Monday, September 30, 2013

Walk to End Alzheimer's

The Promise Garden
Yesterday, the girlies and I participated in The Walk to End Alzheimer's. The foggy morning start gave way to a Goldilocks day, not too hot, not too cold and a beautiful blue sky. The walk started at the Quinsigamond Community College Campus in Worcester, MA.

As charity walk virgins we weren't sure what to do, but there were lots of very kind volunteers who guided us through the check-in process. After checking in, we were directed to the tent to get our whirligig flowers. Each walker got a flower to personalize and decorate. Purple for those who have lost someone to Alzheimer's, yellow for the caregivers, blue for those who have Alzheimer's, and orange for those supporting the cause to end Alzheimer's. As instructed we wrote our names on the green leaves and decorated the purple petals with our messages to Dad and Grandpa.

As we passed the start line, volunteers took our flowers and we followed the hundreds of other participants on the 3 mile walk. When we returned, the flowers had been (alphabetically) planted in The Promise Garden where one day there would be a world without Alzheimer's. Before we left, we retrieved the flowers to take home as a remembrance of the walk.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


Dad at 90 years old
Shortly after my dad passed away, I was hoping to get another message from him. The first message came at his funeral. It was pouring buckets, the door to the hearse was open. As the pallbearers were preparing to put the casket in the hearse, the door slammed shut. It didn't just close, but slammed shut. The incident made me laugh because after Mass, Dad would go to the church hall for donuts and coffee, but that wasn't the plan for this day and Dad was letting me know he was very unhappy. Sorry, Pal.

The first week passed by, and then the second, no message. And then I dreamt, I got a telephone call from my uncle, Dad's youngest brother who passed away in 2004. Uncle didn't want me to worry and told me Dad was busy with their mother.

As Alzheimer's took its hold on Dad, he went through a wormhole and arrived in his past, sometime between the ages of 17 and 24, before he was married to my mother. He talked a lot about his mother, thought she was still alive. I learned quickly not to give reality checks because his sadness at the loss of his mother (50+ years ago) would be renewed. If  we were out and I said I was going to take him home, he thought I meant the home he grew up in. So I was very happy to get the message Dad was with his mother.

Nice, too, to chat with my Uncle. He gave me my first real job when I got out of computer school. The fact that he called me was so typical of his thoughtfulness. Everyone that met Uncle, loved him.

I called my Cousin to let him know I had gotten a message from his father. He laughed and said his dad calling me on the telephone was classic. He said his dad loved the telephone. Had one in every room of the house except the bathroom. Every time a new model phone came out, his Dad was right there getting it. I never knew my uncle's love affair with the telephone.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Hamlet, Act I, Scene V

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Tools, Gadgets,and Widgets - iPhone 5C

My iPhone 4 was due for an upgrade, and I was hoping to upgrade from Verizon's 3G network to 4G. I thought I would upgrade to the 4S, but the 4S is still on Verizon's 3G network and 3G, which I call 3 Grandmas, is painfully slow. (You do know that the G in this case stands for generation, so 4G is just the 4th or newest incarnation of the network)

Last week, Apple unveiled two new phones, the expensive 5S and the less expensive 5C. (The difference is the 5C has a colorful, plastic shell). I like the iPhone. Works well out of the box, intuitive to use. I like the minimalist design, enhanced by the new IOS7 operating system so I went with the in my budget 5C.

The 5C comes in  a range of candyass prissy, pastel colors. I chose the  light blue, but would have been happier with a darker shade of blue or black. This morning while surfing, I saw an article which stated the iPhone comes in a Croc of colors. Sure enough, My  iPhone and fugly shoes are color coordinated. What a relief! The 5C is slightly longer and narrower than the iPhone 4. It's also lighter in weight due to the plastic shell.  I asked the salesman if any men were buying the iPhone 5C. He said in the week the phone was out, he had only sold the phone to women, and women buying the phone for their children (I'm assuming girls)

Earlier in the week with the introduction of the new operating system, I had backed up my iPhone 4 to the iCloud. The salesman ported my phone number to the new phone, and we erased the data on the old phone. Verizon gave me $100 off the cost of the phone if I traded in the old one. At home, I booted up iTunes and restored the back up. Very easy to do. All my contacts, calendar events, reminders, apps, and specialty ringtones were right on the new phone without problems. I only had to set the custom ringtones and that took all of 5 seconds.

