Why we didn’t move to Japan

When Procter and Gamble asked my husband to accept a job in Japan several years ago, I viewed it less as an opportunity and more of a nightmare. Our oldest son was on his own living and working about an hour away. Our second son was in his third year of college and fairly independent, but our youngest two were still living with us. Our daughter was at the end of her junior year in high school and our youngest son was at the end of his seventh-grade year. I was working on an English degree at a nearby college. Mark’s father was in poor health and my parents were still taking care of my disabled sister Annie. I did not want to be on the other side of this planet. But we were strongly encouraged to visit Japan before we made our decision, so we went and took our two youngest children, who would be most effected by this move, with us.

The P&G facility was on Rocco Island. I had visions of walking along the shore under palm trees. I thought, maybe it could work out and be a kind of sabbatical for a couple of years.

View of the shore and ocean from the Sheraton Hotel on Rocco Island.

When we arrived at our hotel on Rocco Island, I quickly saw that my visions of walking along a tree-lined shore were mere fanciful illusions. Rocco Island, an artificial island built by man out of concrete and rebar (I suppose) was highly developed with large towering structures. There was very little green space.

Although this view from our hotel showed a few little patches of green, mostly Rocco Island was a hard environment.

The Entente residences on Rocco Island.

Many of the expatriates who worked at P&G lived in the Entente hi-rise on Rocco Island. The facility contained most of a family’s needs: a grocery, a barbershop, a theatre and many other shops and services. If I lived there, I might never have to leave the facility. I imagined it could feel like I was living in an isolated international bubble, which I suppose has its cultural benefits. But if we were going to experience living in Japan, I thought we should be living in Japan, not in an international bubble. The other problem was that I could not imagine how we would be able to bring our forty pound dog Honey with us and live in this hi-rise.

View of the P&G facility on Rocco Island

One of the advantages of living on Rocco Island would be that Mark could literally take an elevator down the Entente, cross one street, and take another elevator in the P&G facility to get to work. Not a bad deal after driving thirty minutes to work every day here in the midwest.

View of Kobe from the Sheraton on Rocco Island

Past the buildings in the foreground and across the water you can see the city of Kobe in the distance. This was our other living option. We could rent a house in Kobe and Mark could commute to work across a bridge. But in Kobe we wouldn’t have all the benefits of living in an English-speaking international community.

Train track on Rocco Island.

The mass transit was well-developed in the small section of Japan we visited. You can see this elevated train track on Rocco Island. We were told Tokyo was a three-hour high-speed train trip away.

Ground view of P&G Facility

With the concrete structures, the hi-rises, and the elevated trains, I felt a little like I had been transported to a futuristic city. I missed the trees and grass almost immediately. There would be little opportunity for gardening here.

Magazine rack in a store on Rocco Island

Visiting a foreign country to investigate the possibility of moving there is an altogether different experience from touring a country on vacation with the knowledge that you will soon be returning home where the language and customs are familiar. Unlike the European countries where we could bumble our way through the language because at least we shared the same alphabet, there was no reading to be done in Japan. There was no way to look these words up in a pocket translator.

We couldn’t read the simplest of things.

Even the parks are largely hard space, although this one on Rocco Island had a nice water feature.

On our trip we wanted to see options for places to live and the schools our children would be attending. This is the Marist Brothers International School which I understand provides an excellent education. Our youngest son was very excited after visiting this school and spending some time with the students there. He was ready to move.

Cafeteria inside the Marist school

There were a lot of things that concerned me regarding our children. We had heard nightmare stories of people moving their high-school-aged children out of country and having them run away, or eventually having to find some place for them to live back in the States. Although I believe our son might have adjusted to this environment, I had great fears about our daughter. I did not want to ruin her life by taking this big of a chance with her. We only had a few years left living together as a family.

