Sunday, April 24, 2016

State of the Union

No this post isn't about politics. ALTHOUGH, it does contain aspects such as diplomacy, negotiations, treaties, civil unrest, and maybe even an occasional war.  Today we are talking about marriages.

Last Sunday in the Kansas City Star in the "Celebration" section were a number of anniversary acknowledgments.  The least number of years for those listed was 40 years of wedded bliss. (can we dare hope for the bliss part?)
But as I scanned the assortment of years, I spotted a 68, a 73, and, WAIT FOR 80.  Wow, not everyone can live to see that number.

The write-up was in part as follows:

      On April 4th, Mr. and Mrs. Smith celebrated their 80th Wedding   Anniversary. As children they grew up on neighboring farms and attend the same one room school house in Settle, Kentucky......
As of April 4th, they have been married 29,220 days and counting.

Of course, I left out a lot of their story as I am not sure how Mr. and Mrs. Smith feel about my sharing their history but basically the article tells us that they moved from Kentucky to Kansas City, started two successful businesses, retired and remained in their own home until last year when they moved into a retirement center. Mr. Smith is 99 years old and Mrs. Smith is 97.

As it happens, the very day I read that article, my husband called from Canada, and somewhere in the conversation he tells me that a person that he is working with is celebrating a 35th Wedding Anniversary.  When the man
was announcing his big day to hubby, he used the phrase, "Impressive, huh?"
Dare, I be unimpressed as I was just reading about a couple that are celebrating 80 years together?

I am always intrigued by how two people find each other and end up vowing to stay together FOREVER.   Everyone's marriage is so different. Why some work and others don't is interesting to me. After all these years seeing both successful marriages and failed marriages, I can often see the reasons they went the way they did...but often not. The fact, is that only the two people in a marriage are equipped to gauge if the marriage is happy or not.

This fascination of mine probably goes back to the fact that both my husband's parents and my parents were divorced. Both of us were familiar with what "broken" looks like.  Our families didn't have amicable divorces but the "all-out war" kind of  dissolutions. We both had front row seats to the worst "reality shows" that ever were...and that was before people figured out how to make money off of these types of debacles.

You would nearly think that having lived through this, we would of been fairly cautious about who to marry, when to marry..or, for that matter, if marriage was worth the trouble at all. Not only did we think marriage was a "good" thing, we decided that while I was still in  high school.  Yeah, I know..CRAZY!!! Oddly enough, it didn't feel crazy to me at the time.  Boyfriend/now husband was in the Army and I had another year of school to complete before any of this would happen...but it did and now 44.7 years later, it still seems to have worked out very well.

ANYWAY...I was reading an article from the New York Times about the 13 things you should ask a person prior to getting married. The article was pretty much a cautionary tale of not jumping in a marriage "uninformed".  While I did notice that they omitted the section about not  getting engaged in high school, I am pretty sure it was implied.

So...on the outside chance, I can save you single people from going into marriage blindsided or help the rest of you married folks realize the error of your ways, I am passing along the 13 important things to ask.

Here are the questions, I was supposed to ask...and these are the ways I might of answered them back then.

1. Did your family throw plates, calmly discuss issues or silently shut down when disagreements arose? (throwing plates would of been a slow day)

2. Will we have children, and if we do, will you change diapers? (yes, we will have children but our children won't  poop...but if they do... we both will change diapers.)

3. Will our experiences with our exes help or hinder us? (what exes? I am in high school)

4. How important is religion? How will we celebrate religious holidays, if at all? (To be determined..he's  Dutch, I'm not..big problem... but love conquers all.)

5. Is my debt your debt? Would you be willing to bail me out? (Seriously? Debt...we hardly have a checking account yet.  BAIL?  Never in a million years would boyfriend get that is a non-issue.)

6. What’s the most you would be willing to spend on a car, a couch, shoes?

(that would depend if we ever acquire money and how much we acquire) FYI..we did manage to educate ourselves, become gainfully employed and live a comfortable life.

7. Can you deal with my doing things without you? (We are fine with separate time as boyfriend is currently in the army but thinking I'd rather focus on "together" time. )

8. Do we like each other’s parents? ("Like" is a strong word.)

9. How important is sex to you? (None of your beeswax.)

10. How far should we take flirting with other people? Is watching pornography O.K.? (NO, NO, NO)

11. Do you know all the ways I say “I love you”? (Yes, yes, yes)

12. What do you admire about me, and what are your pet peeves?

(List too long on the former, very few things on the latter.)