Besides the Croc colors, my other complaint has to do with the cable connector. One end still has the USB connector, but Apple changed the end which goes into the phone. It's now teeny, tiny. So the phone won't fit into the iHome alarm clock/radio/charging station Himself gave me for Christmas. It also meant I had to buy another car charger.

I'd grade the iPhone 5C an A for ease of use, design, and weight, and a C+ for color choices and the cable connector.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Friday Five

21. September 1997
Stowe Orchards
Though I'm mourning Summer and the hazy, hot, and humid days, I do look forward to apple season.

1. When the girlies were little, we used to spend a day at the local orchard picking apples, feeding the animals at the petting zoo, and taking a pony ride.

2. My favorite apples are tart apples: McIntosh, Granny Smith, Cortland

3. For a change of pace from tea, I like  a cup of mulled cider

4. Last weekend, I baked an Impossible Apple Pie

5. Red gave me a pan of Waters Farm Apple Crisp. Waters Farm is located in the town where I live and is a living history museum preserving 19th c. New England farm life. /Volunteers bake up tons of apple crisp for the Waters Farm Days, a Fall Festival held on the first weekend in October.

Do you like apples?

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Red and I took our annual trip to Mystic Village in Mystic Connecticut. Puttering through Franklin's General Store, I found giant colored pencils made from small tree branches. Why? Because everyone needs a giant blue pencil just for fun. I think I'll wrap it with twine to hang from the Christmas tree.

Monday, September 23, 2013

How I Use Affirmation Cards

I was asked what I do with the affirmation cards. The cards are like the Community Chest cards used in Monopoly minus the dollar amount for winning the beauty contest. There are 31 cards, one for each day of the month. The cards are shuffled and each day a card is drawn from the top of the pile and displayed on the easel. Along with meditation/prayer, the sentiments on the card are a reminder to focus on the positive instead of caving into the negative emotions often induced by stress, remarks of others, or self-doubt. Life is good.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Affirmation Cards

Back in April I started making affirmation cards, but got bogged down by cutting and decorating paper. the project would go faster if I had a stack of pre-cut cards and a faster way of decorating the backs.

In a desk drawer, I found a bazillion, old business cards. They weren't any use as business cards because information had changed. The paper was a nice quality, too, and in a test took watercolor pencil well.  So the business cards have been recycled, up-cycled, re-purposed, re-used, whatever you want to call it. Two cards to make one affirmation card. One for the sentiment and a second for the decorated back.

The backs were decorated using a monoprint technique from Diana Trout: Sumi Smoosh. Diana used alcohol inks. I don't have any of that kind of ink and didn't want to buy more art supplies. She also applied the inks to the inside of a clear, plastic folder and pressed her paper between. I didn't have any plastic folders, but  I did have quart-sized, food storage bags. I cut one along the side and bottom edge so it would open up like a book. Instead of the alcohol ink, I used blue, green, and gold Tempera paint. Dropped a blob on the plastic, folded the bag over and mixed the colors, then instead of folding the cards in between the plastic, I just laid them in the paint, pressed, and pulled. If there was too much white showing, I just pressed the card into more paint. Ta-Da! A quick way to decorate paper, and use and recycle materials I already had on hand.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Friday Five

Five things to do in your car while you wait for an appointment.

1. Because you're going to be early, stop by the local Panera and get a hot chai to go.

2. Open the windows and the moon roof because it's such a gorgeous day.

3. Savor the chai

4. Play with your iPad or smartphone, but do something productive like check your email. You don't want to get caught playing Candy Crush.

5. Complain to Verizon via Twitter and Facebook that the 3G service in the town you're in sux. Wonder why you should upgrade to 4G. Seems if they can't guarantee fast 3G speeds why should their 4G be any better?

What do you do while you wait for an appointment?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Another Visitor

Photo from Morguefile
I first spotted her and her baby in Prissy's front yard while I was chatting on the phone. I've seen the deer at night and coming out of the woods in the early morning mist, but I've never seen them in the middle of the day. Noise from a passing car must have startled the youngster  because he went bounding back into Prissy's woods. I went back to my phone conversation.