We spoke with an American woman when we toured her home. She was getting ready to return to the States. She told us at first she tried to move her teenager here, but she had promised her daughter she could finish high school back home if she wanted. The family also had a son in college in the States. After a year in Japan, the daughter wanted to go home. So this woman returned to the States with her daughter while her husband remained in Japan. She ended up traveling back and forth often. The woman was happy to be going home.

We were well taken care of while in Japan. Nami was our full-time interpreter. She was a kind and attentive person. We liked her a lot.

We toured a couple of homes in Kobe. You may notice we are in stocking feet as is the custom there. I liked the idea of living in a house much better than living in a hi-rise, but I was nervous about being on our own, immersed in Kobe, where we didn’t know the language. On the first night when we were on Rocco Island  exploring, we went into a store to try to buy a band-aid. We couldn’t even figure out what aisle we needed to be in. The language gap is huge.

Sign at the train station.

Although Nami was great, I wanted to spend some time on our own without an interpreter. If we moved to Japan we would not have a personal interpreter with us. So the last day we spent the afternoon on our own. Nami had suggested a shopping area for us and a castle nearby that we could tour. I don’t even remember now how we knew what train to take. Perhaps you’ll have better luck reading this sign than I did.

Shopping in Kobe.

Although there is a lot of shopping in Kobe, the Japanese people are physically smaller than Americans. When we spoke with other families who had lived in Japan for a while we were told you have to do all your shopping for clothes and shoes by the internet or mail catalogs. We were thinking about taking our daughter who would be a high school senior, and an eighth grade son who was hard on shoes and was still growing. The lack of access to clothes and shoes concerned me.

I suppose with time we would have figured some of this out. But it was all very intimidating to me during the few days we spent in Japan.

Although most fast food restaurants have picture menus, we created confusion and inadvertently ordered two of every thing. Once we realized the mistake, we had great difficulty communicating it. You can forget about asking for a special order like, hold the mayo please.

Himeji Castle, Japan — 2004

We did find our way to Himeji Castle. This was a pretty cool experience. Several films have been made here including the Shogun miniseries.

I think this may have been at the entrance to the Himeji Castle. I would tell you what it says if I knew.

We saw a fascinating exhibit of Bonsai trees before entering the castle.

The architecture of Himeji Castle was beautiful with its curved sloping roof lines.

The castle sits up high on a hill, and at the very top you have quite a view of the surrounding area. A great feature for defense.

Japan was an interesting place to visit. And I might have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been fraught with concern as I contemplated moving part of our family there. Japan is an awfully long and cramped airplane ride away from family, friends, and most of the comforts of home.

Some people thought we missed the opportunity of a life time when we came home and Mark turned down the assignment to Rocco Island. As a family I felt we would have had to give too many things up: our daughter’s senior year and culmination of her high school experience with her friends; spending the last few years of his life with Mark’s father; helping my parents; being able to see our two oldest sons; our youngest son’s opportunity to attend the excellent high school in our area that he had his hopes set on; our dog Honey; and my own college education. Truthfully I had no desire to spend two, or more likely four, precious years of my life living in Japan. It may be a great experience for others, but I didn’t see it that way. And I wasn’t willing to take the chance with our children.

We came home to our gardens.

The individual who accepted the job in Japan had a spouse who also worked for P&G and was given an assignment there as well. They had two younger children who were in the early grades of elementary school. The family spent four years in Japan before P&G transferred them back to the States.

Mark was an excellent manager, had been highly successful throughout his career, and was near the top of the list of individuals targeted for further promotion. The manager at P&G who wanted Mark to go to Japan never forgave him and essentially blackballed the few years that remained of Mark’s career there. Mark took an early retirement and is now happier than ever.

The little guy stood his ground over the demands of the mighty corporation, and ultimately triumphed.

Goodbye Post-a-Day, hello Post-a-Week

I passed my six-month anniversary of blogging last week. One post every day, without miss, for six months. Could I continue to do this for the entire year? Yes. Do I want to? No.

