Connecting the Generations

Connecting the Generations
Happy feet...a great investment!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Technology vs. Humans

I thought it was so clever of me to turn my cute little new vanity table into a quaint writing desk by my bedroom window.  My laptop fit conveniently inside the desk and the lower height of the surface allowed for perfect posture for my ailing wrists which suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome. I have a beautiful view of the trees in my backyard and the birds circling the sky overhead.  What a rude awakening early this past Saturday morning.  It sounded like an overheating engine or turbine that was crashing and burning.  I held the feverish MacBook Pro in my arms tentatively, thinking it was about to burst into a ball of fire.  Couldn't put it down on a flammable surface like my bedroom carpet.  Didn't want to place it near anything potentially flammable.  I had already unplugged it from the wall but the battery kept feeding its momentary demise.
"Put it in the garage," my husband said.  "It will cool down there."
"But we have the snow blower and leaf blower there, filled with fuel and cans of paint.  Bad idea, no?"
"Would you rather have it blow up somewhere in the house?" he fired back.
I ran down the stairs and set it on the garage concrete floor.  It was still screaming in terror.  I ran back into the house.  My heart pounded as I thought about the years of photos I stored in the laptop.  I ignored my own incessant nagging thoughts that reminded me I should back up the computer.  It had been over 400 days since I last backed up the laptop's memory.  And then in an instant, because of my silly vanity table writing idea, it might all just evaporate with the computer's processor.
The desk was near the baseboard heater.  I had stored the laptop inside the vanity under the mirror top that I flipped open to use when I brushed my hair and put my makeup on in the morning.  I never had an issue for the past 14 days.  But then again, I usually put the laptop in hibernation mode at night.  I must have forgotten to do that the night before.  I probably just flipped it shut with the processor running all night.  The laptop couldn't run its fan effectively while trapped inside the desk with no ventilation.  It was very careless of me.  Thank goodness we were home.  I shudder to think what might have happened if it kept racing its energy like that while no one was home.
So much for cultivating my little writing corner.  I was so excited that because of the desk and dedicated space I had achieved the impossible -- written at least 3 pages every day for the past two weeks.  But these are the realities of technology.  They may allow us to reach breakthroughs but at the end of the day, if the operator is flawed, the technology will fail.  Just this morning I heard about the self-operating Uber vehicles that crashed, not due to their own limitations but due to human operated vehicles in their path.
I hear that typing on a keyboard may soon be obsolete.  Think about it.  Everyone is texting with their thumbs in shorthand.  Many are using voice to text commands.  But I find that only my accomplished typing can truly keep up with my thoughts.  My handwriting is too slow now to catch every thought in time.  My wrist and finger muscles quickly ache after half a page of writing.  And yet, the longer I type, the more pain I cause my carpal tunnels so I have to wear those special wrist guards to sleep so my numbing hands stop waking me in the middle of the night.  I just can't win.
Fortunately, after an hour, I pressed the power button as I held my breath.  Please power back up, please function, I prayed.  The screen lit up gray and spun, my hope alive.  After what seemed like ages, that familiar intro audio struck its chord.  I exhaled.
I immediately hooked up my Seagate Time Machine and backed up over one year's worth of new memories.  I was redeemed.
Moral of the story: when inspired by creativity, some experiments fail, but you have to just make adjustments and forge ahead.  In my case, I continue to write in the same quaint spot.  Now I make sure I shut down my laptop at the end of each night.  It needs a deep sleep to go into REM just like me.  No more napping at the desk.  It could literally be deadly!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

