Friday, August 30, 2013

Why I Love the Internet

When I was in high school, only geeks used computers. Our school had a computer which was housed in one room.

The computer pretty much filled the room. Although I walked past it a time or two, I don't think I ever entered that room, which was known to me only as 'the computer room'.

Isn't it amazing how life changes? Fast forward about 40 years and I own two computers plus a phone that's a mini-computer. I use computers daily and find that technology moves way faster than I do.

The most amazing thing about the computer is the platform many of us employ, known as the internet. Back in my high school days, nobody could have imagined all that today's technology would include.

If the high school me had known what my future would hold, I would have visited the computer room much more than a time or two.

When I type a few words into Google or any search engine on the internet, I am instantly transported to my choice of thousands of websites offering the information I need to know.

I can learn about people, places or things at the speed of light. You'd have to know that I'm a kid who grew up reading encyclopedias to understand just how awesome that is to the grown-up me.

In our house, there were several sets of encyclopedias and various other assorted reference books. My favorites were the World Book Encyclopedias.

I would pick one of the World Books and spend an hour or more paging through the book. My favorite was the book containing the letter D because it had pictures of nearly every breed of dog.

I loved dogs but we never had any furry pets. My Mom said she was allergic to them. I suspect she was allergic to the idea of adding pets to an Army family of eight kids who moved every few years.

As I looked through the pictures of the dogs, I read about each one and thought about which one I would have one day when I was in charge.

I think of today's internet as a modern version of the World Book encyclopedia. There are enough pictures to entertain and enough details to inform, all at a level that the average person can understand.

Today is a case in point. I had received a graphic from someone in an Adobe format. I knew there had to be some way to convert that file to the photo format I needed.

I typed into the search engine, "How do you convert a .pdf file into a .jpg file?" Before I'd even finished the question, up popped search results.

I chose one that sounded professional. At Online Tech Tips, a guy whose name isn't even noted offered me several free websites that would do the job for me with step-by-step instructions for each website.

There was also much more technical information for those of you who are closer to geekdom than me. I've bookmarked the page and will return to learn more tech tips from time to time.

I chose the one that sounded the easiest and landed at This website let me choose the file I wanted converted, choose what type of file I wanted it to be, enter my email address and click a button.

Within a couple of minutes, the converted file was waiting for me in my inbox. If that's not amazing, I don't know what is.

This was just the latest amazing information I've found on the internet. From information to entertainment, there's something for everyone - well, everyone except my Mom, who absolutely refuses to embrace today's technology.

Although there's plenty of crap out here in Internetland, there's also a lot of really interesting and informative stuff. What's the most interesting thing you've learned from the internet?

That's it from me for today. I will leave you to ponder that question and I'll bet more than one of you will jump online and look something up in the modern World Book.

Until then, I'll take what I can get when I can get it and do the best I can to face each day with a smile on my face, a prayer on my lips and a song in my heart.

Blogging Grandma Sandy signing off for now.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Old Grey Brain Just Ain't What it Used to Be

You probably remember memorizing things when you were in school. From times tables to Shakespeare, for those of us in the boomer years, memorizing was commonplace.

These days, schools are not as much into having kids memorize things. I suspect that by the time my youngest grandchild graduates from high school, there may be a law against forced memorization.

I must tell you that I was pretty good at memorizing back in the day. I can still recite "The Swing" by Robert Louis Stevenson word for word. If I remember correctly, I memorized that poem in the first or second grade.

I can also still recite a lot of the Shakespeare quotes I helped my older brother memorize and a lot of other mostly useless other stuff learned in the past.

Almost 30 years ago, I had to memorize tons of material related to my job, under threat of being fired. It's amazing how well you can learn under pressure.

Most people don't know this, but postal workers all over the country once had to memorize what's called a city scheme. The city scheme is a listing of which carrier carries which streets or portions of streets.

In our city, there were about 1,500 separate memory items to learn when I started at the post office here in town. Many were portions of streets carried by more than one carrier.

After we learned all of these memory items, we used the knowledge daily while keying mail moving across the letter sorting machine at a rate of 50 to 60 letters per minute so we really had to know the information.

Different people learned the scheme different ways. Some used mnemonic tricks, making up words using first letters of each street name.

Others, myself included, made up stories about each route. Each story contained the names of each street on the route and references to any specific blocks.

It's funny how the mind works. Over the years, some of those stories have stayed with me better than things I really needed to know.