I’ve thought about this for a while now as one-by-one several of my postaday blogging buddies dropped out of the challenge. The simple truth is that I need to have a day off now and then. Even if I am only slapping a photo up, I still have to find it and post it. It is an item on a to-do list that I have to accomplish every day. I want a day now and then with a blank list.

The postaday challenge has been great. It got me off to a good start as WordPress gave me, and every other postadayer a headline on their PostaDay page. I think early out some of my most loyal followers found me this way. Also, early out, WordPress was selecting a postaday item for their Freshly Pressed page. This got me short-lived fame when they selected two of my posts within weeks of each other. This also gained me two spikes in my stats that I may never equal again. But even though it was exciting to see the hits coming in on the days I was Freshly Pressed, it was short-lived fame. Most of the visitors never returned, although I did gain a few loyal followers.

I also found many of the blogs I loyally follow through the postaday challenge. Which means they are posting every day as well, generating seven posts a week for me to read. That adds up if I am following very many blogs.

I’ve been thinking about taking weekends off for a while now. My husband and I travel a lot visiting our children in other cities and going on short trips. Much of this travel occurs on weekends. Even when I prepare posts in advance for upcoming trips, I still find it more stressful than I want it, or need it to be. If I take the weekends off, I get a break.

This week I read two posts that tipped the balance.

In  What’s the Magic Number? How Often Should Bloggers Blog? , Kristen Lamb author of best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer recommends blogging three times a week.

In Are You Writing?,  Joe Konrath suggests that reading blogs can be a waste of your time. “Here’s the bottom line: every minute you spend here is a minute you aren’t spending on your writing,” he writes.

There are a lot of reasons people blog. I started the blog as an online journal to help me write every day. It has done that. As I learned more about publishing, traditional as well as self-publishing, I also became aware of the fact that I need an online presence if I ever hope to publish and sell any books. So blogging has opened that door for me. I’m still on the threshold. For those of you who are hoping to build an online presence, I suggest you consider getting a Twitter account and start tweeting if you haven’t done so already. The reach is far greater and quicker.

The surprise about blogging is the blogging friends I have made and the community I now feel a part of. On those really bad days when I feel like giving up the whole shebang, it is my faithful readers and the people I have met here who comment on my blogs and whose blogs I read, that keep me going.

I hope that by cutting back some on the number of posts, I will be writing less, but better. I hope it will give me more time to pursue other writing projects I want to do. I hope my readers will think, “Thank goodness, now I only have to read 3, 4 or 5 posts instead of 7.” I hope once I give up this challenge I don’t slide down that slippery slope to once a week, then once a month, then “I wonder whatever happened to CMSmith?”

I’ve wondered about that. What happens when someone just drops off the blogging universe? How do their readers ever know what happened? Just one more of life’s mysteries, I guess.

Keep writing. I’ll be reading. And writing.

See you Monday.

Suggestions for prevention of Alzheimer’s — beginning today

According to a new study, living healthy may help to prevent Alzheimer’s. Marilynn Marchione’s Associated Press article, “Study: Healthy living can help prevent Alzheimer’s” summarizes a study presented yesterday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in France. “Seven conditions or behaviors account for up to half of the 35 million cases of Alzheimer’s around the world, it found.”

“The study used a mathematical model to estimate the impact of top modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease: smoking, depression, low education, diabetes, too little exercise, and obesity and high blood pressure in mid-life.” Study

Let’s start working on our health: physical as well as mental. You know the rules:

If you smoke, stop. Easy for me to say, I know. But the way you get off this planet may depend on it.

If you struggle from depression, seek help.

Continue to use your mind your whole life. Continue to learn. Read something challenging, learn something new. Don’t stop.

If you have diabetes take the most positive steps you can to get keep your blood sugar levels under control. You know what they are.

Starting today, get moving. Get up and walk to the corner. Play a favorite song from your high school days and dance in your living room. Dance in your kitchen. Just dance. Do one thing, even one small thing today that is more physically active than you did yesterday. Do that everyday, one more little thing.

