Reclaiming memory

One thing led to the next. I deleted important (to me) photographs from my camera’s SD card after downloading them into a folder on my laptop, and then I inadvertently deleted the folder containing them. I still don’t know how it happened, but I could not find them anywhere.

I have always wondered about investigators removing computers from suspected criminals’ homes. I’ve heard that computer gurus can reclaim things that were deleted from the hard drive.  Now I’m no computer guru, but I can Google with the best of you.

“I deleted my photos by accident.”

You would be amazed at how many hits that Google search got.

Anyway, as I said, one thing led to the next and I found myself looking at a faded version of my recovered photographs using free software I downloaded. What they neglected to tell me was that I couldn’t actually access those photos unless I bought the program for around $50.  Talk about an effective tease. My pictures were right there. They were still alive. But I couldn’t reach them.

To make a long story short, I bought the software. The code they gave me to covert the free version to the fully functional program didn’t work. I made the phone call. I gave them permission to access my computer remotely. This was the scary part, but I was in for the duration now. I mean, my pictures were right there.  The guy I finally got, after the extended elevator music, wanted to sell me a $350 program to get rid of the virus he found that he said was responsible for the problem

Even though this account reads fairly quickly, it actually was taking a lot of time and my patience was wearing thin. This was a racket. And the worst part was that I had given this guy access to my computer.

We were on vacation at the beach and daylight was wasting. (Ignore the fact that I probably shouldn’t have been out in the sunlight anyway).

I told him there was no way I was spending more money on this project, and that he could give me a code that worked, or I wanted my money back. If I didn’t get my money back I was going to let the world know, through multiple blog posts, Facebook pages, and tweets, what a racket their company was running. That made him sit up and listen.

I got the code. I got my pictures. And I changed all my passwords out of paranoia.

But that wasn’t the memory I was talking about reclaiming.

Yesterday I was driving along and a memory popped up. It was of my childhood or teenage years. I think my sister Carol was in it. And it brought back to my senses the sights, sounds, and scents of home. It felt really good. And it wasn’t one of my over-used, tried and true, old-reliable memories that I keep for old-time’s sake and bring back out now and again, probably slightly modified with each review. It was a fresh memory.

I woke up this morning and could not access it. At all. I still can’t. I can’t remember any details about it except for how it made me feel.

Maybe I should Google it.

“How to access fleeting childhood memories.”

Do you think I’ll find “free” software for this one?


One day more

I woke up this morning grateful that our presidential election here in the United States of America is finally drawing to a close. One day more of campaign ads on the TV, campaign ads on the web, campaign ads littering the roadsides I drive. One day more of a barrage of phone calls from Cleveland and Columbus. . .

One day more of hope and uncertainty.

Then begins the disillusionment, disappointment, and outright anger that will be flung around for a while from disgruntled voters and politicians on the “losing” side. For the losing side will actually be a winning side in many states. Perhaps the losing side will actually be the winning side in the population as a whole—it’s happened before and I can tell you, if you happened to forget, it wasn’t pretty.

If you hadn’t already guessed, I lean to the left. But I understand and appreciate some of the philosophies of the right. I believe that is the way we all should strive to be instead of so combative and divided in this country.

I agree with the Republican concept of fiscal responsibility and deficit reduction.

I don’t understand the outrage over Obama Care. I really don’t. I know it may not be a perfectly defined system as it stands, but it is a beginning. Most other developed countries have a system of healthcare. And I think we live in a whole world now, and not an isolated country with some kind of misplaced sense of superiority that Americans know best. But regardless of what other countries are doing, I don’t know how it makes sense to continue the way we were going with health care. Many people are angry about the mandate to have insurance. But anyone who shows up at a hospital will be taken care of in this country whether they have insurance or can pay for it or not. Who pays for this? We are all paying for this in the form of medical costs and insurance premiums.

I agree with the concept of smaller government.

But I also think that people are flawed by nature and that history—from the days of feudal lords to corporate moguls—has shown time and time again that left to our own devices those with power (money) will more likely be driven by greed than goodwill. Corporations and businesses have a necessary place in our society, but they should not be the defining culture that makes us Americans.

