To Autocorrect or not to Autocorrect



A few months ago I turned off the autocorrect feature on my phone. It was driving me crazy. Seriously, over the edge, with tourette’s tics, muttering and cursing. I’d grit my teeth as my phone insisted I meant to say something other than what I was typing, even when using common words and phrases. And for the uncommon? I could tell my phone repeatedly that I really did mean “(insert industry acronym here)”, but it would always want to autocorrect me.

I decided to see if life would be better without my phone’s attempts to out-think me. And, so far, the results have been mostly positive, with the exception of one growing problem. My phone’s dictionary has been “learning” all of my typos, and adding them to an ever-expanding list of foreign words, which now come up as valid options when I’m typing.

Because my thumbs lack a rubber nub, for graceful and accurate tapping of each letter as I type, I often hit adjacent letters, and come up with words like “tge” and “jyst” and “yiu”. I’ve recently discovered I’m much more proficient with Swype, sweeping my thumb around the keyboard and *mostly* coming out with the right word. However (and this is a biggie), my dictionary now includes tge, jyst and yiu (among a plethora of other gibberish words). Surprisingly, those are often coming up as the primary option.

I am now going through the tedious process of making my phone “unlearn” all of these new words. As I Swype, word by word, I check to see if egregious variations are offered. If so, I stop and go through the process of deleting any that are.

I suppose the lesson here is, if you’re going to turn off autocorrect, and you’re a reckless typist, Swype might be the way to go immediately, before you’re typing in a different language. I wonder if I can default back to the factory-installed dictionary….

Have you dared to turn off autocorrect? How was that experience?

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Stiff, by Mary Roach

20160628_204954I have no idea what prompted me to bring my recent impulse-buy, Stiff, with me on a cruise, but I did. As Mr. H and I headed to the deck for a little sunbathing on our first day at sea, I questioned myself. With some trepidation, I opened the book and read the first paragraph of the introduction, which erased any doubt:

The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back. The brain has shut down. The flesh begins to soften. Nothing much new happens, and nothing is expected of you.

Yes, this book was perfect reading material for my first cruise.

I don’t necessarily have a fascination with death, although I do love crime shows, such as CSI, NCIS and Criminal Minds. And, similarly, I tend toward dark novels, with an absolute love for Stephen King and a recent penchant for Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series.

Perhaps because of this interest, I have full appreciation for Mary Roach’s professional, respectful, and occasionally humorous review of the many options to be considered for post-mortem disposal. Burial? Sure. Embalming? Yes, with information on history. Or, cremation, with a great perspective on recent shifts in popularity of these options.

More fascinating, though, are the myriad of paths that open up for the cadaver that is destined for science and research. For example, what good is the data gathered by analysis of a crash test dummy, without the relevant analysis of human limitations, provided by research done of crash test cadavers? Or, consider how forensic scientists (so popular in my TV dramas) are able to ascertain time of death, without relative information from “control” subjects (aka cadavers left baking in the sun or shade, or buried in shallow graves or cemented into concrete or dumped in ponds or…let your twisted imagination run amok). Cadavers are used to help scientists understand the many variables of decomposition in a plethora of environmental conditions.

Cadavers are also useful subjects in analysis of passengers of failed air travel. Whether by bomb, or fire, or other causes, for air crashes, especially those which occur over sea space, without benefit of black box or aircraft remains, bodies are the best source of forensic information.

Mary Roach’s work even touches on the touchy subject of cannibalism, with her research into various myths and legends. And, she explores the relatively recent trend toward the idea of composting our loved ones, which, as recently as last year, was still a “hot topic” for consideration.

Personally, I am grateful for her insight, as well as the benefit of her research. I am much better prepared for my next murder mystery, and have a greater understanding of the options (and implications) for my own “beyond.”

I’ll close with words of Mary Oliver, in a poem I fell in love with today, discovered independently, When Death Comes:

When it’s over, I want to say all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Because … what will always be more important than death, or what happens after, is the life we’ve lived.