13, How do you see us 10 years from now? (We see ourselves as blissfully happy.)

I would venture to guess that most people don't put such a clinical approach to their courtship as to ask a list of specific questions. If prospective brides and grooms do want a list of questions, I don't think that one covers all the questions that need to be asked.  At any rate, I am not sure that it would have any bearing on if the marriage would endure.  Doesn't it really boil down to the fact that over time either "you grow together" or "you grow apart".

I have a group of friends that I meet for coffee every Wednesday morning.  We have women in the group that have been married 65 years, 55 years, and my soon to be 45 years among the mix.  We all know how each other met our spouses, if it was love, hate,  or indifference at first sight, and why and when we decided to get married. There is little commonality except for we all thought it could work....but then didn't every divorced couple feel like it would last as well.  I guess one of the real tricks is to find a person the envisions what a marriage should be and "look like" somewhat in the same vein as you think a marriage should be and "look like".  In order to get that vision ironed out you would have to be able to communicate effectively.

I had a friend (now deceased) that had been married somewhere around 35 years and it seemed to me, all she and her husband did was fight. For the most part, most of their fights were over petty miscommunications.  My friend took offense in the most innocently stated comments. She and her husband just didn't communicate well.  If he said she looked pretty in yellow, she would of taken it as she didn't look pretty in other colors or some similar type of imagined slight.  Frequently, these dust ups resulted in her moving down the hall to the guest room. which she referred to as her "apartment." Oddest marriage ever, yet it seemed that neither of them were unhappy and rarely did either of them talk about divorce.  When she became terminally ill, he cared for her until the night she died.  At the funeral he told me, he always thought she was the most beautiful woman on the earth.  I think he recognized that she was illogically hypersensitive to every comment he ever made and turned it into an offense...and that is who she was.  In spite of that, he loved her and she continually forgave him for his (supposed) inconsiderations and they were devoted to each other albeit in a bizarre kind of way. 

That might not be my vision of what a marriage looks like and it might not be your vision of what a marriage looks like, but it was the reality of what their marriage looked like.

So while marriage might be a crazy's my thoughts on why it has worked out for hubby and I...

We didn't go into to marriage believing in fairy tales.  We knew, first hand, that some stories have poisoned apples and mean dragons.

We had the expectation of a "happily ever after" but knew it wouldn't magically appear with a wave of a wand.

When looking for my Prince...I was less concerned about "charming" and more concerned about him having ambition, kindness, optimism, and sense of humor.

I didn't want a castle but I wanted someone that would work hard, along side me and create a happy, secure home.

I didn't require grand things but I did require that everyday he would be happy to be part of of the family we created together....and on the occasional day that it didn't feel "happy" that he was committed to  work at tomorrow being a happier day.

We might not make it to an 80th anniversary, but I do know that if we don't make it, it will be because one or both of us died trying.

What were your expectations for marriage, if you wanted marriage in your life? Were those expectations realistic?  Were you friends before you were "in love"? 


Monday, April 18, 2016

Whacks and Wackadoos

Old school punishments are back in the news.  Last week a mom videotaped her son getting paddled by a principle in Covington, Georgia and I am sure you aren't surprised that the video went viral.  Yes, national news outlets, newspapers, Internet sites...all jumped on the bandwagon to state their position on the use of corporal punishment in schools.

I hadn't given much thought to "spanking" children for a number of years as my own children are grown BUT it did get me thinking about the evolution of "how we discipline"  children today.

I wasn't ever paddled at school but the sheer threat of the possibility kept me on the straight and narrow.  I did have a couple of near misses in my time of being a grade-schooler.  In fact, the VERY FIRST DAY of school, I took my seat and unloaded all my pretty, new supplies. Fat beginner crayons,  wide ruled paper, and useless right-handed safety scissors just begging me to master them with my predilection for using my left hand. With all my supplies safely stowed, there I sat.  NOW WHAT?  Even then, I had figured out that if you pay attention you will get clues on how things work.  How hard can school
be when parents let 6 year olds do it?

