Thursday, July 31, 2014


Every new electronic device ought to come with the above warning. Or maybe the warning should be pasted on the outside of the box by the salesperson for anyone over age, oh, say, thirty-two?

Two and a half years ago, for Christmas, I received an e-reader. I'd been wanting one, but couldn't work up the courage to spring for the middle one of the three types offered; then my fairy godmother waved a wand and I got one as a gift. (And if you don't believe in fairy godmothers, shame on you. It really happened.)

So I got an e-reader. I read the directions. Plugged it in to charge the battery. (That took a day out of my life.) Then--finally--began the initiation.

#1 - read the Start Up booklet.
#2 - power on the unit.
#3 - search for the necessary Adobe products to download.
#4 - sign up for an Adobe account with email address and password.
#5 -

Well, you know how it goes. I was at the point of letting my e-reader meet my computer when everything went pear-shaped. (Don't you love British terms?) And I do mean pear-shaped. The computer timed out before I could finish whatever step I was on. I had to start over. The email address and password were entered fourteen times. The last straw was when the program told me my computer was too old, my browser couldn't cut the mustard any more, and I might as well go back to books made out of paper.

The only thing it didn't do was tell me I was too old a dog to learn this new trick, but if it had known my birthdate . . . .

So I put my lovely gift back in its box and let it sulk, if it wanted to. I know I wanted to.

Then one day a year ago at the library--you know, that place where you go and pick out books and magazines and movies and CDs and take them to a desk and the nice person there smiles, swipes your card under a reader, and then hands you a slip listing all the books, etc. and their authors and due date, along with your stack of stuff--yeah, yeah, that place. Well, one day, a sign spoke to me. "Technicians available to help with e-readers."

Timing was the worst--I was up to my nostrils in the daily-ness of my life, treading water. So I merely noted the information, tucked it away in my little grey cells, and got on with treading.

The waters finally receded and I began to see what was going on out in the Big Wide World. Friends of mine were e-pubbing: novels, novelettes, short stories, essays. My kids were devouring books from their phones, e-readers, and tablets. (My kids who are 'way, 'way past thirty-two.)

So I began to lean again toward tackling something new. After all, I reasoned--I'd recently managed to learn enough to use an Android phone, swiping my finger (or the stylus) to get it unlocked, making appointments on the calendar, sending and receiving emails and texts. Not the highest or best use of its many apps, but a start.

Yesterday was The Day. I went to the library at 2:00 PM and met with Darcy, one of the nicest young women I've had the pleasure to meet. She treated me with respect and friendliness. And she knew her stuff. I'd be proud to have her for a granddaughter. And Wonder of Wonders, I got the e-reader set up, talking to the laptop if and when necessary, otherwise doing its own thing and downloading books whenever I said so.

For my first download, I chose one of the library books that came up on the screen--Blue Moon Promise, by Colleen Coble. Colleen lives in the same Indiana town where my son owns a lock and safe security company. She writes Christian historical romance.

My next adventure will be the purchase of books on the Internet. I'll report on that new experience before long.

The reason I say to slow down for the learning curve is that I know how new things go for me--I get thrown in at the deep end, flounder around a while, tread water, and finally quit panicking and do a barely recognizable crawl to the edge of the pool. But after I get onto the basics, I'll be a little more daring.

Please ignore the mixture of metaphors--all this new tech stuff messes with my head.

I do miss the library of my childhood. Remember? So many books! So many stories! I used to love just going to sit among them and let them surround me with their magic. But they're still there, and I can go and visit when I want to. Being in the 21st Century isn't a bad thing--it's just new. And different. An adventure.

I guess that's why we have memories--to keep alive those things that pass from the scene.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies.
~Author Unknown

Yesterday I had lunch with a long-time friend, whose mantra for years and years has been, "We eat change for breakfast."

I don't know where he got the phrase--perhaps it came to him in an inspired moment--but I know he believes it implicitly.

The debut of the saying came about, my friend said, when he went to his office one morning at eight o'clock, and by nine o'clock, everything he had planned had gone by the board and his day was completely different. "Eating change for breakfast" is a unique way of saying, "Don't make plans." Or, "Things change." Sometimes radically.

Now, in late July, we're noticing changes in Nature. Leaves change color, fall from their trees; grass turns brown (that's usually an August phenomenon); nights cool off, breezes have a little bite to them; sun rises a minute or two later, and sets a minute or two earlier. Here in the Northern Hemisphere we're segueing from summer to fall, minute by minute, day by day. We know it's coming, we expect it.

I can get my head around those changes. They've always been part of my life and I know about them. I note the finches in spring, losing their silver, turning to gold. As autumn advances, they'll lose their gold and become silver again.

In my personal life, change is less drastic--subtle, even--and often so gradual that I don't recognize change has occurred until one day I take a good look at a situation and realize, Huh, that's different. The ones that surprise me are the shoulder aches I didn't have yesterday, or a new cluster of wrinkles that appeared overnight. I shrug my shoulders (gently) and soldier on.

