Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Roughing It

Just this past weekend I had the honor of doing an interview with a vibrant, interesting woman who hiked the Appalachian Trail. (The article will appear in the July/August edition of Heart of Ohio Magazine.) She completed the over 2,000 mile hike and has been sharing her story with groups and in articles written by wimpy people like me who enjoy spending a couple of hours living vicariously through her experiences. Talking with her about her four and a half month meander through the wilderness made me think seriously about what it would take to do something like that.

In truth I think I'm roughing it if I find I've arrived at the grocery store without my cell phone. The thought of hiking over rocks, up mountains and down into ravines...of traversing narrow trails and watching for bears without a weapon (or an armed guard) is more than a little unnerving. As the story of this woman's adventure unfolded I realized I will am much better off staying in my comfortable seat and be part of the admiring audience. I'm just a city girl.

Think for just a moment of four and a half months without a chair to sit in, a bed to sleep in or a refrigerator to rummage through. Ten days between showers, wearing the same clothes for days on end and knowing everything you have with you fits into your back pack requires a self confidence I can't seem to muster. I carry more stuff in my handbag when I go to the movies than this woman carried into the wilderness; the more she talked the more I felt like Private Benjamin. (Goldie Hawn: “I wanted to join the other army, the one with the condos”)

Don't get me wrong, I'm not helpless. I can fix a kitchen sink with a nail file...but if I break a nail in the process I'm down for the count. Four and a half months without a hairdresser is cruel and inhuman punishment and, while I don't consider myself to be high maintenance, I think all that time without a facial would be pretty rough. After a day of walking twenty miles through the hill country, munching on beef jerky and trying to avoid being downwind of your companions, I would need more than a sleeping bag in a three sided shelter or a pup tent to prepare me for the next day.

I really was mesmerized by her story, and I listened intently as she spoke about the beauty of the countryside, the joy of discovering the great outdoors and the feeling of self sufficiency that was so satisfying. I am totally in awe of her tenacity and fortitude and, for just a little while, I felt inadequate when I measured myself against the yardstick of her courage and strength. Fortunately, that didn't last long.....

There is a place in this world for each of us. Her place is the brave female explorer who seeks to understand what she is made of. Mine is the bespectacled writer who takes her story to people who will also enjoy hearing about her adventure. I admit it, I'm a woosie whose biggest energy expenditure occurs on the stationary bike at the gym while listening to an audio book. At the end of the day I look forward to a glass of wine and a memory foam mattress...snap on the ceiling fan and life gets even better. Most of my enjoyment of the great outdoors comes from watching the Smithsonian Channel; it's likely to be the closest I'll ever get to a mountain trail or an ancient ruin. So be it.

Thank you Patty Stechschulte for sharing your story with me and allowing me to put it on paper to share with our readers. You keep exploring and I'll keep writing...your personal rewards will be great, but I get to wear prettier shoes.

                                                                Life is Good

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Here kitty, kitty.....

It was late and I was locking up, getting ready to head off to bed.  As I snapped the lock on the basement door I heard a kitten crying.   I opened the door, snapped on the basement light; hearing nothing I decided it must have been outdoors.

My regular morning rush consists of packing my lunch, raking a comb through my hair and getting my third cup of coffee into a travel mug.  I stood by the basement door, ready to launch, when I heard it again.   A kitten mewing…but this time I knew it was in the basement.

This is the point in my story that I have to confess to being a dog person.  There are cat people, dog people, and a variety of other types; I am a dog person.  The only Cats I've ever enjoyed I saw on Broadway.

I put down my lunch bag, my travel mug, my huge purse and a slice of toast.  Tiptoeing to the basement door I eased it open; the stairwell acted as the sound conductor for a series of tiny mews.  There was a cat in the basement…there should not be a cat in the basement of a dog person.

I called to my husband aand proceeded to head downstairs to look for the source of the sound.  Quickly I discovered the cat was litter trained.  A box of white sand I brought back from Florida to put around some houseplants had served the purpose.   Drats!

Searching for the cat, Larry went one way and I the other.  Finally I saw something move, then jump to the window sill. 

A kitten, probably two or three months old, was pressed against the glass trying to escape. It was black as coal, its eyes were matted closed and it definitely had not had an easy life so far.   This was the offspring of one of the literally more than a dozen feral cats that roam the area.   Our neighbor thinks she is being kind, feeding the legion of strays that people drop off in our country setting.  The numbers have continued to grow to an overwhelming wave of stray cats.

Now I stood trying to decide what to do about this one.  It was small, very likely sick, and wild.  I went for my trusty broom, a plan to sweep it out the door forming slowly in my head.

Larry chased the terrified cat behind a stack of picture frames, “Can you grab it from there,?” he said.

“Uh….noooooooo,” I replied.  I mean really…who grabs a stray cat?  