As luck would have it, I knew the  girl sitting next to me.  Faye and I had already met because we were in the same Brownie Troupe.  While it seems rather clear to me now that I shouldn't of put a lot of faith in Faye acting as my tutor to show me the ropes.  However,  in that moment it made perfect sense. Faye had "school" experience.   She was repeating 1st grade and clearly I didn't grasp the concept that failing a grade didn't make one wiser or more proficient.   At the time, I figured she knew what "one does" as a first grader and what one does is get out some paper and draw a picture.

NOT SO FAST...Mrs. Wolfe, who in time would be my all-time favorite teacher, noticed Faye's artwork. A clearly miffed Mrs. Wolfe came charging over to her, explaining that after a full year of already being in her class, Faye should be aware of waiting for directions.  At that point Faye got marched up to the
front of the room and received a swat with a paddle.

OMG, OMG...I, too, had managed to color a pretty little picture on my fat lined paper.  I flipped over the paper and cowered in fear. Please, please, don't let me get caught and get spanked in front of the class.

By lunch time, I was physically ill.  Having this huge burden of a hidden picture and still eluding being caught and punished was weighing heavy on me.  Over lunch I could hardly  bring myself to eat of my bologna sandwich and chicken noodle soup.  It would be the first time of many times that I threw up at the lunch table. (My classmates still discuss my "nervous" upchucking on a near daily basis.)

Assuming that I was ill, the school called my mom, to come and retrieve me. At home I was in tears and fearful of fessing up to my indiscretion. Not only was I fearful about the next school day bringing about total humiliation, but my parents were, also, believers in "spanking".  It might be that I was now going to be the recipient of a "double header".

As the day wore on, my mom finally wore me down to "what the problem was" and gave me a lecture about not copying the actions of Faye. Unfortunately, nowhere in that conversation did she reassure me that I would be spared the paddle.

The next morning when I arrived at school, Mrs. Wolfe called me up to her desk. I was as sure as I could be, that this was the moment that I would face public ridicule at the end of a paddle. BUT, Mrs. Wolfe told me she was aware of my indiscretion and that there was to be NO paddling.  My lack of school experience was a legitimate excuse for this ONE time, but in the future I was to wait for instructions.

So back to the modern day video of the little 5 year old getting a swat with a paddle, it bothered me and it bothered me A LOT.  Somewhere between being a product of a family that used spanking as a means of discipline and being a grandmother that wouldn't dream of using corporal punishment, I find myself lining up on the side of not wanting corporal punishment being used in schools. Somewhere between the time of my youth when spanking was the "norm" until now when corporal punishment is still being used but in lesser degrees,  I feel in my heart that there have to be better ways to discipline. I am bothered by the fact that someone would have the right to paddle either of my grandsons. Actually it  makes me  a tad crazy. 

There are 19 states that still allow corporal punishment. I was surprised to see my state on the list of still using it.  70% of the documented corporal punishments administered in schools is confined to 5 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas.  

In most developed countries around the world and 31 states along with the District of Columbia in in the U.S. corporal punishment has been banned in the public school systems. 

The other issue that I tend to find troubling is that out of the 220,000ish incidents of corporal punishment in 2012, 75 percent of those incidents involved boys. 
Even back in my youth, it seemed that boys were held to a different standard as far as punishments go.  It didn't escape my notice that I would of had a reduced risk of a spanking because I was a girl.  Even going back to the time in Mrs. Wolfe's class, I was a 32 pound, curly haired, shy girl, which greatly reduced my chances for being paddled.  While it didn't save Faye, every other incident of spanking that I was aware of involved a boy.

After reading a number of articles, including the Facebook page of the Mom of the little boy in Georgia....I am not entirely convinced that we know the whole story.  The mother said in a number of articles that she allowed the spanking instead of a suspension because she had just finished serving jail time for the little guy's truancy. She, also, said that he had a history of misbehaving.Those two items, might allude to the fact, that this family needs help in the way of family counseling.  While I am not privy to their situation, I can't see how spanking the child is going to correct his behavioral issues or shed light on the family dynamics.

What are your thoughts?  Did you receive spankings or use spankings "back when"?  Did your view change over time? Even if you think corporal punishment is a viable option, what do you think of the mom releasing the video?

