Monthly Archives: July 2013

Technology: Aggravation, Frustration and Satisfaction of Victory!

I do not claim to be tech savvy by any means. My children and their spouses have set up everything for me while explaining what they were doing so I’d have some limited knowledge of how computers, printers, etc., work. I do claim to know how to use the many electronic devices that I have in my home. I also admit to being totally tethered by them and dependent upon them for daily tasks, keeping in touch, and feeling secure in the knowledge that I have a link to the outside world. This may seem a bit dramatic (and it is!) but anyone like me knows what it feels like to be helpless in the face of a technology issue that seems too difficult to resolve without help. By way of setting the scene, I have an IPhone which is never far from me, holds all addresses and phone numbers, calendar with dates going well into 2014, not to mention my email and hundreds of photos. The IPhone is kept next to my bed so I can use it as a clock, alarm, and update on Yankees scores when they are on the west coast (don’t ask!). My IPad is easily accessible when I am home for banking, shopping, email, and Words with Friends. My laptop with two monitors is in my office and is used for blogging, keeping spreadsheets for various reasons, shopping, and lots of other things.

This morning when I woke up I bemoaned the fact that it was the same old routine — let the dog out, open the doors and blinds, feed the dog, let her out again, and then finally sit down with a big mug of coffee and begin the morning’s emails. This would be followed by looking at Facebook and then reading the New York Times on the IPad app. I get three emails each day that I look forward to whether I’m first and initiate them or my friends do. So, you can only imagine my horror (really!) when I realized that I had no internet this morning. The cable was ok, the phone was working, but no internet. I plugged and unplugged as we have all been taught to do and then called Blue Ridge Cable, my internet provider. That got me to a tech support person, Stu, who I believe is from another company that provides internet support. Stu was the epitome of the arrogant tech support guy. This was so unexpected because any time I have had a problem, the Blue Ridge support people have been terrific, but I’d never had a problem with internet service. Stu immediately asked me for things that had initials that meant absolutely nothing to me. I asked him to explain what they were and where I could find them. He sounded exasperated but told me to look on the bottom of the box under the tv (which is in a very dark corner so this is easier said than done, not to mention that the box is all hooked up with limited accessibility). Under the box were three stickers and a plethora of numbers. Again, Stu sighed, “the CMAP,” he said. I read off the numbers and he said he didn’t have any device like that registered so could I read them again this time giving a word for each letter. Clearly this had now become a military operation! That worked and he told me to plug and unplug which I told him I had already done, but I did it again. More sighs from Stu. He asked if that worked and I said no, there was no internet connection for my IPad at which time he told me that was not something he provided tech support for and would I please go to a computer.

This did not end well. Finally, I asked one simple question: “Is this an issue on your end?” “No,” Stu replied. Fine. I hung up. One thing some tech people (not all) do not understand is that if I understood everything in the first place, there would be no need for them and they wouldn’t have jobs! I figured out that it must be equipment, so I dug out the old router from Tallahassee, plugged it in and within moments had an internet connection. I was so proud of myself for listening to my children (this includes in-laws of course!) the many times they had attempted to explain things to me. They taught me well. I will order a new router online today with Michael’s expert help and will leave the second part of this story until tomorrow. Suffice to say, I am up and running, happily and thankfully with my phone in my back pocket, my IPad on the table upstairs where I can see it, and my computer right here at my fingertips.

Bear Sighting

bear2

This morning I sat down at the computer and looked out at the beautiful scene in front of me. I thought I saw Sydney in the yard and wondered how she got out since we just got back from our walk. Upon a closer look, it was a bear cub that was walking along the fence, then into the driveway next to my car, then back into the woods. A few minutes later, it came back and this time Sydney noticed, barked furiously from the safety of the porch, and the cub ran off setting off more dogs. I wasn’t the least bit afraid of it since bears are common up here and are quite used to humans living in their habitat. However, I kept a respectful distance while trying to take photos with my phone. The camera is never in the right place when you need it!! So the photos didn’t do the beautiful animal justice and I delighted in seeing it close up. Of course it did worry me a bit when it was out of sight on the driver side of my car door — what if I was getting ready to go out? That could have been interesting!