Hopefully we will have a definitive election and by tomorrow night we will know who will lead this country for the next four years. And maybe, hopefully, this time, we will find a way to work together regardless of who it is.

One more day.

Why do I do this?

This is one of those days where I wonder why I do this. Do you ever have a day like that? I start thinking about how much time all this blogging, commenting, writing, and promoting is taking, and it makes me wonder. Why?

Sometimes I think it’s the stats and the comparison to others that gets me down.

Then I think about how it might feel if I quit. I would have to face not only the opinions of people who might think I was a quitter, but also I would have to face the void of no writing. I don’t know how I would feel if I wasn’t writing, but I’m fairly certain I would regret giving up what I’ve started.

So I continue.

Do you ever have days like this?

Besides, I have promises to keep. When my dad asked me when I was going to write his story several years ago, I told him I would. With each passing day, that promise becomes more important to me, even if his story is only typed on a stack of hole-punched papers in a three-ring binder.

A group of women wanted to tell their stories about children they placed for adoption, or in the less politically correct terminology, gave up for adoption, because regardless of what you call it, these women were bereft of a child they bore and could no longer hold, or see, or even know if he or she was happy and healthy, choosing this path only out of shame and lack of support. They held on to a firm belief that their child would be better off without them, that someone else was in a better position to care for them, that, in some cases, they didn’t deserve to raise the child. I promised them I would help them  tell their story.

So write I must.

There are promises to keep.

And books to write before I sleep.

I have garden photos I hope to post tomorrow, and a ghazal to squeeze in before poetry month comes to a close. And I still have to answer the question, “Where in the world is Dancing in Heaven?” I also want to show you photos from the Our Lady of Victory National Shrine and Basilica in Lackawanna, New York (just outside of Buffalo) from our trip there last weekend. And let’s not forget this year’s butterfly show. Which reminds me, below I copied a very short, 41 second, video of the wind chimes at Krohn Conservatory from CincinnatiParks.

I’ll end with a question I read on Touch2Touch, “Do you know what you are doing?” or “How good are you at knowing what you’re doing?” It’s a short post over there, I hope you’ll take a look. Would love to see your response.

Promoting in the world wide jungle

Tuesday, November 15th.

I thought it was just me, but today I started to put together a list of all the self-publication/marketing resources I’ve printed out, bookmarked on my browser, or are presently in my email inbox that I sent to myself or received from a friend.


It’s no wonder I’m stalling out on putting together a promotion plan. Where do I begin? I’m drowning in the helpful advice I’ve collected. You cannot imagine how many blogs are out there telling people what to do to be a successful author. And I’ve saved all of them in one form or another to read when I get the time.

I can’t continue on this path of destruction. This grab-n-go approach is not working for me.

When all else fails, make lists.

Here’s my plan. I’m going to make organized lists of the following:

Author pages or all sites where I have profile information. They include but may not be limited to: My blog, Facebook, Website, Author page on Createspace, Smashwords, Amazon, and B&N (I think. Will have to check), Goodreads, Kindle Boards, LinkedIn, and I will have to see if I can remember where else. The information should be consistent across these sites and right now I couldn’t tell you. Oh, don’t forget about Twitter. (These lists should be complete with user names and passwords. I’m going to type it up and leave a copy on my computer desktop. If somebody hacks my accounts, good riddance.)

Communities I’m signed up in. That would include She Writes, Goodreads boards, Writer’s Digest, I know I’ve signed up for some Indie communities. Will have to track those down.

Blogs with helpful information on promotion. This may take some time.

Reviewers. Probably should focus on this one.

Lists. I think I’ll start with a list of all the lists I need. I’m sure there are more things I need to organize.

Why do I feel like I just spent a lot of time counting the pages I have left to read in my history text book, instead of reading the book?

I think when I’m done figuring all of this out, I will be well on my way to my next non-fiction book: “Finding Readers when you’re over Fifty,” or “Going it alone for Grandmas: a guide to self-publishing for those too old to keep up.”