The cat darted under the basement stairs and I swished at it with the broom.  From the laundry room I heard, “Get this off me!”   Larry emerged from a corner with the cat hanging from his right hand!

I grabbed the cats back legs as they flailed around, trying to connect with his arm. 

“Let’s work toward the door, when I get it loose toss it out the door,” I said.

In an “I Love Lucy” shuffle side-step movement we inched our way to the outside door.    I let go of the cat’s legs and pried open his jaws, Larry flung it out the door!  Blood dripped from his hands and seeped from scratches and bites on my own.

Without even seeming to touch the ground the cat shot off into the back yard and never looked back.   Two other large cats stood watching us curiously, then turned their backs and sauntered off into the woods.

As soon as the cat hit the ground I realized we hadn’t thought this through very well.  The cat could have been rabid; at the very least it looked sickly.   Uh-oh.

We trooped upstairs to scrub with antibacterial soap and pour alcohol into the teeth marks and scratches.   I called our family doctor for advice; the nurse agreed that someone should check us out, so we headed to the emergency room.

I felt pretty silly walking into the hospital emergency room to explain we had been attacked by a kitten.  It crossed my mind to embellish my description of the animal, but I thought better of it. 

The PA who tended to us explained that a cat bite/scratch is much more serious than a dog bite.  In addition to the worry of rabies, there is catch scratch fever and some unpleasant infections that can follow an episode like this.   More people are hospitalized from infections from cat bites/scratches than from dog bites/scratches.   Who knew?

Two hours later, antibiotic prescriptions in hand and our freshly administered tetanus shot sites band-aided, we left in search of lunch.

A week later we’ve talked to the health department, they wanted to put an APB out on the black cat……good luck with that.   They also say we might want to consider taking a series of rabies shots;  we’re still kicking that around.  

Like all experiences we have learned something from this….or at least I have.

1.      Never grab a cat.  Never.  Ever.

2.      Nothing in this experience changes the fact that I am a dog person.

3.      If you’re in a tough situation with someone, get your plan straight.

4.      Never use your hands for something you can do with a broom.

                                                        Life is Good



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Appointment

At no time in our history has communication been easier. Cell phones, texting, email, Twitter, Facebook, Skype.....and on and on. It seems to me that my purse is always ringing, and at home I may have two phones demanding my attention at the same time.   Communication...non stop communication.

While most of us generally appreciate the contact with family, friends and acquaintances there is another communication that has taken an ugly turn, and that is with your health professionals. Oh how I miss the days when I made an appointment and never heard another word till I walked through the door of the office.

Today in the world of medical and dental care time is king. It seems we are allotted less and less time with our professionals, more and more time with surrogates. Nurse practitioners, dental hygienists and medical assistants fill the void that now exists as the doctor or dentist moves through his day of fifteen minute appointments at the pace of someone walking a five K with a storm blowing in. Because of this time compressed workday everyone associated with the practice shudders to think you might forget your appointment. This is where the desire for a non-stop system of “communication” comes from.

Last month I had an appointment with my nameless professional, a standing six month check up that has become least for me. I've grown accustomed to the day before reminder; I've always appreciated that. Unfortunately my health care provider seems to have been introduced to some cutting edge technology, and the whole thing has changed.

Two weeks before my scheduled appointment I received a “robo-call” instructing me to push 2 if I planned to keep my upcoming appointment. I pushed “2”, and went on with my life.

The next day I received an email telling me to respond if I planned to keep my scheduled appointment. I ignored this because I had just informed the nice robotic voice yesterday of my commitment by pressing 2.

Three days later I received the same email. I responded “yes” this time since ignoring the last one only got me more email.

Now we are in the week of my scheduled appointment and the whole system steps it up a notch. I received yet another canned phone call telling me if I needed to reschedule my appointment to please do it now. The auto caller went on to explain the financial penalties for missing an appointment without 24 hours notice. Feeling as if I had just been subjected to the Vulcan mind meld, I decided 24 hours notice was probably unnecessary. This system seemed to be tracking their patients with everything except ankle bracelet monitors, so I'm pretty sure they could fill my empty fifteen minutes in record time. Anyway, since I had already tried to reassure everyone by phone (please press 2) and by email (please respond in the positive) that I DO plan to make the appointment and did NOT need to reschedule, I reluctantly hung up on the robot.

Next day I get another email....which I also ignored.

Not to be outdone, the day before my actual appointment I get a reminder call from a real person. I assured the nice young lady that I really, really planned to be at my appointment the next day. I also told her that they could call off the robots, shut down the email blasts, and call back any drones they may have sent out searching for me. I would be there. I hung up convinced there are people being stalked who hear from their tormentors less frequently than some poor schmuck with a medical appointment.

I guess technology has taken over every corner of our society, however I personally I think this intensive system of “reminding” needs to be reserved for husbands who forget anniversaries and deadbeats who owe you money.