Get your weight under control and keep it there. You know what is bad and what is good for your body. Start taking care of it.

You may think high blood pressure is something you can’t control, but I believe you can. If you don’t know, get yours checked. Find out how to reduce or manage the  stress in your life.

This morning I walked 1.4 miles at the Voice of America Park. It wasn’t much. But it was 1.4 miles more than I walked yesterday.

I don’t have to sit here at my computer desk helplessly bemoaning the fact that I may get Alzheimer’s. Neither do you.

The day to begin is today.

Voice of America Park, West Chester, Ohio — July 20, 2011

It’s always Sunday

My daisies are in full bloom here at home. They are the same daisies that we planted at Annie’s grave last year. My dad had a vision of daisies covering the entire grave, but that’s not allowed. We’re limited to planting only within twelve inches from the headstone.

Friday Mark and I drove nearly an hour and a half to the cemetery in Piqua, Ohio, so that I could see and photograph the blooming daisies.

The daisies are blooming on Annie's grave.

My dad liked to take care of cemetery plots. He always planted geraniums at his mother’s grave site. He and Mom went with us when Mark helped me plant the daisies. Then I took them back in early December to put Christmas decorations on Annie’s grave.

My dad is a faith-filled man. He never missed church on Sunday.

Early in 2009, Mom told me over the phone that Dad had started doing some things that were worrisome. He never knew what day of the week it was. For him, it was always Sunday. Mom would wake up on Tuesday, or Wednesday, and Dad would be getting dressed for church.

Mom wrote the names of the weekdays on a roto-file that she placed in the bathroom so he could see it first thing in the morning. That worked for a while until he started playing with it and changing the day. Later, she showed him how to check the daily newspaper for the day of the week if he was confused.

I feel bad that Dad can’t go to church anymore. It’s just one more thing. Physically he really isn’t able to anymore.

On Friday, Mark and I stopped at my parents’ house and bought dinner from a local submarine shop. I ordered a large salad and Mom ordered cheese steak sandwiches for herself and my dad, as did Mark. We also ordered an appetizer of potato wedges.

Dad used to like to get the large dinner salad too. I could tell by the way he looked at my salad that he wanted some. So I checked with Mom and she said it would be okay to give him a small portion. Dad ate that, and a couple of potato wedges, a small bag of potato chips, and then played with, but did not eat, a small section of his cheese steak I had cut for him.

Dad was relatively talkative on Friday. When I refilled his glass of Sprite, he looked and me and said, “Thank you.” I could tell the words were hard to come by and difficult to express.

I could see Dad had no intention of eating the cheese steak sandwich. “Would you like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?” I asked. He nodded. “Do you want strawberry or grape jelly?” No response. “Do you want strawberry jelly?” I asked. He nodded.

When I set the sandwich on the plate before him he said, “When I woke up this morning, I was thinking about this,” — a full-length monologue for him.

“A peanut butter and jelly sandwich?”

He nodded.

“Maybe I can read your mind,” I said and smiled.

He looked pleased.

Dinner was finished. Mom looked at the clock and said, “It’s almost 7:00. Church comes on TV at 7:00”

Mark and I left. Mom and Dad went to church sitting at their kitchen table.

Successfully navigating one senior maze

Last Wednesday I posted Lost in a Maze of Senior Services out of frustration. Today I want to share one small success story.

Yesterday morning as I was getting ready to make my weekly trip to Dayton to visit Mom and Dad, my sister Carol called me to give me a heads-up. The previous night they had an incident where my dad went into  a bad coughing fit. (We haven’t been able to resolve, or really treat in any measurable way, his coughing episodes). Anyway, the incident shook everyone up including my dad whose arms were visibly trembling as he sat in a chair in the living room. Long story short, they had to call my other sister Kathy and her husband David to come over and help my dad get out of the chair and make it to his bedroom. When Carol called me Dad wasn’t up yet and she wasn’t sure he would be able to get up.