Thursday, November 17th.

Good news. I finally started to get myself organized after the information feeding frenzy. I’m all over it. Yesterday I bought a little three-section spiral notebook that I’m going to keep as a book promotion journal. The first section I’m listing by date all my promotional activities.  (I had started jotting things down on sticky notes here and there. After I bought the journal, I collected them all there.) So for example, my entries for November 15th:

-Stephanie at Goodreads requested a book for review. I packaged it to mail.

-Sent excerpts to Hospice of Dayton per their request for their website

-Attended free Webinar from Writer’s Digest on the seven secrets to success of self-publishing

-Filled out a contact form at

The second section of my new journal I am devoting to the publicity my book receives. So far I have five entries:

10-24 Blogger dogear review

11-5  Cynthia Robertson review

11-7 Listed on Goodreads giveaways (Five books to be given away after Dec. 7th. So far 201 people have requested it.)

11-8 William Lambers interview

11-15 Lisa Kramer review

I haven’t decided what I will use the third section of my promotion journal for. Yesterday I also created a file of promotion ideas where I placed all the information I’ve printed out. I still need to go through my e-mail and bookmarks and decide the fate of all the information I’ve saved there. I will either print it out, organize it into files, or delete it.

In some ways using the internet is like riding a wild bronco. If you don’t take the reigns and take control, you won’t be able to keep up and you will find yourself on a wild ride and eventually airborne, only to land face down in the dusty soil. Maybe I should switch to the old gray mare.

Sometimes I want to squawk

What to write about today? I visited my parents yesterday and stayed while my mom went out to lunch for maybe the third time in about two years. I felt good that she got to go out. But mostly I felt bad on the way home after my sister stopped by and Thanksgiving plans came up. Holidays have always been hard trying to divide ourselves between two families. Now they’ve gotten harder. I don’t want to post about Alzheimer’s today.

I went to a writing group at a local coffee shop yesterday for the second time. It seems to be an energizing group who have come to know each other fairly well. Being the outsider always has its problems. I don’t want to write about writing groups today.

When I let Arthur outside this morning I heard a now familiar squawk at regular intervals. Is that a bird? I wonder. Somedays I feel like standing and emitting a gut-wrenching squawk myself. So many expectations from inside and out. Some days I want to turn off the noise and directions and foget it all:

Painting on rug by Matthew A. Grote (2011)

Eat more fruit.
Eat more vegetables.
Eat more whole grains.
Eat less.

Do strength exercises.
Do yoga.
Take the dog for a daily walk.
Elevate and ice your knee.

Exercise your mind.
Don’t think at all—meditate.

Write every day.

Be kind, rewind.

Wash your hands.

Brush the dog’s hair.
Brush the dog’s teeth.
Whiten your teeth.

Take time to listen.
Take time to dream.
Be productive.

Stay in touch with those you love.
Have meaningful conversation with your spouse.
Be alone.

Blog regularly.
Comment on others’ blogs.
Tweet three or four times a day.
Keep writing.

Remember the reusable grocery bags!

Help others.
Make time for yourself.

Fight for what you believe in.
Make peace not war.


Why didn’t my doctor tell me? — or who’s taking care of the Alzheimer’s?

This is the question my mother asked when the physical therapist left my parents’ house yesterday after working with my dad for about 45 minutes. “Why didn’t Dr. R ever tell me your dad might benefit from physical therapy?” she asked.

Gee. I don’t know. Maybe he was too busy prescribing antibiotics, inhalers and cough medicine.

In Dr. R’s defense, after the initial diagnostic appointment when my dad started having noticeable memory problems and a neurologist was consulted, an MRI done, and ultimately Aricept prescribed, my parents never really sought medical advice about the Alzheimer’s. And apparently, over the several visits they made to the doctor’s office for one thing or the other, the topic never came up.

In truth, it never seemed like Dr. R was monitoring Dad’s Alzheimer’s treatment nearly as well as he was monitoring his cholesterol levels.