Press 2 if you agree with me......

                                                         Life is Good

Thursday, January 5, 2017

No change is Good Change

Here we are, starting another brand new year.  Some of us look ahead with dread, after all it's been a tumultuous year politically and every other way.  Still, some look ahead to what they believe will be better times.  Either way many of us march into the New Year with a list of personal changes tucked firmly under an arm.   Ladies and Gentlemen….I give you the dreaded New Year’s resolution.

Like every adult in the U.S.A. I’ve made more than my share of them, and my New Year’s resolutions have included but are not limited to:

I will lose ten pounds (or twenty or fifty)
I will stop smoking (which I did many years ago without the help of a New Year’s resolution)
I will be more patient (generous, tolerant, attentive, etc)
I will work harder (or not as hard)
I will learn to ski (or roller skate, or sing, or play the harmonica or something)
I will stop swearing (cough)
I will spend more time with (put the name here of someone who drives me nuts and I consciously avoid a minimum of 364 days each year) and I will be kind.

That's certainly not a complete list, but you get the picture because like every single adult in America you’ve made them too.

Having shared that list with you I have an important announcement to make:
I NO LONGER MAKE New Year’s resolutions.   Not one….nada….zip….zilch.

I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you it’s because I believe I’ve reached perfection.  I only know that for years now  I have gone into the New Year with one thought…..I am enough.   Perhaps this epiphany has come to me in the form of wisdom at this later stage of life, or perhaps it’s just fatigue, but it’s what I know.

New Year’s resolutions are a search for perfection after we have compared ourselves to others and have been found wanting.   Over the years I’ve gotten past that and I’ve given myself permission to be who I am...a woman aware of her shortcomings and quite comfortable with them, thank you very much.  After wishing to be taller, smarter, more attractive or to find some previously undiscovered talent, I have finally come to this understanding:  I can wear high heels to feel taller, I can read more to learn more, I can comb my hair more often, and I can admire other people’s talents….but I am who and what I am.

Over the years I’ve come to the gradual realization that I am “hard wired” in some areas of my personality, and my belief system has evolved through my life experiences.   I think I have always tried to be the best “me” possible, but trying to be someone I am not is a waste of my gradually diminishing energy.

Who wants to be perfect anyway?  The Kardashians are perfectly famous.  Caitlyn Jenner is perfectly beautiful.  Donald Trump is perfectly ready to be president.  I wouldn’t want to trade places with any of them….would you?

I know I’m flying in the face of tradition here, but I think you should consider joining me in my “no change…no way” mind set.   Check your emotional “basement” to make sure the foundation is secure, and then forget about the rest of it.  Maybe we’re not perfect, but then who is?  

                                        Be who you are….because you are enough.
                                                Happy New Year... Life is good

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Contented Re-gifting

One thing is for sure in this great country of ours....if you live a long time you accumulate a lot of stuff.  Hence the explosion of places where you can rent a space, store your junk, then lock it up and forget  about it.   Then, after paying some ridiculous monthly fee for a couple of years you can revisit your mildewed, melted and unrecognizable...and arrange for the dumpster you should have ordered two years ago.    It's the American way.

When we moved last year I was forced to take a look at my own accumulation of stuff.  It also gave my husband a chance to view my previously hidden stash of scented candles, paper napkins and other things I had squirreled away.   It was not quite ready for an episode of Hoarders, but moving in that direction.  Being the good Mother that  I am I filled the cars of my children, giving them the chance to stash more stuff in their own bulging storage rooms.  It's Moms way.....

It was during this soul-searching purge that I discovered two items that needed to be "re-gifted" to people who didn't know the items existed.   Neither was worth much in the way of money, but both had sentimental value that I wanted to share.

The first item is a small table that belonged to my Mother.   Her brother, my uncle, made the table in a shop class at school before I was born.  It was one of only a few things mom held onto her whole life.  When she died two years ago it was one of only a few things that survived when her house  burned after her death.

My uncle preceded Mom in death by a year or so; eventually his oldest daughter purchased and settled his house.   I thought about her often as her financially and emotionally draining work on the house progressed.  By that time I was going thru my own painful process with mom's belongings, and the little table stared at me from the corner of the basement.

My cousin seemed pleased when I told her about the table; it seemed things had come full circle to have it find a place in my uncle's former home. It took a while to get it to her because we live in different states, but I happily delivered it to her last fall.  I know she will enjoy having it for years to come...the little table is really home now and my mom would be happy about that.

My second re-gifting was just this week.  As a little girl I was always bugging mom's girlfriends for their "old jewelry".   Broken earrings, beads and anything that sparkled filled a little jewelry box I carried around constantly.   It's likely because I badgered her relentlessly, but one of mom's friends, Dorothy,  gave me a bangle bracelet with her "D" initial engraved on it.  It fired a love of monogrammed things I've carried all my life!   I must have been about seven when the stainless steel bracelet joined the treasures in my little jewelry box.