I threw a few things in an overnight bag just in case this day ended at a hospital, and packed a little food for Arthur who was going with me. I arrived at my parents at about 11 a.m. to find Dad sitting up at the kitchen table. That was a big relief after a half hour’s drive worrying what situation I would be walking into when I got there.

It was good that Dad was able to get around a little bit with his walker and assistance, but he was weak and he still had a severe, although thankfully only occasional, cough. Carol, Mom and I had a little conversation around the kitchen table while Dad’s home health aide was helping him get ready for the day. We had taken Dad to the cardiologist the previous week to rule out a heart problem. That was a relatively unproductive trip. We hadn’t heard any results from the blood work or chest x-ray and were operating on the assumption that if he was having a crisis of some sort the doctor would have called. Mom’s phone calls back to the cardiologist in the morning hadn’t provided any satisfaction. The earliest appointment they had for a follow-up visit was May 9th.

Mom just wanted to get some kind of medicine to help Dad with his cough. “He needs to see his regular doctor,” I said. “Maybe he needs an inhaler.”

Mom called the doctor’s office and was told that they wanted him to come in. She told them she wasn’t sure she would be able to get him there. There was no way he could get himself into a car in the weak condition he was in, and we didn’t have any other transportation option set up. We were debating the necessity of just calling an ambulance and going to the ER.

Carol had already contacted the local fire department who gave her phone numbers of ambulette services in the area. I sat at the table and started dialing, basically getting the same message, “You need 48 hours notice to schedule a ride,” or “You have to call three days in advance,” or “We don’t have anything available today.” The services ranged in price from $60 to $120 for a round trip. On my fourth and final call, I struck gold, “We can take him between 3:00 and 3:30.” Now we needed to get the doctor’s office to open a slot for him at that time. The only free appointment they had was at 5:00.

Here is another example of human kindness—people will work with you if you really need help. The nurse left the phone to check with someone in the office and came back to say, “Try to be here by 3:30 and we’ll see him then.”

A fringe benefit was that I had brought the certification application for the public bus system’s Project Mobility, which is a much more affordable ride for the disabled. I was able to get the required doctor’s signature saving us another trip to the doctor’s office later.

Dad got a steroid shot and an inhaler for what the doctor convinced us was bronchial spasms due to allergies. He assured us that Dad’s coughing should subside once the shot started taking effect in 24 to 48 hours.

It was an expensive outing at $120 for a 10-mile round trip. But the ambulette brought a wheelchair which we hadn’t yet acquired for Dad (although it was ordered and due to be delivered later in the day) and used an electric lift to get Dad into the van. We suffered a little anxiety about our ride home when I couldn’t get an answer at the number we were told to call and had to leave a message at the number I called to originally schedule the appointment. But I am able to be something of a persistent pest at times, and two messages and one phone call later I was able to confirm that the van would be back to pick us up. Our total wait was about 40 minutes, which didn’t seem too long at the time.

All-in-all it wasn’t a bad way to travel.

Mom and Dad with his new wheelchair which was waiting for him at home when we got back from the doctor's office. April 27, 2011

Three good things in the newspaper

This morning I skipped over the bad news sections of the newspaper on the front page and the local news. I don’t want to read about the impotent government’s inability to deal with finances or Gadhafi. I went straight to the Healthy Living section where I read three things that started my day off on a positive note.

First, my horoscope read, “You will smile and laugh your way to a good outcome.” All good.

Second, the feature headline in large bold print read, “GO EASIER ON YOURSELF,” as if it was a personal direct response to my blog from yesterday.

And finally, there is a “Tools for Caregivers” free event tonight at a nearby church where the topic will be “Facing Long-Term Care Decisions: Families through the Process.”