Fast forward to the here and now. Tomorrow I will take my final test on a city scheme that I'm currently learning - or not learning, as the case may be.

The problem with learning something really well is that it's really hard to unlearn it. The scheme I'm working on is the first one I learned.

I used every trick in the book to learn that scheme. I drove around that part of town on my days off, linking streets together in my mind by their location.

I made up stories and recorded them to listen to on my way to work each night and as I went to sleep each day. Until I began relearning this scheme the new way, I remembered nearly every single street the old way.

Did I mention that I did all of this memorizing while taking care of my three-year-old and infant daughters? My girls are grown now with kids who are older now than they were back then.

The photos at the beginning of this blog are me in elementary school and me with the two girls, around the time I was learning all of that stuff the first time around.

But, to paraphrase a song, the old grey brain just ain't what it used to be. My poor brain is way beyond overload. I've created stories for a few of the routes, but most have too many streets to remember this way.

I've used a few mnemonics, but not many. Mostly, I've just 'thrown cards' during my training time using the case and little computer-generated scheme cards provided.

Near the end of the training time, I got to take two pre-tests. Out of a test deck of 100 random cards, you can only miss five.

That might not sound too hard, but it's tougher than it sounds. Did I mention that as I'm learning this new stuff, I've also been learning new stuff to go with my current job?

So, two failed pre-tests later, I'm hoping that the final test which I'll take later today will bring a passing grade for this old grey brain.

My hat's off to all of the college kids out there who can cram in a single night and pull an 'A' out of the hat. Keep your fingers crossed, say a prayer or wish me luck.

Pass or fail, I'm still the same person now that I'll be after the test is over. Check back in to see what happens and if I pass the test this time.

Until then, I'll take what I can get when I can get it and do the best I can to face each day with a smile on my face, a prayer on my lips and a song in my heart.

Blogging Grandma Sandy signing off for now.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Rest in Peace, My Friend

I received very sad news yesterday. My dear friend and former co-worker, Jenny Crawley, passed away at home at the young age of 41.  Jenny and I worked together at the Lynchburg Mail Processing and Distribution Center for many years.  

But more than just co-workers, we were friends.  We talked on the phone and managed to squeeze in a short lunch together from time to time.

Jenny was a breath of fresh air, someone who called it like she saw it.  I loved her like a sister.  Although she was about 15 years younger than me, we shared a lot in common including our outlook on life: positive with our eyes wide open to reality.

Do you have one of those friends with whom you can share anything at all, a friend who feels like family and who always has your back? That's the type of friend Jenny was to me.

Jenny had seen more than her share of troubles in life. She was a good daughter who helped her parents, especially after her father was stricken with Alzheimer's.

She nursed her dad, even when his disease made him angry and she mourned him when the disease finally took him away for good.

Jenny was a wife and a sister, but her heart was a mom's heart. She loved her kids with a passion, even when they drove her nuts. I think that's probably what drew us to each other more than anything else.

Jenny's health declined as a chronic health condition slowly stole her life. She went from a vibrant woman who took care of everyone to a homebound invalid who had to let others care for her.

I rejoiced with Jenny when was finally granted disability retirement. By then, she was unable to do much of anything without being totally wiped out. The medications Jenny took helped her symptoms, but made her weak and tired.

Even after Jenny retired, we stayed in touch but our lunches ended in favor of phone calls. Sometimes Jenny was her old funny self, making me laugh until I cried. But more often, the medications made it hard for her to put together the words she wanted to say and hard for me to understand.  

As Jenny's life became the four walls around her, my life became more busy. Although we talked often about getting together again, it just never happened. For that, I'm truly sorry.

I'd give anything for one more shared lunchtime, laughing about this and that, talking about people we both knew and sharing our joys and sorrows.

So, if you can, take time this weekend or next week to call that friend you haven't seen in a while. That friend who makes you laugh, the one you can share anything with, the one who has your back.

Make a date for lunch, dinner or coffee and take the time to tell your friend just how much they mean to you. Laugh until you can't laugh anymore and enjoy the time together.

Life is short and there are no guarantees. Let the to-do list wait and spend time with a friend. Rest in peace, Jenny, my dear friend. I'll love you and miss you always and hope to see you one day on the other side.  

Until then, I'll take what I can get when I can get it and do the best I can to face each day with a smile on my face, a prayer on my lips and a song in my heart.