Mom and Dorothy remained friends for the remainder of their lives.  When both could no longer drive they talked on the phone, finally their failing hearing made that impossible, too.  I took Mom to her friends 90th birthday party...Mom being the younger gal by a couple of years.

Suddenly both of these good women are gone, with the two remaining daughters becoming friends on Face Book.  Now, looking through things I rediscovered the bracelet Dorothy had given me over sixty years ago, and I knew it also needed to go home.  This week we got together and I passed the monogrammed bracelet on to Dorothy's daughter, Denise.

To my way of thinking this is the best kind of re-gifting.  These items have gone thru many hands, but they are tied right back to the original gift giver by a ribbon of love.  They will rest happily in their new homes, the memories they have accumulated passed on to their new owners.

                            Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays....Life is Good

Thursday, August 18, 2016

They don't make 'em like that any more....

Today I attended the celebration of life service for a long time friend and mentor...the city of Mansfield said goodbye to Virginia Imhoff, who had just turned 90 in January.

When I was a teenager Mrs. Imhoff was my guidance counselor. To my teenage eyes she was elegant, educated and intimidating. So intimidating, in fact, that when I told her I wanted to drop out of school she verbally wrestled me to the ground and scared that thought right out of my head. It's something I've never forgotten and for which I've always been grateful.

Working in radio over the years I wrote commercials and did voice work for some of Ginny's campaigns as she moved through the chairs at city council, eventually becoming president. She was involved in so many things, always working tirelessly in the community.

This summer it was not unusual to drive along Marion Avenue and see Ginny walking her dog...always a boxer. From time to time I'd stop in and visit, only being allowed to enter the house after a good snuffle inspection from the dog. There were hundreds of former students that she referred to as “my kids”....I was lucky enough to be one of them.

Just a few months earlier our community lost yet another role model when Marilou Schwan died. She was 99, and until Swan Cleaners closed the year before her death she was behind the counter every day with her hair done, her heels on and dressed to kill. It was a pleasure to drop off dry cleaning just to get to talk to her.

Our community lost two amazing women when these two passed away. In a world where role models are in such short supply Ginny Imhoff and Marilou Schwan were examples of lives well lived.

A few years back Ginny was walking her dog along Marion Avenue when a mugger grabbed her. When she realized she couldn't out-muscle the guy, Ginny faked a heart attack and dropped to the sidewalk like a cement block. When the guy let go of her and took off Ginny ran into the street and flagged down a car for help. She simply out foxed the guy; I'm sure he never knew what happened. In any event he sure didn't have any bragging rights after that episode.
Years ago, on a work day just like any other day, a guy came into Swan Cleaners with a gun and took everyone hostage. Marilou, at the counter as usual, was forced to round up all of the employees and bring them to the front counter. Without any thought to herself she talked the guy into releasing the whole staff while she stayed as his hostage.  After several hours she talked him into surrendering to police. No one was hurt because she took control...but if a fight had broken out my money would have been on her.

Working in what was really a man's world back in the day didn't cost these women their femininity. Both gals were always perfectly coiffed and stylishly dressed as they spent day after day in the work force. Their humor and intellect was always evident, and they were both admired by so many of us. I feel lucky to have known them, and in their passing they've left some really big high heels to fill.
Today's memorial service has made me think about the quality of the memories I want to leave behind;  there's no doubt these two long time friends are a tough act to follow. How fortunate we are to be left with the memory of two strong and capable women who were always young at heart, always ahead of their time....and gone too soon.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Birthday Card

One year after moving in we are finally making some headway in our new home. It is, for the most part, just about the way we want it. The only remaining work to be done is in the basement, and that's all on me.

Everything we moved that didn't fit upstairs is now lurking in the corners of our huge basement. Finally I'm at the point where I need an organized space to work in. I need a place to write, a place to work on crafts and a spot to sort, scan and maybe scrapbook some of the thousands of pictures I've saved over the years. It's a tall order for one space but I've made some progress.

If there is one thing I've come to understand about myself it is that I have an abstract mind. Give me a concrete function and I'm bored in an hour...which also describes my reaction to getting organized. I'm a creative person who resents wasting time putting things on shelves, in drawers and wrestling stuff to the dumpster, but that is the task at hand.

Today, working toward some of that much-needed organization, I popped the tape on a big box that lurked under a table and, when opened, was found to be chocked full of things I've kept over the years. I dug through pictures and napkins and matchbooks and news paper clippings.  A thick stack of greeting cards was held together by a rubber band that broke as I clumsily worked it over the edge of the big bundle. I discovered dozens of cards from my (first) retirement, their handwritten notes made me smile and remember how much I enjoyed working with this terrific staff of broadcasters.  Out tumbled  Valentines Day cards from my husband, anniversary cards, thank you notes, Mothers Day cards from the children and hand made cards from our grand kids. Goodness! I realized I must never have thrown anything away in my whole life!