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Price of Quiet

 A couple of weeks ago, I was watching a program talking about Green Bank, West Virginia.  Green Bank is a very small town that is located within the 13,000 square mile area that comprises the United States National Radio Quiet Zone. What caught my attention was the fact that within the 10 square miles surrounding Green Bank, you can't use a cell phone nor can you use a number of other conveniences that most Americans take for granted. There is no WIFI, no iPads, no Bluetooths, no microwave ovens, no TV remotes, no garage door openers, no wireless headsets, and not so much as a remote operated toy car.
Looks a lot like a toilet made out of Legos or am I seeing things?
WHAAAT???? Well...The reason for all these "must haves" that evidently are "not so much must haves" in  Green Bank is that the town is within spitting distance to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which operates the world's largest radio telescope. A radio telescope isn't the type of telescope you look through to see into space.  It is the type of telescope that measures sound coming from space. It can detect the energy from a falling snowflake as it hits the ground. It's real purpose, however, is to detect sounds from galaxies millions of miles away. In order for the collected data not to be corrupted,  the town needs to have a minimal level of noise and no radio frequency interruptions. According to Jay Lockman, one of the principle scientist at Green Bank, "If you want to hear quiet noises, you need to keep the noise down."

The locals, of course are very aware of all the rules and know that there is a
surveillance truck that drives around to locate offenders.  The "radio police" will track the offender and request that they discontinue using whatever contraband item that is messing with GBT.

During the course of the program, a few of the locals were interviewed saying they love the "old fashioned" lifestyle.  One person described their life as being "as it was in the 1950's".  AHHH, simpler times...according the them.

I hear phrases like "simpler times" and the "good ole days" a lot lately. My generation of Boomers seem to be getting very nostalgic as of late and love to talk about how much easier life was "back in the day". Was it easier or were we used to how things were done in that era and couldn't appreciate the power of computers and all it's technological cousins. AND..can we even imagine our lives without remote controls?

Any way...I am not sure that I would be willing to go back in time to pre-electronics if given the opportunity.  I do love my devices. The very thought of not having access to a computer or a cellphone, elicits a cold sweat and feeling of panic.  I have lived prior to their invention and I seemed to manage but that was before I knew of their existence.

When some of the teenagers of Green Bank were asked if they felt deprived by not having the ability to text their friends,  they said no.  They  answered that they can meet up with their friends and talk.  While I admit that is a novel approach, would they still of answered the question like that had they gotten used to texting only to have it taken away.  Would they feel deprived then? OR..for the rest of us...if our electronics went away, would we get used to the new way we would have to do things (or old way, depending on how you look at this)?

Would I want to move to Green Bank, West Virginia?  Depends on the day you ask me. Yesterday, I might of been persuaded.

Yesterday, I discontinued using the cellular carrier that I have used since 1995.   Yes, I booted their little @ss to the curb. It was not a friendly firing.
It wasn't without digital shrapnel.

My long time readers might remember that hubby works for a company that sends him around the world from time to time.  Next week he leaves for an 8 week assignment in Canada. He has worked there several times in the past for months at a time...we love CANADA.  What does Canada have to do with my cellular provider, you ask?

On previous trips to any international location, whether it's Canada, Europe, Mexico...where could get a plan to cover your cellphone calls, texts and media in a foreign country at somewhat of a "reasonable" rate (if you use the loosest definition of reasonable imaginable). BTW...I am talking plans that extend more than 2 weeks as opposed to vacation plans that are of a short duration.

Well, it turns out the the Canadian plans with my now former provider, were crazy...crazy expensive and crazy unrealistic.

So...I called my old company's biggest competitor and they have a really good North American plan that allows for unlimited calls between Canada and the US for a very nominal fee.  Unlimited is a word I really like when it is applied to anything dealing with cellular service.  BUT...of course there are BUTs...the plan is cheap enough but switching companies is pretty much like self flagellation.  I am sure they would provide the whips and chains at a cost but the cost would be ridiculously high.

In order to switch from one cellular company to another you have to purchase phones that work on their network. DUH!  What has changed since my last phone purchase is that all the major carriers now put the payout of your new phone onto your bill in installments.  There are ways around this if you are a "current" customer but if you are a "new' can do.