True Emergencies Don't Ding

I had to clean the sink thoroughly and then purge the refrigerator of spoilage to help clear my mind and get rid of negative feelings this morning.  I went on to procrastinate my day some more by cleansing and organizing the produce drawers.  I find that I am much more productive when my environment is in order.  And I also have more positive energy when I don't have visual reminders of my failure to keep up with my responsibilities like chucking food that has been stored for more than 5 days and placing unwanted leftovers in the garbage disposal.
While doing these kitchen chores, I listened to a chapter in a non-fiction book about strategies for changing long standing self-destructive habits.  While I am not trying to quit smoking or lose weight or stop drinking, my personal goal has been to be more focused so I can get my housework, work work (for my business) and passion work (my writing) done with more regularity and efficiency.
One thing I noticed about my productive pattern breakdown is that I recently stopped using my daily agenda.  Of course without a top 5 priorities list I wander from one activity to the next, whether it is the right thing on which to focus my energy or helping someone in need -- usually one of the kids or a friend who needs to talk -- I have been anchor-less without my agenda, easily falling victim to the next thing that pulls me.
I at least got in my 1 mile walk this morning because the dog needed me.  That helped me start my positive pattern for the day.  I quickly jotted my to do list in today's agenda and checked off the first two priorities on the list.  Getting these 750 words written will be my 3rd priority to check off the list.  It's a good feeling.
After this is done, I will tackle the next two items simultaneously as one can be in process while the other is in progress.  This leaves me with the 6th priority on my list hanging in the balance for the end of the day, which is very possible, if I can be efficient with priorities number 4 and 5.  Already I have a good feeling about also getting to number 6.
However, the only way it will be possible is for me to turn off my phone as soon as I finish this post.  You see, the biggest reason I even stopped using my agenda book in the first place has been the darn phone.  I trash every opportunity to be efficient by allowing each notification to interrupt my flow.  I realize my most productive days are when the phone has run out of battery power and it is nowhere in sight.  I can move forward instead of constantly being sidetracked.
Why are notifications so important when I am not expecting most of them?  Everyone checks their messages first thing in the morning, especially if they are working against a deadline on a project.  Yet I find that almost all of the messages I open could have waited an hour or two or three until I break for lunch.  There is no logic in our human need to reach for the phone when it dings.  The most important reason to do so is to respond to an urgent call.  A call, not a ding.  You know, the kind of alert where someone is physically waiting on the other end of the line to speak to you?  This is why a school nurse or family member under duress would truly need you to immediately pick up the phone.
I imagine sitting in an office cubicle while all of these type of interruptions physically stop by my doorway.  It is ludicrous how many times I allow myself to become distracted during the day.
I am going to try an experiment.  I will put my phone call ringtone volume on maximum and silence the notification and other phone volume options.  If someone really needs to reach me but I don't respond to their texts right away, I know he or she will call me.  This way, I can work without interruption and when I have a natural break, that's when I'll check to see if anyone needs an urgent reply.
All of this technology is very useful but it also has succeeded in making me feel a bit too self-important.  Everyone needs me now.  No they don't.  Time to get back to work in my productive bubble.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Daily Bike Strides

Time to dust off our bikes, pump the tires and get moving outdoors, snowflakes or not! As I examined my bike early this morning to assess its conditioning requirements, I was reminded of an inspiring biking encounter I had at a state park, a couple of years ago.
I walked with a friend and our dogs regularly during the warmer weather. We pushed ourselves to keep going even once the temperatures dropped dramatically, even braving ice patches and submerging our boots in deep snow-covered trails. 
All year long, regardless of the day of the week or season, we noticed this senior citizen who rode his old-fashioned bike faithfully. He always had his transistor radio on board a basket of some sort, which played some oldies. He hummed or sang along as he passed by. He rode the bike leisurely, almost meandering like he was happy to lose himself in the song and had no particular path or direction to follow.
One very chilly winter day, we saw him outside his locked car door and heard him say over the cell phone that he had accidentally locked his car keys inside and didn't know what he would do.
We decided to offer him a ride home to fetch his keys. I was the lucky driver who took the opportunity to ask him a few questions.
"So you must love bike riding a lot to be out here so often, even in freezing temperatures," I said.
"I loved skiing and did it very well for many years. And then one day, I had an accident and was bed-ridden for too long. I swore I would never not move again," he replied.
"I see you here all the time. How often do you ride your bike?"
"Every day I get up, eat breakfast and ride my bike here for 3 hours. Then I stop home to have lunch and come back here to ride for 3 hours more. Afterwards I make myself a nice dinner and then I scrapbook."
What got me was not the fact that he rode his bike for 6 hours a day. It was his structured life. He had lived alone for the past year since his wife had passed away.
"Why do you ride alone? Why don't you ask family or friends to join you?"
"You think I don't have family or friends? I got me lots of them. They live far away and they are always nagging me to move closer to them. But this town is my home. And this is what I love to do. I have the use of both of my legs and I can ride my bike as long as I like as often as I like. I am a very happy man."
"And the scrapbooking?"
"The Mrs took the time to take all of these beautiful photos of us with the kids. She loved to scrapbook. And now I have all the time in the world to finish what she started."

Friday, September 13, 2013

Classroom of Life

This morning I held a Ticonderoga tri-write pencil in my hand for the first time.  It was true to its claim.  It really was naturally easy to hold due to its triangular contouring.  When I first saw the packaging during back-to-school shopping three weeks ago, I thought it was just the latest gimmick.

"Why would you need a different shaped pencil?" I asked my 5th grade daughter.

"Because, Mom, your hands get tired from writing and they hurt after a while."