I talked to my friend, Kim, last evening about watching nature specifically birds. Robin gave me a comprehensive bird identification book and I mentioned it to Kim since her brother is an ornithologist and her husband, Todd, also conducts bird surveys and is (I think) a biologist. Both Kim and Robin said I need binoculars now and should take a stab at drawing what I see. Of course nothing sits still long enough — the birds move way too fast for me to even figure out what they are except that it was a “really big hawk” or “really little cute black and white bird!” The bear, however, was easy — a black bear’s a black bear.

My morning experience did cause me to reflect on living here. Early in the mornings especially in fall when there are far fewer people around, I do worry a bit about running into a bear. The typical morning walk could include deer, ground hogs, squirrels, chipmunks, and turkeys but nothing we can’t handle. The bears, however, are a different story. I have a lot of respect for them and for their claim on this area. A morning like this reminds me to be observant and to keep in mind that the wildlife were here first and deserve our respect. Still, I am very thankful to have the fence!

The Many Jims of Lords Valley

Since I’ve moved here, there are a lot of things that I have learned about services in the Poconos. There are definitely a lot of things that I need done that didn’t need doing in Tallahassee because I’m more on my own here and feel a great responsibility to having the house in good working order. I certainly don’t want something to go wrong in winter! I’ve already been told by the gas company that they will not deliver to me in the winter because of the driveway; same for firewood and for the septic people. Homer’s Construction that has done all the renovation work on the house is my go-to place for most things and, if they can’t do it, Andrea provides recommendations for me.

This week I wanted to get the chimney and fireplace cleaned out after the many fires last winter, not to mention that I’m pretty sure it’s never been done. So, Andrea gave me the name of a chimney sweep. I began to notice a trend. All of the guys who have provided services are named Jim. You probably haven’t noticed this although I have blogged about them all. Lately, there’s Jim the chimney sweep. Then there was Jim who delivered firewood, Jim the fence guy, and Jimmy who shoveled the stairs for me last winter. How odd. All different ages — I would guess from thirties to fifties. But there definitely seems to be a pattern here. Jim Creegan, the chimney sweep, was very nice and extremely helpful.

photo-1 Did you know that some houses have a little door at the bottom of the chimney? Apparently I can brush the ashes through the trap door in the fireplace (which I knew about) and the ashes fall to the bottom of the chimney and then it can be cleaned out from outside and not messing up the living room. This was new to me and I was reluctant to use it last winter because I didn’t know how safe it was. Jim assured me that it was okay to use and I have the utmost confidence in my chimney now, although it’s a little scary looking into the trap door so I’m pretty sure I’ll continue to clean out the fireplace itself. photo

Jim mentioned to me that he had just installed a wood burning stove in the fireplace of another “woman my age.” You can only imagine my reaction to this comment. What did he mean by that? What age? Why would a woman my age need a wood burning fireplace? What is the connection? He tried hard to back pedal but only dug the hole deeper into comments about single women needing help with fires among other things. I finally told him that the best course of action would be to change the subject. We ended up laughing but it did get me thinking. I hadn’t really thought of myself as old until his comment. Is it that apparent? Do I look that needy? Lots to think about. It just might be time for me to get a job and have less time to think!

But, I digress. All of the Jims have been very kind and offered a lot of help and advice. I’ll stick with all of them but still depend on Homer’s (Tim) for most things. Oddly there are no Jims working for Homer’s. Do you think there’s anything to this phenomenon? Is there some symbolism I’m missing? Should I only trust Jims from now on? I can hardly wait for the next time I need a new service to see if it is provided by Jim!