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It started with a flat tire

20160415_150323Have you ever experienced a weekend that felt like one very long Monday? This one started with a flat tire, resulting from brief inattention, resulting in tire-meet-curb (and curb won).

Then I sang “I am Woman!” while I dealt with it.*

I left work early (but later than intended), to get home, pack, and hit the road as soon as possible (after the kids arrived from school) going to Port Aransas for business/vacation. Tire change meant delayed departure.

BUSINESS: Take Golf Cart II to our short-term-rental beach house. Golf Cart I, a lemon, relentlessly backfired. Multiple trips to the shop didn’t give confidence that this would be anything but trouble, so…we traded up.

20160415_073648Meet “Greased Lightening”!

In addition, our newly upgraded Smart Home Hub drops offline ~daily. Called tech support, was told we needed to be at-the-hub to work-on-the-hub, to take the first step: “reboot the hub”.

VACATION: If we don’t spend at least an hour on the beach, our resident grandchildren have been robbed! So we spent an hour on the beach. And, we went to/from the beach in the aforementioned golf cart, which was totally rockin’. We also ate out a lot, and went to the park, so there was plenty to offset the business.

REALITY: We arrived well past the kiddos’ bedtime Friday night. After our best rush-job to get through PJ’s/teeth-brush/bedtime story/prayers/nursery songs, which are all things better left unrushed, we finally got the kids to bed. Soon after (but not soon enough), we went to bed.

Saturday morning, I was up and at ’em by 6:30am. The kids were waiting for me. Lovely. Can’t blast them out of bed with dynamite all week long, but give them sleep deprivation and vacation, and they are MACHINES!

My day, after an injection of coffee and breakfast, began with a call to tech support for the Smart Home Hub. This support tech was way smarter than the last support tech, as evidenced by her first statement of “let me reboot your hub.” Wait! What? You mean, I didn’t have to drive 4 hours to get to the hub in order for said hub to be rebooted? Grrr.

Later, in the early afternoon, we lost our cable connection. Intermittent disconnects interrupted Netflix, ending with a final fatal no-more-worky-end-of-movie.

Great. Call TWC and walk through trouble-shooting. Net result (no pun intended)? Need to replace the modem. And maybe the splitter (although failure persisted without the splitter in the mix, we won’t let logic slow us down). So, Mr. H. hauls @$$ to Corpus Christ’s TWC location to swap the modem (for one that lacks landline support, which means “to be continued” in the language of tech support). AAAANNNNNDDDD….new modem doesn’t work, either. Better yet, when I connected it up, the direct cable in the master bedroom went out. Wha-?

We have paying guests coming Thursday. We have no cable. Without cable, the Smart Home Hub doesn’t work. Wait… You know, perhaps all of the hub’s drops are not the fault of the hub. Darn you, TWC!!! And, the tech that did the activation of the new hub (that didn’t result in fixing the issue) implied the issue is probably TWC’s, but … 2-3 customers without cable do not a “cable outage” make.

On top of all of this, 5YO is running a low grade fever and not eating because her tummy hurts. Trip to pharmacy for thermometer, Tylenol, pepto.

Sunday morning, up and at ’em … and once again, children await the wakening. Can’t catch a break. But, at least Sunday was un-tech-eventful.

*CONFESSION: I flagged down young muscle to wrestle the bad tire into the trunk, at the end of the tire-changing ordeal. No way was I going to mess with that heavy, dirty, beastly thing. I still get street cred for the tire change.

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my to-do list is ridiculous

20160410_164448If you’ve spent much time with me, perhaps you know that my weekends are managed by my to-do list. Every Saturday morning I rise, and put pen to paper, creating my weekend. Sort of.

The Important and the Urgent compete for time and attention. Finally, as the sun sets on Sunday, I have to accept defeat for all of the uncrossed-off-lines of unmet responsibilities and obligations.