Yesterday after we ate the lunch I picked up to share with my parents, and after my dad retreated to his bed for an afternoon nap, I kept my mom company at the kitchen table. She is in the process of problem-solving the constantly changing care needs of my father and his declining physical abilities due, probably in large part, to Alzheimer’s. She has started working on converting Annie’s old room into a room with two twin-size beds that she and my dad can use. Last week we replaced the worn mattress from what used to be Annie’s hospital bed with a newer, more comfortable one so Dad will be able to use it. Mom has arranged to have some extraneous furniture removed by St. Vincent de Paul and then we will deliver a twin bed for her to use.

Dad has started slipping out of bed on occasion, and often is very disruptive to my mom’s sleep if he decides to remove the bed linens in the middle of the night, or positions himself diagonally across the bed, or any number of other things that sometimes occur in the dark wee hours of the morning. Mom sees the necessity of eventually moving Dad to a hospital bed for his own safety and her well-being.

Like so many other ways she’s had to adjust, Mom navigates through this emotion-fraught change of moving into separate beds into another bedroom with the same pragmatic matter-of-factness that she faced every day during the 51 years she took care of my developmentally disabled sister Annie. My mother is very strong. But my mother has also taken some pretty hard back-to-back blows with Annie’s death following on the heels of Dad’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

Yesterday we started researching power lift chairs for my dad. His life consists of a series of filling the basic needs of toileting, showering, and eating interspersed with long naps. He spends most of his “free” time in a recliner in the living room. Although he is able to walk with the aid of a walker, it is getting increasingly difficult for Mom to get him out of the recliner once he sits down in it.

Anyway, the whole point is that I know we are not alone with the issues of aging that my mom, my siblings and I are facing. If I have enough energy left at the end of the day, I think I’ll go learn about “Tools for Caregivers.”

My parents wedding — August 1953

Not the Colosseum—or blogging a website

You didn’t really think I meant what I said about “tomorrow–the Colosseum!” did you? I can’t imagine, or justify really, spending three hours sorting through photos and tour books, two days in a row.

Let’s all take a break.

Besides, the Colosseum and the Forum photos (let’s not forget St. Peter’s in Chains that we saw on the way to the Colosseum) are in an unsorted and sordid mess right now. Later.

Instead, I want to use this opportunity to talk about blogging, websites and what I’ve been doing lately.

For the past three years I have provided web-editing support for a past professor of mine, Jeff Hillard, and his online magazine, RED! the breakthrough ‘zine. It contains stories of transformation in the lives of prisoners and individuals re-entering society and of innovations making it happen.

Although I am not, and don’t pretend to be, a computer or programming officionado, I studied Adobe’s “Dreamweaver—Classroom in a Book” and patched together a website in 2008 that wasn’t great, but was adequate. We have been plodding along since with one major re-design a couple of years ago. But the problem with an HTML website like Dreamweaver, is that you have to find someone who either knows how to program, or has a copy of and is able to use Dreamweaver.

RED! is a nonprofit of the sort that means, “Forget about profit, we don’t make any income. Nada.” So in addition to the above requirements for a web-editor, he or she must be willing to spend however long it takes to update and maintain the website which continually posts new stories, out of the goodness of his or her heart. Which I have been doing for the past three years, quite willingly.

But I don’t know how indefinitely I’ll be willing or able to continue and I felt to assure the future of RED! we needed something that wouldn’t be so highly dependent on an single individual—me.

Since my recent debut on WordPress.com, I’ve realized how user friendly and versatile this software is. I suggested to Jeff that we convert to a blog format for RED! — so that’s what we’ve been doing. (And I have had to delve into far more internet details than I’d ever hoped to in converting our domain to the WordPress blog—name servers, DNS for e-mail boxes, etc.)

Happily, we made the transition. I think—there is still that pesky e-mail from someone at our previous web-site hosting company . . .

I’m glad to say the technical support at WordPress.com was quite helpful indeed, and in particular would like to thank Hew, where ever you are, for not only your informed and timely assistance, but also for your cheerful attitude. I believe you really are a “Happiness engineer.” Not only did he come charging in on his white horse to answer my distress call, he followed up later to inquire, “Everything working as expected for you?”