Blogging Grandma Sandy signing off for now.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Does Public Rudeness Rise When the Moon is Full?

Ask any waitress or retail clerk and they will tell you that public rudeness is on the rise.  I don't know the reasons for this increase, but I've seen it everywhere.

People who are rushed for time get very annoyed when their every wish isn't fulfilled instantly.  You've more than likely witnessed adult meltdowns at Walmart, Kroger or your favorite local store.

Back in the day, toddlers were the only ones who melted down in public, throwing themselves into the floor in a fit because they wanted something they couldn't have.

Embarrassed parents once tried to pretend those kids did NOT belong to them as they pleaded, cajoled and threatened their kids to get them out of the floor.

I know because I was one of those parents.  My younger daughter routinely threw fits in the grocery store when she wanted candy or something else on display at the checkout counter.

Like many parents, I nearly always said no to the demands, ignored the fits and employed my magical bag of parenting tools to get her out of the floor and out the door.

I've noticed lately that there seems to be an increase in the angry craziness of adults when the moon is full.  I haven't done any studies, but others in the public eye agree with me on this one.

Although scientific studies show no relation between the cycles of the moon and heightened anger, those who work with the public disagree.

We live in an instant gratification society, it's sad but true.  From microwaves to text messages, everything happens in the blink of an eye.

Most kids have not been raised to wait for anything.  Is it any surprise that these kids became young adults and parents who still don't want to wait?

We are all pushed in every facet of life.  From the time we wake until the time we close our eyes, our lives are filled with demands.

Some people react to stressful situations with anger.  Whether or not you have an anger management problem, you may find yourself overreacting when faced with a long wait.

Our schedules are too full and we don't plan ahead well.  When we try to squeeze too many things into a short time span, we will often find ourselves waiting impatiently as we look at our watches.

There may be no hope for slowing down for modern adults.  Life waits for nobody, not even you.  But we can each do our part.

Arrive early for appointments.  Allow extra time for traffic.  Plan ahead and don't wait until the last minute.  If you're going somewhere known for long waits, don't go on your lunch break and bring something to do.

Most of all, when something or someone takes longer than you think it should, don't strike out in anger at the person who's just doing their job.

And for those of us working with the public, try a little kindness.  As you see these quasi-werewolves evolve in public, speak nicely to them instead of judging them.  A little bit of kindness can go a long way.

Well, that's my little rant for today.  After the full moon is done rising high in the sky for the month, hopefully the rude people will calm down.

Until then, I'll take what I can get when I can get it and do the best I can to face each day with a smile on my face, a prayer on my lips and a song in my heart.

Blogging Grandma Sandy signing off for now.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Shingles: Not Just for Old Fogeys Anymore

If you don't know what this is, you probably aren't an old fogey.  If you don't know what an old fogey is, you may not be over 50!  The first time I heard the word shingles, I didn't really know what it was.  A coworker who was in her 50s told me she had been out sick with shingles and that it was very painful.  At the time, I was in my 30s so I figured that shingles was just one of those things that older people got sometimes. 
Years later, shingles became one of the viruses that older people were urged to protect themselves against by getting a shingles shot each year.  Much like flu shots, shingles shots were given at the doctor's office and at various pharmacies.  The ads all targeted those old fogeys, the people over 60.  Those same people who were almost eligible for Social Security, senior citizen discounts and retirement.  Not me, for sure.

Well, fast forward a few more years and guess who has shingles?  Yup, me.  I am not over 60 and don't think of myself as an old fogey but I was diagnosed this week with shingles.  The doctor who's treating me thinks my outbreak of shingles is probably related to a recent back injury I suffered on the job and the associated stress.  Who knew?!

Those little dots may not look like much, but they hurt a lot!  Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus, according to WebMD.  That's the same virus that causes chicken pox.  Also known as herpes zoster, shingles is "most common in older adults and people who have weak immune systems because of stress, injury, certain medicines and other reasons," according to WebMD, my 24-hour online doctor.

Okay, I'm not an older adult, at least I don't think of myself as one.  But I guess my immune system was weakened with both the back injury and standing on the job despite the pain from the back injury.  I'm on the mend now, thanks to the wonders of modern medicine.