It’s too much! And, it’s not like the list is unreasonable!

The list, and the day, invariably begins with “laundry” (mine and the grandchildren’s). Although the wash/dry times are fairly predictable, the grandchildren fold their own clothes, so the dining room “folding” table might be occupied for up to 4 hours (depending on the level of supervision & focus).

The list includes “Crossword,” as my parents and I complete the NY Times puzzle via remote collaboration, finishing every Sunday afternoon either before or during a 3pm phone call. That’s not something I’m willing to sacrifice, and I don’t consider it a time-waster. The NY Times puzzle might be recreation, but we treat it as business.

In addition, I have a full-time job that doesn’t always get done within the bounds of Mon-Friday, so I often need an hour or 4 on the weekend. Business.

Then, there’s the part-time job of real estate, which is mostly bookkeeping, but I’m currently under the gun to finish 20 hours of Continuing Education by June in order to retain my license. So, ~4 hours for CE, plus 1~2 hours for various bookkeeping duties. Business.

We’re past the hurtle of tax prep, thankfully. That business consumed 2 weekends and most of Spring Break.

The backyard is once again a jungle wilderness in need of taming, which is next to impossible to do in bits and pieces. Last year, I worked my way through the flower bed pictured above, spending about an hour per day, as I was able. By the time I finished, the first patch was already under renewed attack, because of the invasive nature of the Bermuda grass and dwarf bamboo and nutsedge and the other unidentified intruders. These days, this is neither business nor recreation. It’s a nightmare.

On top of all of this, I’ve got to purge two overstuffed closets in order to consolidate a guest room and an office, to create a second bedroom for the grandchildren, who’ve shared a room for the last 2 years. That effort hangs like a dark cloud overhead on a windless day, with growing urgency.

At the end of each weekend, when I’ve done all that I can do, it’s never enough. Yet, it is what it is. It’s time for the next week and I haven’t finished last week. Meanwhile, …

The truly bitter pill comes from my desire to spend time sewing for my grandchildren. What can I do to make sure this effort makes the cut (literally!)?


Posted in adulthood, angst, Challenged, child-rearing, children, chores, commitment, deadline, discipline, employment, faith, family, Is it just me?, life, Lingering thoughts, not writing, obedience, parent, Puzzles, quitting, Rant, reward, spirit, Spring Cleaning, Venting, Wants, Writing | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on my to-do list is ridiculous

Paying by phone

Samsung PayI’ve not typically played “early adopter” for new technology, but sometimes the change is so remarkably compelling, the convenience and ease-of-use so stunning, that I’d be remiss *not* to make the change. Using my phone to make credit/debit card charges falls into this category.

I stumbled into my first use of this feature, having recently set up a card in my phone, when Mr. H. and I were checking out with our merchandise and he said, “Oh, no! I left my wallet in the truck!” and I said, “Hey! Let me try this handy new app!” (Or something to that effect.)

And so, at the IGA grocery story, in the small island town of Port Aransas, I launched the app, held it over the card-reader, and we paid for our groceries.

However, it was many months before I tried again (at an Einstein Bagels), and the cashier was unable to get it to work, and there was a line, so we aborted the effort. It was even more months before the next attempt. Coincidentally, it was, again, at the Port Aransas IGA. This time, the experience was completely different.

In the trial run, the experience was low-key (I’m not even sure if the cashier noticed). The second IGA encounter involved a hostile cashier who was outraged at my attempt to hold my phone over the card reader. She shouted and waved her arms, telling me it doesn’t work, and they don’t support it, and blah, blah, blah…while the register registered my card and I approved the transaction.

She called over the front end manager who took the receipt (and a copy that he insisted she print) to the office while muttering about how they don’t support this. Meanwhile, I pulled up my bank account app, logged in, and tried to show the still-hostile cashier that the transaction had already posted to my account. She was having none of it. She proceeded to be hostile to the customer in line behind me. (Who knows? Maybe she was hostile to the customer in front of me, too.)