I thought about the fact that I never use pencils anymore as an adult.  The last time I used pencils was in a college fine arts class that I took as an elective.  I enjoyed learning what grade graphite pencils to use for shading and creating depth in sketch drawings.  Several hours passed while I happily focused on my artwork.  How liberating it was developing new skills.  These days I prefer to use gel pens which glide weightlessly across the page.  My hand tires easily when attempting to write more than one page which is why I now prefer to type as I write on the computer keyboard.  The only writing I physically do now is the daily task or shopping list.    

We rounded the aisle and then my daughter made another request.

"Mom, can we buy me a special binder?"

"Why do you need a binder?  It's not even on your school supplies list."

My guess was that her brother, who is in high school and had a much longer shopping list, was in the market for a new binder, so she wanted one too.

"Because, Mom, I want to file my papers in there.  You know, so I can be organized."

It was unnecessary but she had a good argument.  Her school papers always piled up on the kitchen desk and they became my problem.

"Let's make a deal then.  If I buy you the binder, you will hole punch your papers as they come in the house and file them in your binder."


She spent the next ten minutes looking for just the right binder.  A blue sparkly one with green borders caught her eye.  It was four dollars more than the average binder but I figured anything that would help inspire her to keep order was a good thing, so I obliged.

"Mom?  Can we buy those plastic page protectors that you used for your writing portfolio?  I want to start my own art portfolio."

Ever since that day, whenever she has had free time, she has sketched and colored drawings and inserted them into her special binder.

I found her desire to be comfortable when writing and her need to organize her work inspiring.  She took pride in her work and wanted to feel good about it.  I thought for a moment about what I might want to do differently so I can also look forward to my tasks with more energy.

Last night I zipped through the halls of our beautiful, new, state-of-the-art Waterford High School.  I stopped in at each of my son's classrooms to meet his teachers and hear about their expectations for the year.  I felt a great sense of pride knowing that our tax dollars were well spent.  Everything about the evening, from the confident and encouraging words of our new Principal Mr. Hauser, to the design and layout of the building, to the newness of the furniture, to the impressiveness of the technology and resources available to our kids, inspired me.  I felt the sense of promise that our kids must also be experiencing as they go from class to class.  Even the teachers reflected an appreciation for their new tools and a positive outlook on the year.

It made me think back to my school years, when life was a fresh piece of sketching paper, waiting for me to draft some lines and fill in sections.  I used an eraser every now and then when I found myself veering in the wrong direction, but I forged on.

We are here to help guide our children as they become who they will discover they want to be.  But they are also here to remind us that we can keep using pencils and erasers too, even if we don't have to.  I guess that's why we buy ourselves the latest electronic gadgets.  There is still much to learn and new skills to develop.

I've been working on my first book for three years now.  I'm not done yet.  Once I finish the manuscript there will be even more work to do that I have never done before; editing, publishing and then finding a market for it.  The unknowns are scary but exciting too.  Maybe we are all works of art in progress and it's time to just draw some more lines.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Practice Makes Progress