My dog is gradually coming to the end of her life. At 17 years, 5 months, she has earned her rest. Her going will make a huge hole in my life. Talk about change! She's been my constant companion for seven years. Watching her grow weaker tears me up, but I know I can't keep her alive forever. My deepest wish is that she will let me know when it's time for her to leave.

Other times, change is--or seems to be--sudden.

Not all change is sad . . . I have grandchildren who are looking for new jobs, children who are contemplating major moves across the country . . . those are positive changes as they search for better places to work and live. I send birthday cards to a whole raft of relatives--knowing each time that person is a year older. My child is how old? Really? I remember being that age.

Yesterday my neighbor of fifteen years left her home and went to live with her daughter and son-in-law. Iola, who is now 80, has been losing her perspective and having problems with dates, times, and money. Her family  love her, have a place for her, and want her to live with them. Change had to come, in some way. This is less traumatic than it might have been. I'll miss her ready smile, her sweet nature. She walked miles every day, because she loved being outdoors and always had to be moving. But I know it's for the best, and that she will continued to be loved and cared for.

Thinking about my neighbor's move, I recognize that my own situation will change, maybe sooner, maybe later. But I can't let it rule my life or make me sad. The best I can do is plan and possibly prepare. My recent post about downsizing struck a chord with several readers. All reported it's a big job, but worth it. It's about daring to change one's way of living, try something new.  Daring to change is a big step--scary, even--but guess what? New growth can take place. Definitely worth it.

I think I'll take that dare--who knows? I might turn out to be a butterfly.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Before we get off on the wrong foot, we better come to terms with...well, terms.

Downsizing, yes--making smaller.

A Life--not the day-to-day living, shrinking my existence to something unrecognizable. No, just some of the stuff that has accumulated over the life I've lived.
For example, take my garage--please!

I ought to be ashamed to show pictures of it, but I'm not, actually. Those boxes and bags and file cabinets represent a large portion of my life in actual objects you can hold in your hand. Books (fiction and nonfiction, texts), college notebooks, papers from various organizations I've been involved with. Fabrics from early years of sewing kids' clothing, later pieces bought for quilts (still in the planning stage). Art and needlework books in the filing cabinet. Little boxes with tax returns from past years.

Do I need all that? No, I don't. Some of the tax returns are old enough now to be shredded into obscurity. The art and needlework books have served their purpose and will be donated to the library, either for their shelves or the monthly sale. If the fabrics are still good, I'll donate them to the local senior center where various crafters check out the items for sale. Books--if they're still viable, they'll go to the library, possibly to the local charities for sale by them.

Papers, now--there's a problem. When I see them, I remember the time I spent in an extension homemakers' club and the women who came to the meetings. Or the time I taught a spiritual journaling class for my church during Lent. Another time I taught a one-time seminar on journaling for writers, and how they could use the entries in the journal in their projects. Do I need them now, to remind myself of who I was? I don't think so. Who I was is now and forever part of who I am.

Letters and cards are in a whole separate category. Not sure I can bring myself to destroy them. Cards, eventually. Most don't have notes in them. But letters--now that we're letting the art of letter writing slip into history, letters are precious to me. They represent the time someone spent to let me know how things were with her or him. They bring me back to a time we shared ideas in depth, long letters full of not only what we were doing but what we thought about it; and we shared our feelings, as much as we could reveal, about how our lives were going, our children, our ups and downs.

I won't go into detail about the five closets and linen shelves and drawers in the house. A brief overview--recent purges of clothing that no longer fits made room. But not enough. Closets will have to wait while the garage takes its turn.

Over the past, oh, decade or so, I've been reading about how to organize, how to sort and make room, how to deal with stuff. So I know the theory. Make 3 boxes, and mark them: KEEP, DISCARD, DONATE. Then follow the instructions you marked on the boxes. DON'T, whatever you do, remove anything out of the DISCARD or DONATE boxes and KEEP it! I'm going to try it. Hope it works for me.

Now to put it into practice. I'll report back...sometime. Don't hold any breaths waiting.

Corralling fabrics

Thursday, July 10, 2014


Yesterday I went to my local discount store for a short list of necessities. Necessities are likely to be augmented by an item or two that won’t break the budget but will please me in some way.
Such as: School Supplies!

It’s that time, folks—photocopied lists of supplies for each grade of public school—four short aisles, stuffed full, devoted exclusively to the needs (and desires) of shoppers who have elementary school children. Or, people like me.
Desert or Jungle?
A little impulse....
I was early, so no one could elbow me aside to get at the crayons (Camo Whammo! By Crayola), compass for drawing circles of any size up to a 12” diameter, or Fiskars blunt-tip scissors (with a safety sheath—and stickers!) in purple. To hold all these treasures, I found a small pencil box—plastic nowadays, alas (back in the day, they were cardboard, and we called them cigar boxes—because they were). Three-ring binders didn’t call my name, nor notebook paper, tabbed dividers, report folders. But my hand lingered over the Sketch Diary—such a pretty cover! And that lovely slightly rough paper ideal for pencil drawings. My fingers itched to create something on the empty pages. Very tempting. Then I remembered I already have several sketch books at home, various sizes, so I probably could wait for another year on that item.