Digging deeper into the box I found a large manila envelope that I really didn't remember, but then I hardly remembered keeping any of this stuff. I dumped the envelope into my lap and out tumbled a bunch of birthday cards from my mother. Each envelope, some to me and some to my husband, was addressed in my mother's elegant handwriting. Inside each card was a personal note; I read each and every one, hearing them in my mother's voice. I remembered chiding mom for being so particular about the cards she chose. No “grab any card under $3.00 and run” for my mother. Oh no...she would spend hours, sometimes in several stores, until she found just the right verse. Mom didn't keep a diary, but each carefully chosen card spoke for her just as plainly. I sat really reading the cards, likely for the first time, and I knew she had carefully chosen this just for me or for her much loved son in law. After penning her own message to the inside of the card she would always tuck a crisp dollar bill, fresh from a special trip to the bank, inside. When our children were little mom always gave them a gift, but she also tucked a dollar into their birthday cards. My husband jokingly said he wanted his dollar, too! It became our joke and forever after every one of us got a dollar in our birthday cards.

 Mom never handed us our birthday cards; she always mailed them as if handing one over diminished it's worth. She took such pains with cards, and I now realized these really were my mom's expression of how much she loved us. After reading each one I carefully put them back into their envelopes, the dollar bills still tucked inside each card, and tied them with a red ribbon before I slipped them back into the larger manila envelope.

Greeting cards have always seemed to me to be a product trumped up by the card companies.  I've always sent cards out of obligation, almost never because I truly wanted to.  Now it occurred to me in the hurry of my younger day to day life I had missed the beautiful verses, had not thought about my mom making a trip to the bank for a crisp new dollar,  and over looked the carefully addressed envelope when it arrived in the mail. Of course I was busy with work, with children, with a house and the myriad of other things that kept me occupied. And there was always next year, the next birthday, the next card....wasn't there?

In spite of the fact that it is completely against my nature I will continue to try to organize my house, my space, my life.  I learned something today that might make it a bit more palatable:  I learned that we do not know how many tomorrows we have, but if we do the little things today with great love they can speak for us long after we are gone.             

Thank you was great being with you today.

Life is Good

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Hip, hip hooray!!!


Life is full of anniversaries, the yard sticks against which we measure the advancement of the years. This week is a special anniversary for me, the one year mark for my hip replacement.

It seems just yesterday I was sitting in the office of a very nice young doctor who makes his more-than-adequate living from replacing the worn out hips and knees of people in my age group. Since most professionals now look like “kids” to me, I found it reassuring that this young man wore a suit and put forth some effort to look like a grown up. I'm pretty sure I have handbags older than he I really appreciated the effort.

After a perfectly dreadful summer I got my nifty new hip on July 27, 2015. I came home determined to be back on my feet in record time, only to discover that you can't “out stubborn” a joint replacement. Subscribing to the “I'll bring this body to its knees if I have to” school of thought I pushed my exercises to the limit as I forced myself to do more, more, more. Five weeks into my recovery my new hip came out of its shiny new socket, necessitating an unbelievably painful return trip to the hospital to have it put back where it belonged. My well dressed surgeon then sent me to have a brace fitted. This uncomfortable monkey suit was to be worn 24/7 for a couple of months.  I hobbled around in my white plastic shell looking for all the world like an injured Star Wars Storm Trooper. I found it to be a great conversation starter...

While my original plan was to be a shining example of joint replacement success, I turned out to be a cautionary tale. My healing process was slow and tedious, but with the exception of the joint displacement there was surprisingly little pain. Cussed impatience was my worst enemy, but as is always the case time marches on. I marked the three month, the six month and now the twelve month anniversary with something akin to happiness. It took nine months to be able to walk any distance comfortably; now at the one year mark I sometimes forget, if only for a moment, that I've had anything done. There is no feeling of having a foreign object in my body, and my movement isn't restricted by anything; I hope to be back in yoga class this fall and I've already returned to kayaking.

When I visited my surgeon for my final visit this week I was walking without a cane or a limp; on my first visit I arrived as a sullen mess in a wheel chair. The doctor originally told me I'd be feeling pretty well in six weeks, but that it would take a year to a year and a half to be fully healed. Although I was in a cast by the six week mark, he was right about the year to a year and a half healing period. He thought therapy was a good idea, but I stubbornly put it off because I thought I could do this on my own.  When I finally realized I was wrong the therapy helped enormously.

