ibuprofen were the patient able to communicate. My nightmare is to be bedridden and suffer excruciating leg cramps and be unable to ask for help. And then there are the well-meaning efforts to drag Alzheimer patients back to reality when the kinder thing may be to just let them go into the void.

Anyway, blah, blah, blah. The future is unknowable. All we can do is mitigate the risks - sign a will, designate a health care proxy, set an example to our kids of how to treat aging parents. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Nothing goes according to plan.

Monday, August 25, 2014

It's complicated

Once upon a time I worked at a mom-and-pop grocery (although in truth, this was just a mom operation, pop was long gone). This was back in the dark ages, when chain grocery stores did not have delis and they pre-packaged all the fresh produce so you could not pick your own from their displays. Eventually, the chains caught on and opened delis and stopped shrink wrapping the produce. Then along came Walmart, where not only could you shop for groceries, but just about anything else you might want, a modern day general store. Even Target now sells food.

As a working mother, even though I might have wanted to support the mom-and-pop operations, the convenience of one-stop shopping won me over. And it didn't really matter which store I one-stop shopped at, as they all offered the same products.

And then things changed.

First came the option of buying organic and "health" foods. While many of the chains now also offer what could previously be purchased only at food co-ops and health food stores, their selection is not as complete, nor do they vet what they offer. So now I became a two-stop shopper.

Then came the exhortation to buy local. The food co-op I frequent offers some items from local producers, but not always. So now I buy some food direct from local farmers and also frequent farmers markets. We have one FM that is open year round, so in winter you can still purchase local lettuce, potatoes, squash, plus locally roasted coffee (but is it fair trade?!?), locally baked baked goods, etc.

Then some smaller chains started moving into the area. One is Earth Fare. Their offerings are more varied than the food co-op, plus there is fresh meat. I can walk to it, reducing my carbon footprint while getting in some steps. And I like their bread. Another new store is Just in Thyme, which has not yet opened but is supposed to be modeled like a farmers market.

And then to make things even more complicated, the chains are either shifting, even limiting, many of their offerings to their store brands (Kroger, I'm talking about you) and/or not carrying the particular items I purchase at all.

This phenomenon is not limited to food. A walk through the mall reveals that many of the stores offer the same clothing styles, sometimes even the same clothing lines. In department stores, the selection of towels and linens is severely limited in styles and colors. There are common items I have purchased before that NO ONE carries today. The most recent example is sheers in lengths less than 84". Several years ago I was able to buy these at Target, but no more. Nor at the other stores I visited. An online search indicates that I can no longer purchase them anywhere. It looks like I will have to actually make them myself.

Maybe if I lived in a large metropolitan area, I would not see my shopping options contract even as the stores themselves expand. Here in the midlands, though, everything looks alike, everyone dresses alike, everyone does the same thing. I guess that makes me the weirdo.