The manager returned, gave me both copies of the receipt, explained that they were burned by someone who used their phone to pay and somehow escaped with $100 worth of unpaid for groceries, and so they don’t support the technology and he didn’t think it worked.

Technology proved victorious, and I was allowed to leave with my $12 worth of merchandise (sunscreen and a bag o’ ice).

Now, I am itching to go shopping (completely out of character), on a mission to explore various venues with this newfangled app, replacing my wallet with my always-handy, ever-ready phone.

Let the games begin!

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Reflections on life at 50 (and the decade ahead)

CakeI am 50 years old today. I was 50 yesterday, too. But, the day before that was the pivotal day that I turned 50. Last week, I was a woman in her 40’s. This week, and for the next 520 weeks, I’m a woman in her 50’s. And I’m okay with that. So far, this decade is off to a great start.

Last week I attended the Texas Conference for Women, an event filled with inspiring speakers who successfully motivated me to reconsider my outlook, my strategy, my approach, my attitude….

I attended a session on goal-setting, “Goals with Soul” by Danielle La Porte. She introduced the revolutionary (at least for me) concept that our goals should be based on feelings. Specifically, we should anticipate how we are going to feel once we achieve a certain goal. She challenged us to list our dreams, then analyze our motivation. Additionally, we should consider how every aspect of our lives influences our feelings. We should ask every day, “What am I doing today to make myself feel _____________?”

During Q&A she highlighted some additional tips for healthy living:

  • Look at your bank account(s) every day. Don’t obsess, but know your financial health.
  • Understand your bliss-limit, and expand your capacity to feel joy.
  • Apply passion judiciously.
  • Be vulnerable with discretion. Give love and healing freely, but maintain a privacy fence. Only allow in those you trust. Keep out those who just come to feed.
  • Tell the truth (fast & lovingly).
  • Be yourself. Resonate.
  • Don’t pursue life balance, but harmony. Harmony is like a symphony, with ebbs and flow, dynamic changes, imbalance.
  • Inspiration is everywhere – look for it. Tap into what inspires you.
  • Confidence requires us to overcome fear. We all make choices, and must control our responses. Anger, bitterness, happiness are all choices. Be intentional. Feel the power that comes with self-control.
  • Take time to rest and integrate your experiences.
  • Regrets are a waste of energy. Worry is misuse of your imagination. Hold space in your thoughts for positive outcomes.
  • Make time for intentional silence. Even 1 minute, in your parked car, as you transition from work to home. Create the time and space to pivot.
  • Rise to every occasion. It’s a decision to be made, to approach an objective full-on. Expand your possibilities.
  • Embrace your unique place in the universe.

The session was rich with golden nuggets of wisdom.

This morning I made a lengthy to-do list of all I hope to accomplish before Thanksgiving. It’s interesting to look at the items on the list and consider each entry as a function of how I want to feel at the end of the day, or whether the activities will help me achieve my greater goals.

When our grandchildren came to live with us in April, I had goals that are no longer practical. I’m not giving up on those goals, but I’m revising my expectations. It may take a little more time to get there, but I’m still heading in the right direction. I’m looking at the big picture, and embracing the joy (and challenges) that comes with each new day. And, I’m looking forward to ongoing progression of this journey, ever-striving for the person I want to be when I turn 60.

Now, please excuse me, I need to go cross “write a blog post about turning 50” off of my to-do list. Carpe Diem!

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Misadventures of a hapless agent: Lessons in Real Estate

For Rent Real Estate Sign(Draft Written April, 2014)

The first time I took a client out to look at homes, freshly armed with my Realtor’s license and the magic “key extractor” gizmo, I was eternally grateful that the client was my beloved Mr. H, because the electronic gizmo I’d been carrying for weeks had a depleted battery, and I had no way to recharge it, so we were not able to enter the property.