I paced back to the sun room and that's when I spotted her. Just like that, in the photo. Well, not quite like that. My photo didn't come out as I shot it with the iPhone camera through the dirty, sun room window and into the noon sun. I couldn't even see the deer through the view finder. But this is what she looked like. Except I had to mirror the Morguefile photo in Paint Shop Pro . And the tree in our yard isn't as wide, and it's surrounded by white heath asters. Yes, that's the real name of the flowers, I didn't just make that up just because I happen to love the cowboy by the same name. The grass in my yard is greener, too. But the deer did look directly at me and Ink. Ink was very interested in watching her even though she probably had a good 100 lbs. over him. When she figured we weren't a threat, she casually munched the grass. Her baby wasn't with her. She probably had him or her safely tucked up in the woods so she could eat her lunch in peace.

What's in your back yard?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesdays with Elders - Survivor's Benefits

While informing Social Security my dad had passed away, I also inquired about the Social Security Death Benefit. After the death of a spouse, the surviving spouse/family is entitled to a one time Social Security Death Benefit, of $255. (This paltry amount wouldn't even cover the cost of flowers at the funeral.)

The agent told me, I would have to bring my mother to the local Social Security office so she could apply for the benefit in person. I told her since my mother is in the nursing home and has dementia, she's not able to make decisions regarding finances. She said many families just decide to not bother with the benefit. Tempting to avoid the aggravation except, my mother is entitled to this payment as pitiful as the amount is. She worked many years and paid into Social Security. It's not her fault she lived decades after the retirement age of 65.

I explained to the agent, I was a court appointed guardian and conservator for my mother. As her representative, how would I go about getting the benefit for her? First, I would have to obtain a letter from the nursing home physician, stating my mother's inability to make cognitive decisions. I would have to bring the letter, a copy of Dad's death certificate, their marriage certificate, and the court papers naming me as guardian/conservator to the local office and apply for the benefits. The agent made the appointment, and the earliest date available isn't until 15. October. It's a good thing we're not desperate for the benefit.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Good For

what ails ya.

1 cup hot tea
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Feeling Fugly

If you need me, I'll be crashed on my chair in the sun room. However, if your request doesn't involve blood, fire, flood, or the Apocalypse, don't bother me.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Tools, Gadgets, and Widgets - Toyota Entune

One of the toys that came with my new Toyota was a software suite called Entune. This is a suite of apps (Bing, Pandora, Open Table, fuel prices, sports, and traffic) that are accessed through the dash console from your smartphone. Very cool, or so I thought. I've had my car since June and haven't been able to get the apps to work.

At the dealership, when I went to pick up the car, the salesman went through the process of pairing my iPhone via Bluetooth to the car so I can make and receive hands-free calls and use the navigation system.

Now I don't need to order movie tickets from the car or make reservations at a restaurant, but it would be nice to tune to music I like to hear when I'm out of range of my favorite radio stations. I downloaded the app to my iPhone and followed all of the instructions. Every time, I'd receive an error message that the phone had no Internet connection. Frustrating, but not really needed especially the cost of another service or worry about eating up the phone's data plan. The car is a dream to drive. The hands-free phone is convenient, and the onboard navigation is helpful without having to drag out another electronic device.

Then Toyota announced Entune would be free. Free? Sign me up and again, the same error message. An online search found that lots of others were having the same problem connecting to the apps. And the consensus from the bulletin boards was Entune sucked. I read the FAQs and followed instructions and had to agree Entune was an epic fail.

I contacted Toyota and detailed all the steps I had taken. A day or two later (kudos to Toyota for their quick response), I received this: The issue sound like you may not be using a USB cord to connect. We have provided the following pairing instructions to assist you;

What? A USB cord? What the Hell? There was nothing in the manuals that said a USB connection had to be made. It said Bluetooth. That means wireless. Back out to the car with the USB cord and the instructions I was able to get my Pandora stations to play through the dashboard console. 

So Entune is not quite the epic fail I thought. Nice to be able to listen to Do-Wop Oldies or Gregorian Chant when I'm out of range of the usual radio station. Toyota, you need to make it clear that the Entune service doesn't connect via Bluetooth, but the USB cord is needed.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Friday Five

Some thoughts on social media

1. Facebook:  With the privacy issues changing hourly, I probably shouldn't spend time on the site, but I like it. I've been able to connect with family and friends from far away. A lot of my calligraphy colleagues from around the world are here, too, and I get to keep up with tools, tips, and what people are working on.