It’s like the walker Mom bought for Dad at the medical supply store where they have been good customers for years. No one explained to her how high the handles of the walker should be. She just brought it home and Dad started using it.

Yesterday when the physical therapist was there helping my dad walk around the house with the walker, he asked, “Did someone raise these handles on purpose?”


“Handles should be the height of the wrist of the person when they are standing upright with their arms down at their sides,” he said.

Dad’s handles were about five inches too high. Sometimes I feel like we are wandering around in a fog.

The medical industry is not kind to people who try to be self-sufficient.

In an earlier post I wrote, “Sometimes when we try to get help for Dad I feel like we are a ball in a bumper pool game. One professional evaluates and then bumps us to the next.”

Dad’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s for nearly three years now. It just seems like someone, somewhere along the way might have pointed us in a forward direction every now and then. Fortunately, we finally bumbled our way into the visiting physician, which led us to the visiting nurses, who set us up with the physical therapist, who believes he can help Dad improve his walking and movement. Who knew?

Time will tell, I suppose. And we will have to keep up with the exercises or Dad will backslide. But at least we have a small hope that one of these things afflicting Dad may turn around and start getting better instead of worse. I say, “Halleluia.”

Mom says, “Why didn’t anyone tell us before now?”

December 2010 — My dad uses his walker (before proper height adjustment) to visit family gravesites.

Modern technology — a love-hate relationship

I spent the better part of the day yesterday struggling with my video camera, computer, iMovie, and iDVD.

In the early 1980s, our first video camera was quite large and we had to rest it on our shoulder like the professionals do for Channel 9 News. It took video tapes. The good news was that once you recorded the tape you were done. You stuck it into a VCR and watched the unedited version of the movie you shot with all it’s bumps, quick-switches and views of your feet.

Now I have a small Sony Handycam. It fits nicely into the palm of my hand and records on mini DVD discs. The camera itself is user-friendly. It has a touch menu screen that tells me what I need to do when I need to do it. But then I am pretty much on my own in getting the movie from the little disc, that can only be viewed on or through my handycam, to a more universal disc that can be viewed on someone else’s DVD player, like my mother’s for instance.

When I connect the camera to my MacBook Pro, the video goes straight into iMovie. Which is alright. IMovie has good editing capabilities from what I can tell, if I knew how to use them. I can do a basic select. And I can cut segments to use out of the long, and at times, extremely boring video I shot.

But this takes a LOT of time to go through all the clips and play segments to make sure I’m not cutting out anything important. I was trying to make a DVD to send to my daughter-in-law because most of the video was of our little star attraction over the weekend, our 8-month-old grandson Luke. I decided to just send my daughter-in-law the whole unedited mess.

But I had to figure out how to get the movie from iMovie to a DVD.

And what format should the movie be in anyway, if you want to show it on a regular DVD player attached to a TV? There are about 25 options.

I consider myself above average in the technical savvy department, but geez.

I have now downloaded an iMovie-08 Getting Started manual on pdf. (I don’t think I even have iMovie-08, so that started me off on a new tangent to upgrade my iMovie software, which leads me to another rant about why do we have to keep updating all our software just when we’ve figured out how to use it?)

I have bookmarked an iDVD help page.

Yesterday I managed to burn a DVD of the unedited film that I hope will play on a DVD player, but haven’t tried yet. I also managed to edit out about 18 minutes of the movie to show to my parents today.

All in a day’s work.

I still need to burn the movie for my parents to a DVD. Worst case, I can just drag my MacBookPro up to Dayton and show my parents the video on this, which makes me wonder if some of these companies aren’t deliberately trying to make us more dependent upon their products.

The problem is, with new technology, we can do all kinds of really cool and neat things—but only if we know how. I want to create a jazzy DVD using iDVD, but I will likely have to spend hours learning how to do it. By the time I am ready to do it again, I will have forgotten what I did and will have to learn it all over. Frus – tra – ting.

Today I’m going to search for a Home Movies for Idiots book. If it’s not out there, maybe I’ll write it.