This weekend I made two tours of the North Eastern suburbs of Austin, showing two families homes that might potentially become theirs. Rentals, anyway. And, I learned several important lessons.

Lesson 1: Bring the gizmo with you.

I arrived at the first property, 10 minutes before the appointed time, ready to meet my client. I immediately realized I lacked gizmo and called Mr. H to the rescue. Fortunately, the client (due to a completely unrelated miscommunication) was waiting for me at a different house and by the time we’d worked through the confusion, and they arrived at the destination, I had the gizmo in hand. Ironically, there was a “communication failure” error when I tried to unlock the lock box that held the key to the property. But, I firmly (and hopefully) knocked on the door, waking the napping toddler and bringing grandma to the door to let us in. This was the least of my foibles.

Lesson #2: Do not go into the back yard. 

When I’m showing a home, it’s natural to be curious and want to check out all aspects. However, stepping through the backdoor is not necessary. In fact, such a maneuver might, in fact, allow the back door to slam shut, leaving you locked in the back yard. Theoretically. Of course, this requires a series of unfortunate events, doesn’t it?

It seems a good practice to leave the front door ajar with the key in the lock. Don’t ask me why. I have my reasons, trust me. On this particular day, the wind was just right for a cross-breeze that left the front door standing wide open, and slammed the back door shut. I’m still not clear about the locking mechanism that allowed us to exit, but that’s beside the point. I’m also mystified by the lack of egress options through the privacy fence. No gate on one side, and the gate on the other side was entrance-only. No way to leave. What’s up with these people? Why have a yard the can be easily entered, yet impossible to escape?What sort of wild animals are they luring in and trapping in their yard? Besides real estate agents, that is.

Fortunately, the potential tenants (also trapped in the back yard with me) had brought their 12 year old son, who was waiting in their car with the windows down. After much shouting, we captured his attention. He was able to walk into the house through the wide open front door and open the back door, liberating us.

Lesson #3: Potential tenants can be full of surprises.

I spent the day showing 2 families effectively the same set of houses. By the end of the weekend, both families had application forms in hand, with the “address” filled out because we’d successfully located homes with which they were delighted. I was beside myself, swimming in the glow of my new-found gift for matching homes with tenants. And yet, by the end of the week, all bets were off; no deals were at play.

Lesson #4: Ask potential tenants where they’ll be later….

At the end of the busy Saturday, one family found the perfect home, and then … returned to Louisiana. They’d neglected to give me a deposit check and had no way of transferring money to me. What were they thinking? What was I thinking? Had it occurred to me, I’d have gotten a money order from them then and there.

Lesson #5: Ask potential tenants if they have broken leases in their history.

No one in this market is willing to lease a house to anyone with bad credit, or worse, broken leases in their background. And trust me, the truth will out. I spent days (lots of calls) looking for 2nd, 3rd and 4th runner-up properties, but not a single landlord was willing to overlook that credit history. The Louisiana family grew increasing desperate (and demanding) as their options ran out.

Lesson #6: Sometimes it just doesn’t matter.

After a few days of not hearing from the other family, I sent an email, only to be told “circumstances have changed” and the potential tenant was now a single mom looking for a much smaller home, on a reduced budget.

So ended an intense, lesson-filled week. My grandchildren moved in and all of my availability for erring and applying these lessons went out the proverbial window. Maybe someday I’ll have the opportunity to try again. I’ll never forget the elation that came with the client’s declaration, “this is it!” That feeling far outweighed the horror of back doors slamming shut.

Happy hunting!


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Joy to the World!

One of the things that I love best about the internet is the community that forms between relative strangers. People whose paths I never would have crossed are friends. And some of these friends are pretty cool.

One of the best and the brightest, Neil, hosts an annual event that crosses barriers of geography, gender, age, religion, political inclination, etc. In celebration of Christmahanukwanzaakah, I shared this:

In my imagination, building up to this event, at the close of the reading I burst into song. The entire production (in my mind) was reminiscent of Cecil B. Demille. Actually, my first inspiration included a flash mob, but that was back in November. So, really, it just came down to the challenge of Fran vs. camera. It turns out the opening chords of Joy to the World were enough to daunt me. I’m proud of myself for coming up with anything, and I’ll leave it at that.