More Exploring the Area

skytopfaraway In my ever evolving plan to learn more about this area, I went with a friend for lunch to Skytop Lodge, a Poconos resort that was created in 1925. The site and views are impressive to say the least and, since it is only a 35-minute drive from Lords Valley, I thought it would be a nice place to bring visitors (should I ever have them!!). aerial_web However, we quickly learned that, unless you are a guest at the lodge, there is some suspicion as to why you would ever be there! The dining room was buffet only and really is set up for guests who are assigned tables. It reminds me of the Catskills in the 1950s and 1960s — have you ever seen Dirty Dancing? Anyway…we were directed to the Tap Room which is dark, paneled, and trying to look like an English pub I think. The menu looked tempting so we ordered what turned out to be a less than satisfactory lunch. It was worth the visit, though, because the drive is lovely, the lake on which Skytop sits is spectacular, and the building itself is somewhat like The Grove in Asheville so quite imposing. Just looking at the towering hemlocks was worth the drive. hemlocks I enjoy places like this — imagining what it was like in the 1920s, how people got there on the winding mountain roads, how they dressed, what they did (hunting? fishing?), how they stood the heat and mosquitoes.

After lunch, we decided to explore the nearby town of Canadensis which was reported to have interesting shops. A very short drive (a mile or two) and we quickly identified several shops that we wanted to look at: a wonderful kitchen equipment store, a store that only carried Portuguese pottery and linens (some of which were made in China), and what looked to be a hardware store (pictured here). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA When I walked into Theo Price Lumber I saw someone making a copy of a key for a customer, shelves filled with paint supplies and other things you’d expect to see in a hardware store. However, this place was more than just that — antique lanterns hanging from the ceiling, room upon room of stuff, antiques, Vera Bradley (very unexpected!), old-fashioned children’s toys and games, quilts, fabric, African art, and a huge Christmas display. To say that I was surprised is an understatement.

Theo Price Lumber has been a family owned and run business for 90 years. According to its website, it started manufacturing wood products to support the local coal mining industry. It is still a retail lumber store and hardware store, and an amazing eclectic mix of primitive art, gourmet food, books, and almost anything you can think of. In spite of the 90+ degree heat, we soldiered on and explored every inch of the 2-story building. As we left, Warren (married to Theo Price’s granddaughter Mary Ann) said, “Come back the Sunday after Thanksgiving. We will be almost decorated for Christmas and we have a huge open house with many local artists.” Apparently the artists set up on the porch and sell their work while Warren and Mary Ann set up food and drink (no charge) in the store. It sounds just like the kind of place I’d like to visit for the holidays. As long as it doesn’t snow or ice (and the creek don’t rise) over that weekend, I will certainly be there. What a lovely unexpected find — my kind of exploration!

Reading, PA

pennstreet This week Alex Rodriguez finished his rehab from an injury that kept him from the first half of the baseball season. He was playing with the Reading Thunder, a Class AA affiliate of the Yankees, and his appearance there led to an article in the New York Times — “In Minor Leagues, a Rich Man Visits a Frayed City.” I read the article with great interest, forwarded it to my cousin Jill, who is also a Yankees fan. Jill remembers going to minor league baseball in Reading when they were a farm team for the Phillies. We have a connection to Reading, PA, having spent a good deal of our childhood there visiting one or both of our aunts who lived just outside of the city for the better part of their adult lives. Jill and her sisters, Andie and Maxine, spent more time there than I did but our visits often overlapped and it wasn’t until we were adults that we realized what a tiny house Aunt Millie had. I now understand why we were constantly being sent outside or taken to the Berkshire Country Club where my uncles played golf.

Reading is in southeast Pennsylvania and was once a hub for the Reading Railroad and for the textile industry. I remember very well going to the Berkshire Knitting Mill to buy sweaters and bathing suits. We walked on streets along the railroad tracks that ran down the center of town and bought socks and buttons. We always brought home large amounts of pretzels and Reading is still the home of Bachman Pretzels. The Reading Glove and Mitten Manufacturing Company, from which we bought winter gloves, became Vanity Fair and in the 1970s the original factory became the first outlet mall in the country. Unfortunately, Reading entered a decline from which it never recovered and currently has the most people living in poverty in the nation.