AND about the time you are still reeling at the cost of the phone, (or in our case 2 phones because hubby and I will be talking to each other between the US and Canada) you get the added joy of activation fees, taxes,  cost of the plan, accessories for the new phone because you have to know that phone manufacturers continually change the size of their devices to "encourage" you to buy a new cases, chargers, etc. because your old stuff in now garbage.

AND still the fun doesn't end because you have to set up the new account and the new phones with new User IDs and new passcodes, new voice mailboxes and new profiles and on and on and on.

Which brings us back to Green Bank and easier times...There is stress related to technology for sure.  Is the stress of getting and staying connected worth it for the pleasure and convenience provided by all this technology?  Is being surround by people talking and staring at their devices worth it for not having to manually change your TV station or lift your garage door? 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Update Worries and Wars

I have mentioned in previous posts, that I currently am teaching computer classes at a retirement center here in the Kansas City area.  This is a independent living community as opposed to assisted living.  Think of it as a cruise ship, minus the  ocean,  the casino or the norovirus pandemic, but everything else is pretty similar.  Yep, lovely place full of lovely people.

Those lovely people, however, occasionally get very stressed with modern technology, which, of course, is equally true of all age groups. The difference being that they didn't spend the bulk of their lives using computers, smartphones and tablets.  This type of technology has made an appearance late in life and changed the way they had been accessing news, managing finances,  accessing their medical records, organizing photos and a host of other things. Therefore when things aren't working right, some (not all)  don't tend to "roll with it" in quite the same way younger generations do.

I mention this because in any given week, I get a few emails from one or more of them concerning various problems they are having with their devices. Sometimes they tend to get a bit panicked that something is "broken" or that their documents are at risk.

This particular problem, at hand, was an update problem with e-readers. I guess it goes without saying that updates can be a real pain in the ass.  If you are one of the (supposedly) 270 million that are still bruised from the Windows 10 update, I would think you would agree.

Anyway, the update fiasco that was causing a bit of havoc on March 21st was related to Amazon Kindle e-readers.  It first came to my attention when I woke up to a couple of emails waiting for me before 5:00 AM from students in my class at the retirement center.   They  had received  an email from Amazon concerning their Kindles that read.... CRITICAL UPDATE IS NECESSARY NO LATER THAN MARCH 22, OR YOUR  DEVICE WILL BECOME INOPERABLE.

As I read the emails about the update, critical no less, it caught me off guard. I have a Kindle and yet I knew NOTHING about this update or it's deadline. (Despite the fact, that people on various forums keep insisting we were all which I would respond to them that they are incorrectly using the word ALL.)

BUT...Let's not panic folks!! The Amazon site tells us that there are several ways to correct this situation. One of the options tells us that if we connect to the Internet, the update may/should/could possibly download automatically during the night OR you could connect to WIFI, go to the settings and "sync and check for updates" or you could manually update with the use of a computer and USB cable.

Given the fact that this update was mandatory for any Kindle that was purchased before 2012 and required for any version prior to Paperwhite 6th Generation...AND failure to do this would result in the  loss  of your ebook library, the more expedient options of downloading the update NOW seemed like the better plan.

OK..with three options to salvage your obsolete version of Kindle, it didn't seem all that alarming...well at least  not on the Amazon site but if you looked to any of the various  other tech related  websites...IT WAS CRUNCH TIME. They were splashing headlines like the one that follows from Cnet.

Amazon warns Kindle users: Update by March 22 or else!!

Followed by:

This is pretty much your final warning: If you have a Kindle, you need to update it before March 22 or it's going to lose Internet connectivity.
That, just to be clear, would be very bad, because without the update you'll no longer be able to access the Kindle Store or sync your device with the cloud, not to mention any other Kindle services you might be using. According to Amazon, the update is required to ensure the Kindle remains compliant with continuously evolving industry web standards.
You'll know if your Kindle didn't get updated in time because you'll see the following message on your device:
Your Kindle is unable to connect at this time. Please make sure you are within wireless range and try again. If the problem persists, please restart your Kindle from the Menu in Settings and try again.
If you've been using your Kindle regularly then it's most likely going to be fine. Kindles will update automatically via Wi-Fi, but if the device has been turned off or out of battery for a while, charge it up and make sure you Sync and Check for Items.