Take me out to the ballgame

I’m not what anyone would mistake for a sports fan. Except when my kids were playing sports in grade school and high school—I wouldn’t miss a game. Otherwise, not so much, unless we’re talking about gymnastics, competitive dancing and maybe diving.

Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati, Ohio

I’m not sure why Mark takes me with him to the Reds’ games when he goes once or twice a year, but I go along to keep him company and for the food. This time, though, I brought my own little sandwich baggie full of pretzels. Then someone sat down across the aisle from us with a large bag of aromatic freshly popped popcorn. I don’t know how I managed to get out of that park without buying some.

We are sitting in this mezzanine level, beside the stairs, on the right, at the bottom, where you can see  Mark wearing a gray jacket. I have a better view of the river from up here.

The ball park sits right on the Ohio River, across from where the Licking River that runs through Kentucky joins the Ohio. If, I mean when,  the Red’s get a home run, fireworks shoot out of the tall stacks you can see across the field. It’s an overcast day today, which is fine with me. Nothing worse than sitting through a three to four hour baseball game with the sun beating down on you.

As I’m documenting the ball park with my photographs, I notice a barge full of coal silently sliding past the stadium on the river.

I’m always amazed at the physics of these heavily laden barges being pushed by a small tug boat. And how in the world would you ever steer that thing? Tricky job. Although, there is something appealing to me about captaining a boat along a river every day. Gliding along. Listening to the water lap the sides. Watching the birds swoop and land on a rail. Seeing the sun sparkle off the water. Alone with your thoughts. I can see why some are attracted to this job.

I notice we are sitting beside the press box (and also beside a woman with very bright hair). Right past the “Cincinnati Reds” sign you can just make out the “Reds on Radio” sign above the glassed-in press box. I don’t know what Mark would do without the Reds on Radio. I also don’t really understand how anyone can listen to a baseball game on radio. Maybe it’s my short attention span. Or maybe I don’t have the childhood memory of sitting outside on a back patio with my family and grandparents, listening to the Reds on warm summer evenings, like Mark does. Maybe I would feel differently about it then.

If I zoom in with my little point and shoot Nikon Coolpix, I can see sportscaster, Marty Brennaman in the white shirt in the press box. If you’re a baseball fan, you’ve probably heard of Marty Brennaman. If not, you might not care.

Upbeat music clips play on the impressive sound system when the teams change fields or between innings. When they built this new stadium a few years ago, I think they made the seats narrower, like they’ve done on airplanes, to pack more people in and make more money. At the same time, I’m getting wider. Not a good combination.

I haven’t made it through the first inning yet and I am already looking for diversions. I can’t decide if this photographer’s job is a good one or a bad one.

Here comes another barge. This one carries something in blue containers. I have no idea what.

But it’s also being pushed by a small tug boat.

Thankfully there is a gigantic scoreboard to my left, so I can at least pretend like I know what is going on.

Oh look, another barge. This one also has closed containers. The closed containers are starting to make me nervous. Just exactly what is inside those? I feel a little bit like a spy. I can take a photograph from a great distance and then crop in and magnify it on my computer and see all kinds of detail not visible to the naked eye from where I sit.

It reminds me of the time we went to Kennebunkport right on the same weekend as a Bush family wedding. Traffic came to a dead halt and helicopter propellers beat the air overhead when the caravan with George W. Bush, who was president at the time, rode in. The quaint little town was crawling with secret service who, in their all-black multi-pocketed suits, looked like something out of a sci-fi movie. We went on a schooner ride and had to pass by the wedding reception venue. The water was dotted with secret service inflatable rafts. It was kind of scary.

I am going to have to find out more about just how these barges and tug boats navigate down the river. This goes on day after day and I’ve never thought about it before. My father-in-law used to sit in his condominium on a hill overlooking the river and watch the barges go up and down the river all day.

I find this fascinating. I don’t know why. Probably has something to do with my OCD. It kind of reminds me of watching teachers erase chalk boards. I used to hate it if they were careless and missed a bit of chalk—the top of a t or the end of a sentence.