How are you doing with your new year's resolution? Reaching out to others with similar goals or with expertise for support is the key to success, regardless of the personal goal.  Forgiving oneself and getting back on track, each time one digresses, is an effective way to achieve long term success.
I have a personal disdain for the term "practice makes perfect."  I heard it all my life and I've had enough.  Reaching toward perfection with every task and goal has a profound effect on the will to keep trying.  It is sometimes counter productive to focus so much on the desired outcome rather than the daily work.  Constant pats on the back are more reassuring than fear of failure.
My goal is to write 750 words or three double-spaced pages per day. There are days when I barely write 250 words and others when I don't get to it at all.  Of course I feel defeated when this happens, but no one can take away the progress that I have made.  At least I am still on track if I get back online and keep writing.  A log has been helpful.  I am accountable to myself each day.  If I miss a day, I note what kept me from doing it that day.  I sometimes also add some other productive thing I might have done that day to help me feel good rather than punish myself.  At the end of the week or month, I analyze my pattern of on track versus off track behavior.  Was the failure acceptable given unexpected challenges or other work that needed to get done?  
My ambitious goals used to be writing at least 750 words toward the book I am working on, but I have found that my creative process doesn't work that way. There are days I need to explore possible themes and work out my ideas in journal format. I have days when I wake up and run to the computer with scenes clearly laid out in my head and I write enough to satisfy three days of writing goals.  I discovered this through the logging method.  For aspiring writers out there, I highly recommend logging on to an online journaling site   It has really made a difference in my writing life.  By not editing myself and focusing just on regular mind dumps, I am able to remove the usual writer's roadblocks and just write.  At the end of these sessions, I often discover diamonds in the rough which can be elevated to scenes, chapters, articles and blogs.  It has also been beneficial as a general well-being tool, helping me to unclutter my mind and focus better on my daily goals.  
Having a support network has also kept me accountable.  I meet regularly with a group of other serious writers working on developing their writing projects.  We take turns presenting our pieces and critique each others' work.  We give each other deadlines.  I look forward to these check-in points and hearing about their progress inspires me to do the same. Hearing about their challenges prompts me to share advice with them.
The same goes for health goals.  I have a dog so I need to walk him on a daily basis.  This is also good for me.  To help inspire each other, especially during the cold weather, my friends and I try to meet at local parks and walk our dogs together.  Because we look forward to chatting and catching up on life, we end up walking two or three times longer than we normally do when walking our dogs alone.
Sometimes all we need is the company of other people trying to accomplish similar goals.  Another person's perspective, experience, expertise and good advice can help point us in the right direction.  If you or someone you know is struggling alone to get on track with their health and well-being goals, check out these three local opportunities:
  • Join a Get Healthy Challenge: Susan Epstein, Certified Health Coach, recently launched a Lose Big-Win Big Contest locally, offering prizes as an incentive.  They shared best kept "secrets" for weight loss and optimal health, offering samples of delicious and healthy food and strategies for lowering or eliminating medications for diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol.  Contact Susan to see if this program is appropriate for you at 860-437-0233 or susan@gethealthywithsusan or read about weight loss and healthy habits through this website:
    • Learn more about Nutrition: What you eat has a profound effect on your total well being. You do not need to be overweight to be concerned with your eating habits. A registered Dietitian can help you work towards making healthier food choices by analyzing what you are eating now and making changes that you can actually achieve. Many people need to understand how to read food labels, understand what a portion really is and pay attention to whether they are really hungry. Registered dietitians can guide you and give you the knowledge you need to make lifetime changes in your eating habits. Janine Sitko R.D. has a private practice in East Lyme CT. Contact information:  (860) 739-9488
      • Daytime Zumba for Moms with Young Children: Now Moms with young children and infants in tow can have a fun dance workout when they are home during weekday mornings as babysitting is offered during class. Nancy Coleman is offering Zumba on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 10:00-11:00 a.m. here in Waterford.  Classes are held at Temple Emanu-El which is located at 29 Dayton Road. Try the class for free or contact Nancy for more information at

      Forget your New Year's Resolutions, make your New Day's Resolution now. 

      Tuesday, November 27, 2012

      Finding the Perfect Holiday Gift

      Now that our fall sweets and stuffing holidays are behind us, we are thrown into shopping madness for December's mother of all gift-giving holidays. Whether you brave the retail masses in person or expertly navigate the world wide mall online, beware not to get sucked into the stressful tradition of looking for that perfect gift.  
      The worst part of the holiday gift-giving process for me has been wandering around aimlessly from store to store, passing display after display, wondering if the people on my list might like what I am looking at, and getting dizzier by the minute.  This year, I will try approaching the process more strategically and hopefully I might just hit a few targets and survive, unscathed.  Here is some holiday shopping advice I wish I was given years ago.
      1) Thoughtful List - Create a master list that indicates all your gift recipients and what they enjoy.  List their favorite hobbies, preferences or idiosyncracies.  If someone on your list who loves to dine out enjoys sushi or eats vegetarian, a gift card to that type of restaurant makes your job that much easier.  Is your niece still obsessed with gymnastics?  Shop online stores for the latest gymnastics apparel or accessories.  Keep this list handy all year so you can add new tidbits about each person, especially after having a chance to catch up with them at the family Thanksgiving reunion.
      2) Cash is King - No one likes to stuff cards with cash because it doesn't show effort but a lovely branded gift card to their favorite store in cute packaging solves the issue.  It is a practical gift for those who are traveling or who live far away.  If you still feel like you want to show even more effort on your part, pair it with a gift-wrapped box of one dozen home-made cookies, cookie pops or truffles.
      3) Entertain Them - You won't have to worry if you got the wrong color, size or style if you instead focus on the kind of fun that the gift recipient enjoys.  Gift cards for the movies, XBox Live points and e-books are great for older kids.  When buying toys for younger kids, if you want to avoid the long lines, toys are best purchased online as there are plenty of free shipping offers on minimum purchases. Consolidate your online shopping if possible in order to maximize these offers.  For parents, you might opt to give a "date night" that includes dinner with babysitting.  
      4) Support the Local Buzz - For that favorite teacher or friends and family who live in the area, go local.  Support your local restaurants, bakeries, delis and sandwich shops, salons or stores that have recently popped up around town.  Even gift certificates for classes or workshops offered through the town Parks and Recreation office would be great.  Maybe that friend or family member has always wanted to try yoga or learn how to paint or shoot photography like an expert.  You might also know of local reps for direct to consumer companies who sell home goods, jewelry and the like.  Check out Oswegatchie School's upcoming One Stop Shopping Night on Thursday, Dec. 6 from 5:00-8:00 pm.  You will feel good knowing you have helped your local economy.
      5) Get Digitally Creative - Everyone appreciates personalized gifts. Today there are more options than ever before.  Use favorite family photos to create one-of-a-kind pillow, throw or tote bag keepsakes.  If you recently traveled or celebrated a milestone occasion with a family member, put together a hard-cover photo book online.  Sites like Shutterfly, Snapfish and any digital photo printing service at a local retailer have really simplified this process.  Take it one step further if you are talented at producing your own video montages; combine photos with video footage and set it to music.  Believe me, this is a gift like no other, especially for grandparents or family who live far away.
      6) Make a Pact - Given the tough economic times, you may want to shorten your gift-giving list this year by making a pact with some friends and family members. Maybe you agree not to exchange gifts this year and instead pick a fun destination or activity to do together to celebrate.  Maybe only the children receive gifts and the adults only participate in a limited value Yankee swap, a fun gift-giving game with guaranteed laughs.  It's about showing that you care, not about the stuff, right?
      And above all,
      7) Don't Wait - Do not allow yourself to wait until the last minute to give any thought to the above options or you will risk falling into the pit of gift-shopping despair.  If all else fails, you can always stuff cash into a fancier card that sings or lights up.  And don't forget to come bearing sweets or a fancy distilled beverage of any kind.  Both are guaranteed to elicit good times!