What I did buy (besides the little items that fit neatly in the plastic box), were spiral notebooks—four of them, one-subject, 70 sheets each, roughly 9x12 inches. They’re ideal for making notes for my stories, writing scenes, or sometimes jut noodling ideas. And I bought one composition book (the kind we used in college a few decades ago) for my daily journal. I have a stash of these—different colored covers, or covers with different designs in black and white—but it’s always good to have an extra. You know, just in case.
What has any of this to do with Rites of Passage? I’m glad you asked. If your memory is still functioning, you’ll recall that once upon a time school supplies were strictly allocated per grade. In first grade—thick pencils about a half-inch in diameter, that filled a small fist trying to make the loops and slashes that turned into words; a very wide-ruled tablet for the little fist to practice those words; and an eraser, for the inevitable error.

Fast forward to fourth grade—talk about your rite of passage! We got to write (yes, cursively write) with fountain pens! And real ink! That was my first real intimation that I might, someday, be included in the adult world. Grownups wrote with ink and fountain pens. Teachers. Parents. The lady at the bank.
Much later, probably junior high (middle school to you younger folks), more freedoms were bestowed on us. We could actually choose our own three-ring binders, write all over the outside if we wanted to. Sadly, by the time I entered seventh or eighth grade, the ubiquitous ball point pen had come into being. I hung on to my fountain pens through several more decades; but eventually it became difficult to get quality ink and I retired my favorites to a drawer where I can visit them on occasion. And I still search for top-of-the-line ink for those precious pens.

Our grandchildren and great-grandchildren are experiencing rites of passage in the electronic age: second grade, iPads; fourth grade, tablets; sixth grade, laptops. All supplied by the school, with rental supplied by the parents. Inevitable, I suppose. After all, the world has become electronic in character. And my inner child sighs a little for the days of thick pencils and wide-lined tablets.
I still get a warm feeling, though, when I see little folks with big crayons in their fists coloring the placemats in restaurants. I wonder if any of them have Camo Whammo?


Thursday, July 3, 2014


I’ve never lived in an oppressed nation. Wars for independence from a government that restricts freedoms from its citizens have passed me by. Citizenship was granted me when I was born in Charleston, Illinois, USA.

Because of where I was born and grew up, I had freedoms that came naturally—were taken for granted by me, as well as by most of the people I knew—such as:

·         Freedom to worship – when, where, and if I wanted to

·         Freedom to learn – school was compulsory until age 16, but learning can take place anywhere, with anyone, on any subject

·         Freedom to be – the person I became might not appeal to everyone, nor even to a majority, but it’s the person I was allowed to be, or claimed the right to be, and so it is who I am

·         Freedom to change – here’s the one I like best (well, sort of best) – change comes to everyone; it’s inherent in our very being: we are born helpless and dependent, we grow and learn to separate ourselves from others, we become the adult on whom others depend, then we grow old and dependent (perhaps) once more, and then we die. If anyone claims not to change at all—I’d like to see that person. Actually, I’d rather not, because a person who doesn’t change is probably dead.

·         Freedom to express my opinion, if I want to – guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights of the United States of America. And we’ve all read or heard of instances where someone’s opinion was dangerous and caused untold misery; where claiming protection under the right to freedom of speech was used to ill purposes. But I, and you, all of us, have the right to express ourselves – with the caveat that we don’t hurt anyone else. Perhaps our forefathers assumed we’d know that, common sense being in greater supply back in the day.
These Freedoms are what today give us – all of us – the independence so many fought and died for in the 1700s, and continue to fight for in the 2000s. It doesn’t have to be a bloody battlefield fight; it can be as close as your local food bank – the free summer lunch program for school-age children – the rescue mission for men and women who have bottomed out and yet find a place where someone loves them and wants to help them come back from addiction, abuse, and a sense of futility and worthlessness. It can be in your own family – a child who needs a helping hand, a grandchild whose employment ends and who needs a place to live, a spouse who suffers from depression or a medical problem and who needs acceptance and the knowledge that someone cares enough to stand by them.

Independence isn’t just some high-flown, abstract concept – Independence is a sense of self-worth, which leads to a sense of being connected to others – and ultimately, Independence is trumped by our dependence on a divine being (whoever we acknowledge that to be).
Thank you for allowing me to express my opinion. Yours may be different, based on your experiences. But you still have Freedoms. Guaranteed. Give thanks for them. And--don’t forget them.