I'm taking five giant horse pills each day of an antiviral known as Acyclovir.  They have many unpleasant side effects including nausea and other stomach problems.  I'm also on heavy-duty pain pills known as Tramadol that make me woozy, dizzy and nauseous so I don't take many of them.  The two medications had very unpleasant side effects when taken at the same times the first couple of days.

I have to take the antiviral to make the shingles heal so I'm taking them on schedule.  I'm working in one or two pain pills each day, at staggered times so the side effects won't hit so hard.  Today, I'm drinking coffee again for the first time since I started taking the medication.  That's a good thing!

Here's the pluses and minuses of shingles from my perspective.  The only plus was two days off from work, but they were spent on bedrest, so that's not much of a plus.  Minuses are many including: being grounded from spending time with the kids and grandkids (my own choice, just in case), feeling weak and wimpy, not having any appetite (well, maybe that's a plus) and feeling like maybe I've turned the corner on the journey toward being old.

As I start day three of the course of medicines, I'm feeling a little better and I'm grateful for that.  Before you know it, I'm sure I'll be good as new.  Until then, I'll take what I can get when I can get it and do the best I can to face each day with a smile on my face, a prayer on my lips and a song in my heart.

Blogging Grandma Sandy signing off for now. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Big Families and Birthday Twins

When you're part of a big family, one of the few things that is all yours is your birthday.  My Mom always made our birthdays special, not an easy task when you are the mother of eight kids born over 19 years' time.

As the second half of our family began to have kids, a strange phenomenon began taking place.  Many of the second wave of babies in our big family shared birthdays with older cousins, aunts or uncles.

I'm sure that our family isn't the only big family with sets of twins born on the same date, but years apart.  In addition to the birthday twins, we also have a set of birthday triplets.

In all, our family contains six sets of birthday twins and one set of birthday triplets.  One branch of the family is far ahead in the birthday twin game. 

My youngest brother Pat and I are separated by almost five years.  When we were kids, I was Pat's tormentor.  In today's world, I'd be considered a bully.  Back in the 60s, I was just an ordinary older sister.

Although I loved Pat as I do all of my siblings, I guess I had to show my superiority over him.  Pat made it through those years and grew from being a tormented little brother to a husband, dad, son and brother we all admire and respect.

Pat and his wife Denise are parents to five kids.  Three of the kids share a birthday with another member of the family.  Their oldest son Zach shares a birthday with my younger daughter.

Denise shares a birthday with their second son, Tom.  Pat shares a birthday with their younger daughter, Katie.  Pat was born on August 12, 1962.  Katie was born August 12, 2005. 

I got married and moved across the country from Pat when he was almost 13.  Because we live far away, I've not shared in many of Pat's birthday celebrations.

When I visit my parents and siblings in the Midwest, I always stay at Pat's house.  Their house is big enough to provide space for family, friends and many gatherings.

Pat and Denise are great hosts, always welcoming family members into their fold.  Kids double up in bedrooms to make space and everyone pitches in together to make meals and memories.

As Pat and Katie celebrate their birthday today, here's a happy birthday wish to my baby brother and his baby girl.  I'm sorry I can't be there to celebrate with you, but know that I'm with you in spirit.

Big families are a blessing.  Birthday twins is just one of the things I love about being part of a big family.  I'm grateful that my parents had a big family and that several of us did the same.

Although I'll miss spending the day with Pat and Katie, I know I'll see all of my big family again soon.  

Until then, I'll take what I can get when I can get it and do the best I can to face each day with a smile on my face, a prayer on my lips and a song in my heart.  Blogging Grandma Sandy signing off for now.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

60 is the New 40

I remember when 60 seemed really old.  Not just old, I mean REALLY old!  Teachers who were in their 60s were near retirement and, in my mind, were just a few steps away from eternity.

For that matter, teachers in their 30s seemed really old.  When you're 10, I guess everyone seems a lot older than you are.  It's funny how your unique perspective colors your world.

Back then, I didn't know any parents who were 60, but my grandparents were in their 60s and they seemed quite old to the 10-year-old me who visited them during summer vacations.

As I have gotten older, 60 has seemed younger and younger.  I remember when my parents turned 60 and it didn't seem quite so old.  It was still a shock the first time I went home to visit and found a gray-haired Dad.

By then, I was a parent and lots of things seemed different than when I was 10.  My mom's mother had passed away and my remaining grandparents were in their 80s, the ages my parents are now.