My husband and I celebrated my “anniversary” by going to the Y for our regular work outs, a routine that helps both of us keep moving. I am so thankful to live in a day when joint replacement is so routine as to be boring. Like replacing the tires on a car, I feel as if I'm good for a lot more miles now.

Since my surgery I've talked to so many people who have had or are facing joint replacement and I always give them the same advice:

Be's going to take a year of your life to feel better so get on with it.

Be careful...don't push your body beyond its limits; you'll pay for it if you do.

And finally, listen to your doctor. Chances are he's actually been to school for this and knows what he is talking about. You may think he looks like a sixteen years old who just passed his driver's test, but my bet is the hours he just recently spent playing video games is now paying off in terrific eye/hand coordination that serves him well in the surgical suite. 

My nattily dressed young doctor and I now have an anniversary that won't make either of us misty-eyed with remembrance, but it's likely one I will never forget.

                                                     Life is Good

Thursday, July 7, 2016

On a Wing and a Prayer

We stood on the tarmac, probably two to three hundred people watching the sky as the rain and two C-130s advanced on the airfield. Finally an airplane broke through the cloud cover; a cheer went up as it flew over our heads. As the happy crowd watched the impossibly big plane dipped it's wing in a salute to its own homecoming. The last of the deployed 179th was home after four long months in the war torn middle east.

Looking around the crowd I watched wives and children and parents and friends of all ages waving signs and cheering as the planes taxied to their final positions. Flags flapped, children danced with impatience and relatives carried home made “welcome home” signs. I looked around me and thought about the sacrifices some these families had made over these long months; the babies that had been born and the problems that had been solved while these young men and women were in a foreign country doing jobs I don't understand, for reasons I cannot begin to fathom. I imagined I could hear a collective sigh of relief as the plane's precious cargo came down the steps and finally into the arms of their loved ones.

My son in law was one of those returning young men who was met by a thankful family. The look of relief and love on the faces of our family and the faces of so many others was beautiful to see. The young people strode across the tarmac to calls of “daddy....daddy!!”....and “over here!” My eyes welled with tears and feelings of patriotism and pride filled me to the brim while words like honor, duty, sacrifice, bravery, and devotion ran through my head. I was unashamedly proud of these young people and America.

Later that evening I turned on the evening news and was assaulted by the now constant stream of murder, mayhem and ugliness. The never ending political coverage, the shooting and killing and threat of terrorism poured out of the flat black screen until I switched it off. I returned to thoughts of the plane breaking out of the clouds and the happy faces and cheers that had surrounded me. We can argue later about whether we are the greatest nation or just a war machine, about gun control and politics and the psychology of killing that seems to grip these times in which we live. For this one day I chose to be a proud American and celebrate the return of the fine young men and women who give so much to this country.

Looking back on that amazing afternoon I have a suggestion for the next president of the United States. I only ask that you stand on the tarmac on any military base in the country and watch our young people return from their assignments. Look around you, Mr. or Mrs. President, and hold on to those words that will undoubtedly run through your head as you watch the planes land and the flags wave. Honor, duty, sacrifice, bravery...the words that describe what our country should always be about. Look at the faces of the waiting loved ones, they don't care if you are a Republican or a Democrat, but not one of them wants to hear what pours out of our televisions any longer! We are the people you are elected to serve, and we expect you to do your job with the same dedication our military shows as they serve this country.  That is your mission.  It's been a long time...and we all want to come home again.

                                                                Life is Good

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Change is in The Air

It doesn't seem possible a year has passed, but it was last spring I took a walk down memory lane....on Radio Lane.  It was Ron Colman's, (Colman in the Morning)  last week on the air on WNCO FM.   For many years he had been the voice country listeners in mid Ohio woke to every Monday through Friday; now he was hanging up his head set and retiring.   It would be a big change for the long-time listeners, and for Ron.

I parked in the familiar parking lot at the station and thought about the hundreds of times I had passed through these doors over the years.  I was the first receptionist in this new building on Radio Lane when WMAN moved from atop the Ohio Theatre building on Park Avenue West in Mansfield, Ohio in the late 70's.  It looked palatial after the shabby offices and studios in the old place.

As the years flew by I would try my hand at copy writing and do some on air work.  The beauty of small market radio in those days was that you got the chance to do anything you wanted to try and were willing to do for free.  We called it experience.   Eventually I left to do other things; when I finally returned to that building in the early 90's it would be as the sales manager. Eventually I'd become the fourth manager since the station signed on, and the first female general manager.

Things had changed, but it didn't seem all that strange walking into the WMAN building to wish a WNCO employee well.  The Mansfield and Ashland stations had melded into a Clear Channel ownership in the early 2000's. After the acquisition the market group would consist of Mansfield, Ashland, Mt. Vernon, Shelby, Galion, and later Marion, boasting fourteen sets of call letters in all.   The challenge would be to create one cohesive group from individual staffs of former competitors....all under the flag of "radio".  My challenge was to travel between these markets to accomplish that, and it was an experience I relished.