Joy to the World, and Merry Christmas!!!

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map2There are two exits from my neighborhood. At the west end, you can turn left onto a county road that intersects the main road, RR 1431, with the convenience of a traffic signal. I usually choose the direct route, taking my chances with the unprotected left turn onto the 5-lane road, using the center lane (aka “Suicide lane“) to accelerate before merging into east-bound traffic.

The other morning, as I was driving to work, I pulled out onto 1431 ahead of a large pack of cars heading east. The lead car, in the lane closest to me, sped up as he approached me, breaking free from the crowd, presumably in an attempt to maintain his lead position. Unperturbed, I fell in behind him, and crossed over into the far lane. He then slowed back down, so we were traveling side-by-side at the posted speed limit, about 65mph, with a good-sized gap to the crowd of cars behind us.

Ahead on the left, I noticed three deer walking single file, about to cross 1431. West-bound traffic was coming to a stop. I also slowed down, anticipating trouble. The car to my left sped up, then slowed, then sped up again. Two of the deer crossed safely, but the third was not so lucky. As I slowed, the third deer was struck and sailed across the road in front of me, belly facing me, legs flailing.

The driver finally came to a complete stop. As I eased forward, he turned to the right, to cross in front of me. Thankfully, he stopped again, and I continued. After I passed, he proceeded, pulling off the road onto the shoulder. In my rear view mirror, I watched the chaos as cars veered and swerved in various directions to avoid secondary collisions.

I noted the large dent in the front of the other vehicle, where the deer undoubtedly experienced mortal injury. I’m grateful there wasn’t more damage, on my car or any of the other vehicles. I’m sorry for the driver who thought this was a race. I suspect he applied the same mentality to the deer as for me, “You’re not getting out ahead of me!”

So, he wins.

His hurry was wasted. His aggression was useless. He paid a price, and so did the deer. Perhaps, in the end, this will serve as an invaluable lesson. It did for me.

*NOTE: I do not know if the driver of the other vehicle was  a man or woman. The use of the pronoun “he” is not intended to signify gender. 

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It’s all happening in the ‘hood

I went for a walk. Nothing too remarkable about that, but as I cruised my neighborhood, I passed a teen-aged girl talking on her phone. Her side of the conversation went like this,

“…it was covered with Sharpie. They told me to clean it, so I covered it with band-aids.”

For the next block or so, I wondered about the other side of the conversation. I wondered what was covered with Sharpie, that could so easily be “cleaned” by a smattering of band-aids. How did her friend respond? I was the sort of girl who found interesting ways to respond to authority, so I regretted that I couldn’t hang out long enough to determine if she was truly a kindred spirit. Sadly, society doesn’t much condone middle-aged women hanging out in front of houses to eavesdrop on teen-aged girls.

Rambling along, I appreciated that diversion as much as I appreciated the great big sparkly pick-up truck that completed a remarkable 3-point turn in the middle of the road in order to back into a driveway, with “Great Balls of Fire” playing so loudly that I could sing along, despite the truck’s closed windows.

Before the last chord of the last refrain finished echoing through my mind, I passed the house where the teen-aged boy was arrested. That was a few months ago, but I happened to walk by just as he was escorted to the police car, hands cuffed behind his back, parents shell-shocked on the porch. I’ll forever think of it as “the house where that boy was arrested.”

Turning the corner, heading for home, passing a neighbor who’s almost always out puttering in his yard or working on his boat (this time on the boat), overhearing his exchange with another neighbor’s teen son,

“Now, why would I kill a squirrel? It’s not like you’d eat him.”

“Oh, yes I would!”

And so goes a walk through my neighborhood. It’s a wonder I don’t walk more often!

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