Back in the day, there was a saying, "Never trust anyone over 30."  Well, guess what?  60 is double 30 so does that mean you can only trust someone who's 60 half as much as someone who's 30 or twice as much?

When my oldest sibling turned 60, it seemed just around the corner.  Now, three of my siblings are over 60 and another will be 60 in just a couple of years.  I'm number five, so you know what that means.

This week, my husband turned 60.  It's funny how people 'turn' 60.  Unlike some other milestone birthdays, people don't go out to celebrate turning 60 by a night of drinking like some people when they turn 21.

Unlike 30, 40 or 50, your 60th birthday isn't always celebrated with a big party with friends. Like many people who are 60, my husband is a grandpa.

Today, people who are 60 years old ride bikes, kayak down the James River, hike to the top of Sharp Top Mountain, go white water rafting, run marathons and participate in triathlons.

Unlike my 60-year-old grandparents, many of us who turn 60 aren't thinking about retirement.  People live a lot longer than they did 40 plus years ago and many work longer.

My guess is that 60 will seem younger and younger to me in the next few years as that magical age creeps my way.  Happy 60th birthday to my better half, with me through thick and thin, for better or for worse.

Our life together has been an interesting adventure and I'm sure the adventures will continue now that one of us has turned 60.  Stay tuned to enjoy the fun.

Until then, I'll take what I can get when I can get it and do the best I can to face each day with a smile on my face, a prayer on my lips and a song in my heart.  Blogging Grandma Sandy signing off for now.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Too much work, not enough play

I am really grateful that I have a good paying job with an established company.  Having said that, I wish I could just be a stay-at-home grandma.

There's not enough hours in the day to do it all.  Keeping up with work, home, articles for web-based content sites and a weekly newsletter of local family-friendly activities doesn't leave much time for fun.

This grandma just has too much work going on and not nearly enough play.  I manage to squeeze in a few hours here and there of time with the kids and grandkids, but think how much more fulfilling life could be if I could capture those 40 plus hours each week.

Here's a list of the top 10 things I'd do if I were a stay-at-home grandma.

  1. Have each of my grandkids over alone once a week.  It wouldn't have to be a sleepover, just some quality one-on-one time together.  While I'm on this topic, I'd love to find time in all of our schedules for one-on-one time with each of my grown kids and stepkids every week too.
  2. Have a family dinner once a week for whoever could make it.  When my kids were younger, we did family dinners most of the time.  As they got older, Sunday family dinners took place every few weeks.  Now that they're all grown and mostly on their own, it's harder to coordinate schedules.
  3. Call my Mom and Dad daily.  My parents live far away and I don't get to see them often.  I call from time to time, but not nearly often enough.
  4. Call my siblings at least once a week.  Like my parents, all seven of my siblings live far from me.  I try to visit my parents a couple of times a year and see the sibs who live close by but don't see the others much at all.  Too many miles separate us.  I'm thankful for Facebook to keep up with photos of their families.  
  5. Spend more time with my husband.  Yeah, I know it's bad that he only made #5 on the list but what can I say.  My husband is great and a real keeper!  He's on the road every day and out of town several days each week.  In my perfect, stay-at-home grandma world, I'd ride with him from time to time, maybe even once a week.
  6. Write a daily blog about whatever I wanted and not care if anyone but me reads it.  I write lots of articles, but they are mostly geared toward attracting readers.  Okay, I'll admit that this was higher on the list, but I had to rewrite my priorities, just as all of us often do in real life.  
  7. Make time for prayer every day.  Not just a fast prayer for a friend in need, but really deep talk with God.  Along with this, I'd love to make time to go to Mass during the week. 
  8. Make cookies...often.  I have always loved making cookies, but cookie making has become an occasional thing that I do at Christmas instead of a weekly fun activity.
  9. Try more new recipes.  I'm doing well most days to cook anything!  Once in a while, I put something in the crockpot, but it would be nice to have time to actually cook.
  10. Spendover nights with the grandkids every week.  Although I've enjoyed many, many spendovers with my three grandkids over the years, it's tougher to do as they get older.  
Okay, that's my perfect stay-at-home grandma list.  I'll have to print this off to save for that Oh Happy Day when I can some day retire.

Until then, I'll take what I can get when I can get it and do the best I can to face each day with a smile on my face, a prayer on my lips and a song in my heart.

Blogging Grandma Sandy signing off for now.  Here's me and my husband with our five grown kids.  Yeah, there's always one in every crowd!