Although I divided my time between three or four buildings at any given time, my home base was Mansfield.  Walking into the building that day I couldn't help but think  of the people who had passed through these doors over the years.  They were men I looked up to at WMAN in the early days, like Bob James and Chuck Carson.   There are many voices I remember today as well as the day they opened a microphone:  Mark Hellinger, Bill Friend, Marvin Cade, John Foster and Gene White.  I can still hear the much later  Y-105 air talent like Jeff Schendel, Michael Hayes, Matt Anthony, Tony and Chelly, Mr. Ed, Brian Moore and Eric Hansen.  News reporters like Ron Allen (who celebrated his 50th year in radio just before retiring last year)  Phil Linne, Dave Pennell, Jeff Swank and Greg Heindel kept the news stories coming.  Behind the scenes a dedicated staff of business managers, sales staffs and managers, traffic directors, program directors, engineers and  copy writers kept pace with the on air staff.  Theirs were names you might not recognize, but they made the machine that is a radio station run just the same.  These talented and capable people did their "real" jobs and still managed to turn up in commercials when they were pulled into the recording studio on a moments notice.

We were an odd breed in those days, we radio folk.  In every small market the staff would fight through blizzards and storms and floods to keep the station on the air.  Before the backup generators were sufficient to support the lights in the building we read commercial copy, weather reports and cancellations by candle and flashlight.  Telephones clanged constantly as staff members answered and typed stacks of cancellations for announcers to read.  The public could count on this group to be there because we were radio.

 I smiled to myself as I stood in the lobby,  my mind conjuring the vision of well remembered former co-workers moving through the studios, up and down the steps, and out the back door.  I would not have been shocked to see a nattily dressed Chuck Carson, or Gene White with his ever present huge mug of coffee, or Mark Hellinger with his infectious grin and a big bag of Jones Potato Chips clutched in one hand, walking down the hall.

Finally I walked into the control room to wish Ron Colman all the best in his retirement.  Somehow over the years the Mansfield and Ashland staffs had managed to navigate the road from competitors to comrades, and I wanted him to know I had enjoyed the trip.

If I counted all the people I've worked with in radio in the four markets I managed I'm sure the number would be in the hundreds; many I still consider good friends. I honestly think I was blessed to work with the best and most dedicated broadcasters anyone could ask for.  Some, sadly, are gone now.  Some of them have moved on to other radio jobs or other careers, but some are still there.  On the rare occasions I stop in I see lots of new faces, employees likely as dedicated and capable as their predecessors. I know they're busy making their own memories of  a different version of a business so many of us embraced and enjoyed.

Time marches on....enjoy the stroll.

                                                   Life is Good

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Technology Pain

It seems no matter how little or big the price tag my laptops always come fully equipped with problems.  The new, sexy model I purchased in September will be boxed and on its way to HP repair next Tuesday if the polite man I spent so much time on the phone with yesterday knows what he is talking about.  Computers, like doctor visits, are a necessary evil that only lead to pain and frustration.

It was only after three and a half hours of listening to the lilting accent and the intermittently repeated eight bars of "on hold" music that I was instructed to take the laptop to Best Buy.  There they could replace the magical part that had developed some lightening storm of misfires.

At the store I was greeted by a very nice guy with an English accent who informed me that : 1.) They couldn't work on my computer because I didn't have a Geek Squad contract and 2.) they would have to run the same diagnostics I had just spent 3 1/2 hours on the phone having done.  After they personally verified the problem they would send it on to HP repair, and why did they send you here any how? The time is five to six weeks to get it back and, by the way, your hard drive will likely be empty.  Hope you didn't want any of that stuff in your folders.  Fortunately they can help me out by doing a back up for the neat sum of about a hundred fifty to a hundred seventy five dollars.  Of course I could do the back up myself with a handy-dandy external hard drive for just sixty bucks.  Just plug it in, click twice on the yellow box and all will be well.  The device is idiot proof (my term, not his) and the savings will just roll in.

I paid the price for the external drive, bundled up my computer and trundled out to my car.  My thought was I could do the back up there and still make this trip count by leaving the computer for repair.  Opening the box for the idiot proof back up device I realized that I had been fooled for the second time today by a man with an accent.  Opening the box required all my expertise....I had nothing left when the warranty guide in fourteen languages (I never did see any in English) fell out accompanied by a two inch square with the picture of a computer with the device attached to it.  Now completely depressed I headed home.