More coal. This barge, like all the others is heading east. If it follows the Ohio River, it could go to Pittsburgh or beyond. But maybe it’s taking the coal to fuel a small little town along the river. And where is all this coal coming from anyway? I sure hope it is not the result of mountaintop removal mining. What a travesty.

I caught the wake behind this tug boat. Maybe they’re not actually called tug boats. I need to find out. So many things I just don’t know.

This is the only boat I saw that wasn’t pushing a barge. It is a little entertainment boat that you can ride up and down the river on.

I bought a small soft drink and got gouged for five bucks. Like the smaller seats, I see this as another sign of corporate greed. I refuse to believe it costs Skyline Chili, a Cincinnati food establishment that has booths at the ball park, four times the amount of money to provide paying customers a beverage in the ballpark than it does at their restaurants. Why the upcharge? We are a captive audience. They’re gouging us because they can.

Another thing that bothers me, if I’m being honest, is just how much money and time is spent by men and women watching primarily men play sports. Now you might argue that women’s sports are gaining fans. I’d like to look at the time and money stats. That’s all I’m saying.

I took a little stroll towards the end of the game. The Reds were losing 4 – 1 according to the scoreboard. I shot this photo of the Great American Financial building from a walkway in the stadium. It looks pretty powerful and intimidating, doesn’t it?

I’m pretty sure the Reds lost. If you want more details about the game, you’ll have to check the sports pages.

Recurrent dreams that frustrate—why?

I had a recurrent dream last night. I was near the end of my third year of college working on my chemical engineering degree when I realized I had not attended any of my math classes, done any of the work or taken any of the tests.  Apparently I just forgot that I had signed up for the class that I needed as a pre-requisite for senior-year courses. I was in a state of panic over how I was ever going to recover from this lapse of memory.

The dream didn’t just affect my head; it affected my whole body. When I woke I felt as if I had been under a lot of stress.

In real life, I did earn my ChemE degree and now that I think about it, I don’t recall  that I even needed math courses by my junior year. I think I may have finished those requirements with the Calculus and Differential Equations classes I completed by the end of my second year. Dreams don’t have to be real to cause you distress.

Here’s an interesting aside about my ChemE degree. I once received  a certificate, it may have been from the Engineer-in-Training exam, or one of the engineering societies I was a member of in college. The certificate contained the standard language with a blank line where my name was written in. Below my name, the certificate read, “on his achievement.” You can be sure I brought this lapse to the attention of the appropriate authority. Before the late seventies when I studied engineering, there weren’t many women in the field. The isolated individuals who charted this course before that time were true pioneers indeed. I think there were five or six women in my class of about 30 chemical engineering students. We had largest representation. Electrical, mechanical and civil engineering had one or two women per class.

When I got my second bachelor’s degree about five years ago, an English degree with a written communications minor, a female student made a derogatory comment on our online classroom discussion board. She used the term “femi-nazis.” I was in classes with primarily traditional students in their early 20s and I was shocked at how little they knew about the women’s struggles and movement over the years. Maybe they should have been better taught. Maybe it’s like calculators, you have to learn to add so you understand the principles behind the calculations.

Anyway, I digress.

I used to have a similar recurrent dream in high school where I showed up to school and found out I had a test that I hadn’t studied for.

Once in a while I even had the standard dream of showing up somewhere and realizing I was in my underwear. Why do our brains do this to us?

When I was small I used to have a dream that my sister Kathy was driving me and my siblings somewhere. It was a big, kind of bubble-top car. I think it may have been  an early Chevy. In my dream it looked something like this, that I got from a Cuban taxis page on somebody’s blog, only it was black. Kathy was only 2-1/2 years older than me and could hardly see over the steering wheel, but she was driving fast and careening around corners. We didn’t know where we were or how to get where we were going. I thought I would never get home again.

I don’t know why I am occasionally harassed by dreams in my sleep.  My dreams should be filled with peaceful waterfall, quiet sun-dappled forest or gently lapping waves scenes. Isn’t real life full enough of frustration, fear and sorrow?