      Wednesday, October 17, 2012

      Halloween is for Everyone (Even Our Dogs)

      Mac as a feline.
      What is your dog wearing for Halloween this year?
           I admit it.  I dressed up my dog in a makeshift Halloween costume last year.  But I did not spend a penny to do so.  I had leftover material from almost 10 years ago sitting in a dusty box.  It was a glorious piece of wild feline spotted fleece.  I happily cut it up and made a cape for him so he could match his "sister" who wanted to be a cheetah last year.  I couldn't resist.  Look how adorable they were in the photo, with matching pumpkin baskets to boot!
      Everyone needs a sidekick on Halloween!
           We are now termed "pet parents" rather than "pet owners."  I have embraced this new title.  My dog is the reason I hit the pavement for at least one mile per day, sometimes two miles, in the spirit of his and my own fitness.  His smile and enthusiastic tail is the reason I perk up when I arrive home, despite how fatigued I might be.  And he is the reason I write every day.  My walk with him is the catalyst for my 750 word minimum online journal entry.  On a good day, our walk produces a good blog idea or the completion of my current chapter in progress.
           My point is that my dog is an important member of my family which is why we decided to include him in our Halloween family fun last year.  It didn't seem fair to leave him home.  The incessant doorbell and knocking stressed him out.  He loved walking anyway.  Why not see what he thought of all the people dressed up in costumes visiting each home?  He did not typically take walks in the dark, let alone see that many people outside at that hour.
           Mac is notorious for wanting to chase anything that speeds by him.  He can't help his Sheltie heritage.  He wants to herd kids, bikes, cars anything else that isn't moving in some kind of order.  But on Halloween evening, no one was in a rush.  Masked characters strolled together in herds.  This comforted him.
           Mac learned that if he sat while everyone patiently awaited for someone to come to the door, the homeowner might notice him and run back into the house to find a more appropriate treat for him.  Ah, yes.  There was something in it for him too.  He was also in costume, so after a couple of oohs and aahs, he happily accepted a lovely dog-bone shaped biscuit or two.
      Halloween costumes from the 1970s.
      Mac loves people and other dogs, especially those he recognizes from our neighborhood.  Last Halloween, we saw other dogs walking around with their families, but most were not in costume.
           Perhaps this year will be different.
           Amidst our nation's financial woes, industry trackers and market researchers say there will be a bright spot in our economy this coming Halloween.  Among many other colorful characters, we can expect Captain America, Iron Man, the Avengers, Obamas, Mitts, and perhaps some more super hero canines.

      Halloween savings tip from my good friend Michelle: It's not too late if you would like to place your children's costumes from last year online on eBay or Craig's list in order to fund this year's costumes.  Or, consider trading costumes with your children's friends who attend a different school.