At the end of my earlier call the tech told me he would call me back in two hours time to make certain Best Buy would accommodate my repairs under the warranty.
Yeah that's going to happen.  But surprise, he called as I was valiantly trying to decipher the on screen manual for the back up device.  I explained all of my developing problems.  He assured me he would send a return box to my house by Tuesday; after I drop the laptop in the mail I'm looking at seven to ten working days for return.   And the back up device was not a problem...he installed it by VPN and backed up all my folders.  Good humored through all my ignorant questions and my total lack of ability, he stayed on line doing the back up as my computer continued to shut down time after time.   By the time we got off the phone I was sure this technician super hero should be added to my Christmas card list at the very least!

Like many of you I've complained about "calling India" and laboring to understand the tech.  I've railed about sending jobs out of the country and wondered why we can't find enough geeks on our own soil to staff the repair desk phones.  Now I think I understand.....

Sending the calls to phone banks in India has nothing to do with the lack of brain power in our country.  We have enough 23 year old geeks eating Cheetos in their parents basements to more than fill the jobs.   I imagine it has something to do with what it costs per hour, although I am not certain about that.   What it's all about is customer service and attitude.

As I spoke with this young man yesterday it was just like every other plea for help I've made to one of these call centers....and believe me there have been many hours of my life I won't get back spent on the phone with these guys.  Imagine multiplying the calls from a sixty something woman with the most basic of computer skills,and a complete lack of estrogen,by a gazillion.  Throw in thousands of ill tempered males of all ages who demand the service they deserve RIGHT NOW!!  Still, after dealing with all those crazy people these techs are polite, calming and well trained.   Send those same calls to a phone bank in New York and think how the level of service, not to mention the tone, might change dramatically.  It isn't the level of expertise we are lacking, but the level of customer service. We are not a patient people, let alone a polite bunch any more.

I think it speaks volumes that a man in India was more polite, more concerned about my problem, and more informed than the face to face clerk in the store from which I purchased this computer.   While he wasn't rude, the store clerk made it quite clear my problem was not his to solve.  Happy to sell me another piece of technology, there was no offer of assistance to make sure I could actually use it.  It was obvious he wasn't trained to consider I might possibly be in the market for another computer, or a TV or appliances...the future sales that keep any company afloat.

Could it be that one of the biggest problems we face in job creation in this country has to do with attitude?   No matter which side of the counter you are on, or which end of the telephone, any situation starts with your attitude.   Maybe if we were better customers we'd have better service...and better service might just bolster sales and create more customers.   Something to think about.

                                                           Life is Good

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Who's baking the cake? gatherings. If you're lucky enough to have and enjoy all those things I believe  you are truly blessed.

All week I've rummaged for the recipe file that always gets pushed to the back of the top shelf in the kitchen cabinet right after Christmas. It's doubly hard to come up with this year because we moved this past summer and my whole life has been rearranged.

Finally, after reclaiming this treasure, I begin the long hikes through several cavernous grocery stores to find just the right ingredients. For our family the must have dish is a pumpkin cake. Its a recipe that stretches back into my childhood, and one of these sticky creations has graced the table each year at Thanksgiving and Christmas for my whole married life. If that doesn't qualify as a tradition then I don't understand the word.

When I was a little girl we always went to my Grandmother's house for the holidays. While the menu might have slight changes...from ham to turkey...salad to Cole slaw...the pumpkin cake was a constant. Time passed, I got married and my mom and dad came to our house for the holidays, visiting my grandparents a day later. This tradition transference meant my mom picked up the pumpkin cake and ran with it. It became her holiday signature Disney, and my children likely don't remember a holiday that the pumpkin cake didn't arrive in mom's dented cake pan. No matter what I bought her, that cake pan was her favorite; she'd frost the cake, put on the dented cover and scotch tape it to the dish so the cake couldn't slide out. Because she refused to replace it, the old dented cake pan also became a tradition, one that brought smiles every year.

After the feeding frenzy slowed and the desserts came out mom would make her yearly “I don't know if it's any good” announcement. Then she'd grin from ear to ear as the compliments flowed and the cake disappeared.  When mom died last year my daughter Wendy gallantly stepped up and made the pumpkin cake to keep the tradition going.   The celebration was more subdued, but seeing that cake on the table somehow made things a little better...a little more normal.

My daughter is a great cook, and her cake was letter perfect, but this year I've decided it's my turn. I sat this afternoon deciphering my grandmother's recipe card. Somewhere I have a card in mom's beautiful handwriting, but that will have to wait till I stumble upon it when I'm searching for something else.

As I write this the smell of pumpkin cake fills the house; I'm waiting for it to cool so I can slather the cream cheese icing on it. When that's do one I will put it in mom's dented cake pan, scotch tape it closed, and set it aside for tomorrow.

The years go by so quickly that you can easily lose track. Maybe you mark the years by how tall the grand kids are...or how many years you've been in your job. Looking back I can mark the years by who's baking the pumpkin cake. Once I've mastered this cake I will make sure a recipe card in my hand writing joins the others in the file.'s the yardstick of life...and life is good.

                                                Happy Thanksgiving