What memories that one article stirred. My Aunt Millie took us to The Pagoda which was on the top of Mount Penn that overlooked the city. So many times when we drove into Reading we looked up at the Pagoda and wondered who built it and why. pagoda

I remember the excitement that was generated by the idea of going downtown to have lunch at The Crystal, a restaurant at which all the Reading businessmen gathered for lunch. Women (and children) were relegated to a separate area of the restaurant and it was there that I had my first Shirley Temple. Downtown Reading, once we were old enough, was reached by a bus that we took to go to the movies or to visit our uncle who owned the local fur store. Pomeroy’s, the downtown department store, was the destination for my father to get his chocolate covered pretzels.pomeroys Whether visiting as a child, teenager, or adult, I have very fond memories of Reading and am saddened to read about its current difficulties with crime, unemployment, and poverty. In my mind it will always be a special place of which I have wonderful memories. I remember walking down the street to a tiny basement shop where we could buy candy when sent to pick up milk for dinner; I choose to remember the fun of the pool at the country club and being able to order lunch and sign for it with a member number; I was excited about exploring the attics at both Aunt Millie’s and Aunt Rhetta’s houses. Most of all, as an only child, I loved being with my cousins. It’s funny how an article meant to evoke negative images did just the opposite for me.

Mailroom Dogs

mailbox This is my mailbox. It reminds me of being in college and picking up mail each day from home. The community mailroom is a contract from USPS with the window only open from 11:00 AM-1:00 PM each day. The room itself is open until late at night and very early in the morning, but if you get a yellow card, it means there is something to pick up at the window. Hannah and Charlie have had the contract for 14 years and often bring their dogs with them — Morgan, the chocolate lab and Mackenzie, the yellow lab. I love to stop and say hello and especially Mackenzie will put her rather substantial paws up on the counter and say hello. Tuesday when I stopped at the window to pick up a package of oil and vinegar I had ordered from California, they asked if I wanted to see the puppy! Of course I did. So here came Remington. Remington and Mackenzie, who is just over a year old, have the same parents.

remy

Hannah said, “Remy will almost be big enough to get the cookies soon.” “What cookies?” I asked. “Don’t you know about the cookies?” Obviously I was missing something very important to the mailroom experience. Apparently some people leave dog treats at the back of the mailbox. When they are ready to put the mail in the boxes, Mackenzie then goes around checking for treats! “Not every day,” I was warned, because that would be too many treats. This tradition started with Moose the Mailroom Dog who not only picked out the treats, but learned which boxes were most likely to have them, and then could identify the owners when they came up to the window! I would have liked knowing Moose.

boxwithcookie
I left the first treat in my box on Wednesday. (I took the treat from the vet’s office having just taken Sydney for her annual check-up.) This morning when I checked my mail at a little past 11:00, I asked if I could take photos of the dogs for this blog. Without hesitation, I was offered both dogs (the brown lab has stayed home lately) and Mackenzie thanked me for the treat I left. dogsplaying Once the thank you licks were completed, the dogs did what young dogs and puppies do best — wrestled around while packages were distributed.

In my enthusiasm to get photos and talk about the dogs, quite a line formed behind me and I was embarrassed when I turned around to see a couple of scowling faces. But…no one said a word, I apologized, and thoroughly enjoyed my few moments at the mailroom. As I was leaving the building, it occurred to me that this is yet another experience with community that makes me glad to live here. I left with a smile on my face and am smiling as I write this and look at the photos. It’s good to take time to enjoy small (or in this case not so small but very big paws) pleasures.