2. Twitter: It's hard to make your broccoli stand out when everyone is talking about their broccoli. And I'm pretty sure no one really cares what I had for lunch or my whines about the weather. I've had "conversations" with a couple of others, but in order to keep up, I'd have to spend my entire day on Twitter. Mostly I tweet links to my blog.

3. LinkedIn: There's a discussion happening on Cyberscribes, a calligrapher and lettering artist group, as to whether or not there is any benefit to joining LinkedIn. I haven't gotten any work from the site, but have been endorsed for my skills. Jury's still out.

4. Pinterest: I liked the idea of vision boards, and I enthusiastically pinned colors, studio organizing, crafts, recipes, and a bunch of other stuff. Then I read the fine print in Pinterest's usage agreement. Basically it stated Cold Brew Labs the company behind Pinterest gets to use images that you post in any manner they wish among other things. No thank you, and I deleted my account.

5. Ancestry: This is where I've been researching my genealogy and building my family tree. I've "met" cousins, okay, they are fifth or seventh cousins a few times removed, but we still have a link to a common ancestor.

What do you think about social media?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

How Achille Met Fannie

Robin wanted to know the story of my paternal grandmother, Raffaela, but she preferred to be called Fannie.

My father left me 3 spiral notebooks with as much of his family history as he could remember. The notebooks were written just as the symptoms of Alzheimer's were beginning. So in Dad's words the story of how his parents met.

Some time in 1917 or early 1918, Achille went to work [as a tailor] and as usual took the ferry [from East Boston to Boston] for two cents. When he boarded the ferry, he saw a young girl sitting on one of the benches. And he said, "That's for me." And he ran all over the ferry to find someone who knew who she was.

Just how long it took him is unknown. However, he eventually found a person who could introduce him to, in this case, the relatives, that she was living with. One just did not go to a girl or woman to introduce himself. She would react and anyone watching or observing would ask that woman, "Is that man bothering you?" It's just the way things were done.

Anyway, Achille did find someone who knew who that girl was. The individual either knew Achille or Achille had to get someone who knew him to visit the woman's family and explain that a young man was interested in the young woman, seriously of course, with the objective of marriage if the lady and her relatives were amenable. Of course, the person who would introduce Achille would have knowledge of his background, family in Italy and America and of course and job and trade, profession etc. And the result would be an invitation for the prospective husband to be. 

Anyway he finally found that person who knew where the girl lived and with whom she lived. She was living with an uncle and his wife and family. And keeping with custom, Achille's friend visited the girl's uncle, explained that there was a young man who was of a good family in Italy and East Boston on Cottage Street who was interested in the young lady that lived with her uncle's family.

Arrangements were made to have Achille visit with his friend and introduce the young man to the uncle and wife. Who was asked what his intentions were and then was allowed to speak with the girl. While this was going on, either the uncle or his wife gave a sign to the girl who evidently signed back assenting and things began between the young man and the young lady.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tuesdays with Elders- Social Security Amounts

Last week, I told you I had called Social Security to check Dad's death had been reported to them. The agent was helpful in answering questions about social security payments that would effect my mother.

Under social security, if your spouse passes away and s/he had a higher social security amount than you, you are entitled to the higher amount, but not in addition to your own.

Dad's social security amount was more than Ma's.  She received her own social security for all the years she worked plus a small pension from her union, Unite Here (formerly ILGWU, International Ladies' Garment Workers Union). Her pension actually made her monthly amount a few dollars more than what Dad received.  I was expecting Ma would be now be getting Dad's social security plus her pension. This was important to know because the amount she receives from social security is used to calculate the amount she pays to the nursing home. If she earns more social security, she pays more to the nursing home in order to keep her Medicaid benefits.

I was surprised to learn her little pension counts as part of her social security benefit and is not a separate payment. Because she had the higher amount, she would not be entitled to Dad's social security.

Clear as mud? I'm not an expert in Social Security benefits. If you have questions, call your local social security office or visit the Social Security website.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Treasure

My cousin sent me a picture of my paternal grandmother, Rafaella (Mottola) Todisco. She was called Fannie. I only know her from photographs and have never seen a picture of her this young.

I love old photographs and trying to figure out when and why the photograph was taken. She's posed and appears to be wearing her Sunday best. I can see the edge of a hat in her elaborate up-do. She's posed so obviously this is a professionally taken photograph.