Some people are of a mind that you need to have a website and a blog, which is where we were the first three years with RED!. So in some ways this move could be considered a step backward—demoting the website to an archive and using the blog as the website. And if we were the New York Times or Huffington Post, maybe that would be true. I hope what we lose (which really, right now, I can’t define or quantify, because from where I’m sitting I don’t see any loss), will be more than compensated for by what we gain.

Anyway, I hope with this move to a blog format RED! webzine will become more self-sufficient, easier to maintain, and much more interactive.

If you read nothing else, you might be interested in Jeff’s letter about why he started this ministry of sorts.

I hope you’ll stop by and see us from time to time.

Lifetime achievements

I’m sitting here by a crystal blue lagoon-shaped pool, the sun reflecting off the water, off the broad shiny leaves of the green and red foliage, off my spf30-lotion-soaked skin.

It’s been a long time since I’ve spent a lazy day poolside, when the boys tossing the ball in the pool were my boys and the girl splashing across the water with the pink snorkeling flippers and mask was my Anna.

When the kids were small we lived at the local pool every afternoon following swim lessons.

I made sure they all learned how to swim.

Add that to my lifetime list of achievements:

1. Gave birth to four children
2. Kept them all alive
3. Made sure they knew how to read
4. Made sure they knew how to swim

Not as impressive as receiving a Nobel Peace Prize, traveling to the moon, saving lives in operating rooms, saving lives from a police cruiser, saving lives from burning buildings, creating jobs, having a job . . .

Not very impressive at all really, by most standards.

It seemed important at the time.

Fiddles, radio broadcasts, signing-off and I-pads

I know it sounds cliché, but I’ve got to get it off my chest. I miss the good old days.

Were people really kinder when times were slower, or is my aging memory fading the harsh colors of reality into softer, gentler images?

Here’s my point, which I think may be undeniable; people had more time for and with each other before the barrage of 24-hour newscasts, sportscasts, movie channels and reality television. People had more silence and fewer disruptions before the cell phones became the most necessary item to carry with you at all times with their jingling or sometimes jarring tunes announcing an undoubtedly urgent call, or a beep or buzz announcing a new text message of vital importance.

My grandmother’s family and a few friends seeking diversions, used to gather around the piano in the parlor. Grandma played the ivory keys while her father and brother coaxed lively tunes from their fiddles. They weren’t professional musicians, just farmers. Camaraderie, laugher, and shared endeavor could all be regularly found in that small parlor of an evening.

My parents used to gather with their respective families around the family radio for the broadcast of Only the Shadow Knows, or another favorite radio show. Intent listening, respectful silence and vivid imagination were all required in that living room of an afternoon.

We always had a television as far as I can remember. It was a big bulky thing that made an awful buzzing noise when my parents turned it on. The screen lit up with random horizontal lines struggling to form themselves into a coherent image.  It turned off in the same fashion—static noise and lines ending with a final pop. We received three major networks all of which signed off sometime in the evening. When something monumental was happening in the world, you waited until the evening newscast with Walter Cronkite to hear about it.

There was no popping in a DVD of Jungle Book to entertain a sick and sleepless child in the wee hours of the morning. What did our grandmothers do with their sick children in the middle of the night? Did you ever wonder about that?

Human interaction, I suppose.

I do believe people were different when things were different. But not always and only for the best. I don’t have to attempt to list for you all the things that are better now because of modern technology.

I just think we make a mistake if we assume that nothing was lost.

Even so, I for one am not now, and likely never will be, willing to part with my laptop and I-pad.

We march on.


Circa 1917—Katherine Roecker Adams holding my grandmother Anna behind Raymond, Harold, and Florence beside Harrison Myron Adams and two horses.


Copyright © 2011 by Christine M. Grote