Back from Brooklyn

In spite of the current heat wave, it’s still fun to visit Brooklyn and the city. This trip was different in that I stayed several nights with Rachel in Park Slope and had dinner two nights with Michael and Allison. What a treat! I am almost ashamed to admit that Rachel and I ate out every meal including coffee in the morning on the way to the dog run. Whoever came up with the idea that people in New York and Brooklyn are rude or aloof should spend some time in both places. Everyone was so nice, from the people and their pets at the dog run to the walk-up window at Bagel World early in the morning. The window is there for those with pets so even the dogs got a treat as we picked up bagels and coffee (me) for breakfast! And, it wasn’t a quick stop either because everyone wants to talk, say hello, find out what’s going on in the neighborhood, and make sure you get what you want. So by way of warning, this blog is all about what I did on my short trip.

On Thursday night, after a visit to Buy Buy Baby and learning a lot from the stroller team and the car seat team, we had dinner with the Evans family. marseille Loree and I have known each other for the same number of years that I was part of the Tallahassee book club. She has been my advisor for classical literature and talking books with Loree is a real treat. Kate is an amazing young woman who had just seen Matilda on Broadway and so we had lots to talk about. John was happy to be dining at Marseille since he had already investigated the menu. We had a fabulous dinner with amazing service, especially once they realized we were not leaving for the theater and so could sit and enjoy the dinner complete with after dinner sparkling wine compliments of the house.

Friday night started at Veloce Wine Bar in the east village, an area that I had not been to in decades. What a change from not venturing anywhere near it to a destination for fine dining and entertainment. But, it still retains its original charm and the reminders of immigrant life on the lower east side. village3 John’s, an old-time Italian restaurant was our destination for dinner and, even though we had to talk VERY loudly to be heard, we had good conversation and a wonderful time. Note the candles in the background. Decades of dripping candles in wine bottles! johns

Saturday night we went to the West Village to Sacred Chow, a vegan restaurant with amazing food. What a special night it was to sit in a quiet place and have a family dinner. Of course, it would have been more complete if Dave had been able to be with us. My trip ended on Sunday with a beautiful brunch with Rachel, a visit to the Brooklyn Farmer’s Market, picking up coffee at Cafe Martin, and pastries for a treat at home from Du Jour. If it sounds as if the weekend was all about food, it kind of was, but we did a lot of walking, work around the apartment, and traveling around the city. It is amazing how much walking one does whether in Manhattan or Brooklyn. Just getting to and from public transport involves a good deal of exercise which is a very good thing when doing a food-oriented weekend with family! Home to the woods with leftovers, pastries, and wonderful coffee. What could be better than that?

How Has Life Treated You?

Jericho High School as it was in 1963

Jericho High School as it was in 1963

As one of my duties as part of the high school reunion committee, I sent out email invitations and print invitations to all the graduates from Jericho High School for whom we had contact information. This resulted in a couple of things — knowing who really didn’t want to have anything whatsoever to do with their high school experience and reconnecting with those that really do want to either bring closure to certain events or just to get in touch with old friends for whom they still have fond memories. Consequently, I have received calls and emails that have heartened me, reinforced memories, made me sad that some of our classmates are no longer with us, and messages that really have made me think about more than just those four years!

One such message was from Debby. We were close friends in high school, appeared in a play and sang a duet (reported in an earlier blog!), and spent a good deal of time together studying, hanging out, and gossiping I’m sure. Debby was, and still is I’m sure, beautiful and had lots of beauty tips for me that I will not share here but I remember as if it was yesterday. When we reconnected by email recently, we shared a few memories and then she asked me, “How has life treated you?” I haven’t answered that email yet even though it was a few days ago. It’s a very complex question with lots of layers that have me questioning the question and wondering how on earth I can answer that.

“Which life?”, I asked myself. The life as a single woman between high school and marriage that includes college and work? The life as a wife and mother? My life after my husband and best friend died and I was a single woman again? My life now having moved from long-time friends and the comfort of a home of 37 years to a new place with few friends? My life as a mom and soon-to-be grandma that is so much closer to my children that I can drive to see them and back home again in a day? My life as a blogger and wayfinder? WHere does one begin?