I have a similar photograph of my maternal grandmother. The picture was printed as a postcard as on the back there are markings for address.

She's wearing a piece of jewelry, perhaps a brooch or a watch attached to her collar. On her left hand, she appears to be wearing a ring. Maybe an engagement ring or a wedding ring and she's carrying a small purse.

My grandparents were married in April of 1918 and my dad was born a year later in 1919. I'm guessing this picture was taken between 1917 and 1918. Grandma would have been 26 or 27 years old.

For some reason, I always thought my dad favored his father, but I can clearly see dad favored his mother, and I can see myself, too.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunday Morning Breakfast

This morning, I got all Betty Crocker and decided to make baked donuts following the recipe from King Arthur flour. Ink was more interested in Timex, the chipmunk running around in the yard, than the Nutella and Coconut donut. Oh well, no accounting for taste.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Friday Five

It's a chilly 51o F. outside. Five things I'll need this morning.

1. I'll need a pair of socks

2. A hot cup of tea (actually this is a cheat. I have a hot cup or two of tea every morning)

3. Will have to turn the space heater on in the sun room to take the chill out.

4. Will have to grab a sweater while running errands this morning.

5. And will probably turn the heater on in the car.

What's the weather like in your neck of the woods?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Piece that Would Make A Librarian Faint

I'm not sure how this piece came about. I can't remember whether I found the quote first or found Connections by James Burke and the earth spread. Chicken or egg. In any case, the book had been collecting dust on the bookshelf for 20 some odd years, and the globe page spread just begged to be altered with this quote attributed to Albert Einstein

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."

The book text was covered with Payne's Grey. Color and waves were added to the ocean areas along with a sea serpent. The quote written with a 1 mm. Brause and "Hic Sunt Dracones" (Here Be Dragons) written with a Nikko G nib and Ziller Midnight Blue ink. An origami sailboat was folded from one of the pages of the book, yardarm and mainmast toothpicks hold the colors (blue ribbon) and nautical flags with my initials on a tea dyed, one ply, kitchen string. In this view, you can't see the light bulb figurehead. The prow of the boat cuts through quilled waves also made from the book page. Oh, and the edges of the pages were faux gilded with acrylic gold gouache.

Come to the Worcester Art Museum Faculty Exhibition Reception, Thursday, 5 September 2013 in the Higgins Education Wing from 5:30 PM - 7 PM.where you can see my piece that would make a librarian faint. The art show is open to the public and runs from 5. September 2013 - 5. October 2013, Wednesdays through Sundays 11 AM - 5 PM.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tuesdays with Elders - Notifying Social Security

After Dad passed away, there was some conflicting information about who was to notify the Social Security Administration. The nursing home said Medicaid would since Medicaid and Social Security are tied together. Information from the Social Security site said in some cases, the Funeral Director notifies Social Security.

I decided the best way to find out was to call Social Security myself. I wasn't sure I'd get far. The one time there was a problem with Dad's Social Security and I called, the agent wouldn't speak to me. Even when I told her, I was Dad's Attorney in Fact (title for person with power of attorney). The agent told me Social Security doesn't recognize power of attorney, and the agent hung up on me. How rude!

This time around, the agent was very sympathetic and helpful. I had to provide Dad's social security number, his date of birth, his mother's maiden name all to verify his account. She answered my question about the next social security deposit made on the first of the month. As I suspected, his social security would be deposited into his bank account, but Social Security would withdraw the amount before the month is out.

Next week: Survivor's Benefits

Monday, September 2, 2013

Farewell, Summer

I will miss you. Deep sigh. forlorn look. You barely got started after the month of rain.  I'll miss the hazy, hot, and humid days. I'll miss working in the sun room and taking Popsicle breaks. I'll miss evenings in the sun room and how light it was outside even at 9 PM. I'll miss going outside without a jacket. I'll miss island time and the slower pace of days. Until next year.

Is it July, yet?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

What Do You Do...

when someone wakes up in the middle of the night, and you wake up with all their tossing and turning and up and down and running back and forth to the bathroom? And they can't get back to sleep and you can't get back to sleep? You ask if they want to get up, join you in the sun room, and start a new series on Netflix suitable for marathon watching. You watch Heroes