Seriously...I now have been threatened with an "OR ELSE" and a "FINAL WARNING' in reference to my Kindle becoming more electronic trash that I don't know how to get rid of.  All of that had an threatening sound to it.

Despite the  meager and half-hearted reassurance that "if I've been using my Kindle regularly, then is most likely going to be fine", I wasn't entirely comfortable at letting it go to chance that my Kindle  along with it's couple of hundred books, would be kaput in less than 2 days.

So I kick into high gear....I looked to see what my version of software was on my 3rd Generation Kindle and sure enough, it needed the update.  As luck (bad luck) would have it, after trying unsuccessfully a couple of times to try to load the update the easy way, it became clear that my machine wasn't capable (or agreeable)  to the "Sync and Check for Updates" shortcut.  Da-ham...Now I am forced to actually go to the Internet and get the instructions for the manual download.

Before I went THERE...I decided to read a couple of forums to see how the masses of Kindle users were faring the day before the "end of their little Kindle's World".  Frankly, I find it rather interesting to read forums where people are panicking about something only to find anonymous  "experts" that tell them how stupid they are.  Nothing like kicking a man when his computer is down.

These are actual excerpts from a community forum of Amazon users:
By Ataboy 13 hours 33 minutes ago 
I am so pissed off right now just heard about this UPDATE crap.
and have no idea how to do it my kindle is already saying it can not connect have done every thing they said to do and it will not work.......... we need to file a class action lawsuit thousands of us have now suddenly got kindles that are worthless and there is no number to call and get help

By sleekgeek, 13 hours 31 minutes ago      In response to Ataboy  
Uh, you are so beyond wrong it's almost laughable. If your Kindle is one that requires an update, you received an email a while ago. There are also dozens of posts about this in the Help forum because instead of actually reading the answers, people just keep creating new posts.
As for "no number to call and get help", I guess you can't see the "Help" links at the top and bottom of every single Amazon page or the "Contact Us" button on the right side of this page.

By **Avocado** 13 hours 29 minutes ago   In reply to Ataboy
Class Action lawsuits only apply if you've been physically harmed. You know, like your car blowing up? I'd suggest that you contact Kindle Customer Support.

By Ataboy 13 hours 22 minutes ago    In reply to sleekgeek
 I have is the early ereader with the buttons.. and one kindle fire gen1..... and no I got no notices of any thing on this.... and i have hit the contact us button and got sa dropdown screen

By  sleekgeek 13 hours 19 minutes ago    In reply to Ataboy 
So...wait for it...use the drop down screen and pick a response!

By Ataboy 13 hours 17 minutes ago    In reply to **Avacado**
and it say if your calling about the update...... just go to the web addressyayaya 
the wait time is over an hour ..... just had my 4 open heart of mechanical heart valves in 3 years ..... this is not what i need  the stress is harming me

By sleekgeek 13 hours 12 minutes ago     In response to Ataboy
Oh, please. Get over yourself. You having heart surgery does not mean a malfunctioning Kindle is causing you harm.

By  Ataboy 13 hours 10 minutes ago   In reply to sleekgeek
hope you have a few open hearts and see 

By sleekgeek  13 hours 6 minutes ago      In reply to Ataboy
Wow. You're wishing open heart surgery on someone. How nice.
I've had multiple surgeries in my lifetime, thank you very much. Had a kidney removed as a toddler, had multiple renal artery bypasses by the time I was 10, had my aorta ripped open while conscious on the operating table when I was 16. I've had my fair share of surgeries.
But having surgery doesn't mean my life is suddenly over because my Kindle stopped working. It's not going to kill you or put your life in danger. You're being way over dramatic. Take a step back and a deep breath. Read a paper book. Watch some TV. Listen to some music. Seriously.

By ** Avacado **13 hours ago  In reply to Ataboy
Wow! No wonder you had open heart surgery. You need to take a chill pill. 

By Myohmy 13 hours ago     In reply to Ataboy
Mechanical valves make people mean

From there it went into hours of people talking about their various health issues including a lot of renal failures in sleekgeek's family. 

So, my friends...last week we learned that Selfies can kill least more than shark attacks will and NOW we know that Kindle updates can possibly lead to making people with heart conditions MEAN. I can hardly wait for the major update that is scheduled this summer for WINDOWS 10. That one is being called the 1st Anniversary Build, so I am sure it's quite festive.