Which life would you choose? Which life would you want to hear about? So, here’s my answer to Debby. Life has treated me very well and I am a fortunate woman. Yesterday was my birthday and I got a lot of cards, a few phone calls, and skyping with two dear friends. My children are taking me to dinner on Friday night when I’m staying in Brooklyn with Rachel for a few days. I have a nice home in a beautiful part of the world and, for now, can choose if I want to go back to work. After a lifetime of working in jobs that, for the most part, have been amazing and rewarding, I can reflect on what I have accomplished with no need to keep worrying that I am no longer “productive.” I have lovely children with fabulous partners — couldn’t ask for more caring, intelligent, and interesting people to hang out with. All of my dogs have been great — Sydney is my good friend and companion who listens without criticism or comment to my ramblings about politics, cheering at sports, and railing against all sorts of things that I think are unfair. All in all, I’d say life has treated me quite well although I’d like to take some credit for making good decisions and working hard. I keep thinking of the title of the kid’s book Life’s a Funny Thing, Horatio. Life is a funny thing, a challenge, and has lots of layers that deserve thinking about from time to time. So thank you to Debby for asking the question.

Going to the Gala

gala The community in which I live — Hemlock Farms — is a gated residential community of about 4,000 homes, 75 miles of paved road, lots of amenities — you get the picture. Lots of homes here are vacant most of the winter but things really pick up here after Memorial Day. There are a fair amount of permanent residents that are equally retired folks and families. Lots of commuters to New York City too. Four thousand invitations went out to the 50th anniversary gala which was held at the country club in the community this past Saturday. I was convinced by my friends Nancy, Buffy, Elaine (pictured here), and Landy to attend and so purchased the ticket a while ago. Now, for those of you who know me well, you are already surprised that I agreed to this since I really dislike these types of events. Large crowds, buffet food that you have to stand in line for, cheap wine and expensive liquor.

I dressed up in my “wedding outfit” that my friend Kim chose for me a couple of years ago — the only dressy thing I own — which included very uncomfortable shoes (but they looked great!). I much prefer jeans, t-shirt, and sandals for summer. After worrying over being too dressed up and arriving much too early, I drove to pick up the others at 5:50 for an event that started at 6:00. What I forgot about was that there are a lot of country club members who wanted prime seating and that retired folks do everything early! So, when we arrived, we parked pretty far from the front door of the club and couldn’t believe how many people were already there. When they say 6:00, they mean 6:00! We were instructed to go to the sign-in table where we received a map of the food stations, a rubber bracelet to wear to show that we paid the $60 to get in, and where we had to buy drink tickets! Silly me! I thought that was included in my ticket. So, after paying for 10 tickets (5 for a martini, 3 for wine), we walked into the club and found all tables taken inside and out!

Outside under the tent by the side of the lake (a beautiful spot on a lovely evening) there were more tables but all were partly taken so we found one that had four seats and parked ourselves there. The DJ was setting up outside and that’s where the dancing would be. The downside? Two food stations were outside — sushi and meat. And one drinks station that apparently ran out of wine glasses and I really hate drinking wine out of plastic! In order to get anything else, you had to go through the club dining room past the tables filled with those who I think paid more tickets for really good wine — in glasses! So for me it meant not eating much because I wasn’t willing to go foraging for my food.

After a martini and some sushi we talked for a while and I watched as the music started and people began dancing. I was (and still am) puzzled about why 80s music was the choice since it seemed that most of the people there were my age or older. At one point, I looked at the dancers (and yes, they did do YMCA!), and thought that I didn’t belong among the older crowd. Then of course I realized that I AM the older crowd! So, I sat back, used up the rest of my tickets on wine and watched the dancers and listened to music that I didn’t like in the 80s so still don’t like it now! My final take on this? It’s good to get out, we had a few laughs and took some photos, and it wasn’t as bad as I anticipated. Still it was a rude awakening for me — I am part of the retired older crowd — I just need to let my brain know! Or, maybe I should never imagine myself that way — I’m still quite young in my head — not a bad way to be.