A Pleasant Surprise; and, Stuff and Nonsense

Two topics today. First…

A Pleasant Surprise:
As you may recall, I somehow managed to break my laptop screen on the way home from Iowa earlier this month. This did not please me. The fact that it’s a Mac complicated things, as there’s no place nearby that repairs them.

Without boring you with a recital of the various frustrations and delays, I’ll cut to the chase and tell you that I received my computer back today at last. Not only does it have a

This doesn't show how nice and new it looks, but trust me; it's like new. (That dark area in the foreground is my shadow, not dirt.)

new screen, but also a new keyboard and the whole… I don’t know what you call it, but everything you see when you open it (screen, keyboard, touch pad, etc.).

And it all needed replacing! I’d worn the letters off several of my keys, and the whole thing was rubbed smooth from use. Also, there was a little sliver of plastic peeling up on one edge that I’d held down with scotch tape. Now, between the facelift and the hard drive I replaced less than a year ago, I have what amounts to a new computer.

And the best part? They did all this for less than the price they quoted! It’s a rare thing indeed to truly get more for less.

Where can you find such amazing service? The Connecting Point, 8312 Cleveland Avenue NW,  North Canton, OH. I’m one satisfied customer!

Second…

Stuff and Nonsense
One morning this week, I cleaned the curio cabinet on the landing.

Who has a curio cabinet on the landing, you may ask? Someone whose landing has an exposed heating duct.

Ten years ago or so, hubby and I shopped around for a piece of furniture to hide the duct and eventually found a curio cabinet with the exact dimensions we needed to fill. Then I took my mom’s old salt and pepper shaker collection out of its attic storage and, along with a few cream pitchers, plates, and other odds and ends of Mom’s, filled the cabinet. (That old photo at the top? That’s Mom herself, presiding over all.)

About once a year or so, I take everything out of the cabinet, carry it all down to the kitchen and wash it, then clean every surface on the cabinet, and finally, put it all back in, trying to remember how I’d arranged things. I’m always amazed how dusty and dirty everything gets, even inside the cabinet.

I’m also amazed at the uselessness of it all.

When we first bought the cabinet and I got out Mom’s old collection, I thought it might be fun to add to it. So for the next couple of years, I acquired a few new sets of salt and pepper shakers. But soon I began to wonder what I was doing it for. Some of the sets, the old ones as well as the new, are cute; some are pretty. But all they do is sit there and wait to be cleaned once a year. They have no purpose nor, as far as I’m concerned, value. If someone offered me a fair price for the whole collection (though I have no idea what a fair price might be), I’d happily sell it.

A lot of people like to collect things, but I’ve never understood it. We all need stuff: furniture to sit on, sheets for the beds and towels for the bathroom, art to adorn bare walls, pots and pans and kitchen tools to prepare meals, and so on. These days, most of us even need a computer. These things have a purpose.

But why do we need useless stuff? Things that clutter the house, collect dust, require us to add extra rooms, rent storage lockers, buy insurance riders and burglar alarms, and in other ways stress over?

All too often we fill our houses and our lives with stuff, but the effort leaves us empty. Seems to me, too much stuff is nonsense.

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Update: Words in the Wind Drift Nearer

Here’s the latest on what I’ve been up to:

1) I haven’t been blogging. But you’ve already figured that out.

2) MacBook issues. The broken screen is still not fixed; I’ll spare you the details. However, it’s in the shop awaiting parts. I expect it back home in a week or so, with my bank account some $300 poorer.

I’d considered replacing it altogether instead of fixing it; they sell some inexpensive PCs these days, after all. But I put a new hard drive in it less than a year ago, so I’d like to get a little more life out of it. Besides which, I like my Mac and am not ready to give it up; and there are no inexpensive new Macs available.

Meanwhile, I’m using an HP (my “spare” computer, which my hubby usually uses). I don’t like using it, nor do I like having to share! I miss my Mac. Thinking of throwing it a party when it comes home from the hospital.

3) Had a nice visit with daughter Emily this past Saturday when we were in Columbus. Also visited with friends Chuck and Joy Holt. Hadn’t seen them for ages, then see them twice in two weeks. Beautiful day, good time. Worth the drive.

4a) The biggest news comes in two parts: I’m going over the proofs for Book #2 in the Gateway to Gannah series. (Woo hoo!) Don’t have a release date yet, but Words in the Wind should be coming out this summer.

4b) I’ve also looked over proposed cover art. I like the preliminary sketch. Made a couple of suggestions and am looking forward to seeing the new version. Especially looking forward to seeing the image in color. It’s no secret that I’ve never been thrilled with the cover for The Story in the Stars, and I’m happy that this looks promising.

5) I don’t like rabbits. They eat my garden.

Also, despite our taking care to watch the weather forecast, the first morning after we put out our pepper, tomato, and eggplant plants, we had a frost. Hubby went out and watered them before the sun came up. (If you melt the frost with a spray of water before the sun hits it, it helps avoid frost burn.) However, the poor things were badly distressed nevertheless. All the eggplants died, about half the peppers, and a few of the tomatoes.

A couple months ago, I started a series of posts about gardening. I did Part I on March  11 but haven’t followed up with any additional posts. The plan is to do Part II in the next few days.

And now, back to the proofs for Words in the Wind. I’m nearly finished going over them. Next time I mention the book, I hope to be able to use the final cover instead of this shot of the Grand Canyon.

If you’re curious why the Grand Canyon, you’ll have to read the book to see, once it comes out. Stay tuned!

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Settle Down!

After a binge of running around, I’m finally settling down.

Less than a week after returning home after cavorting through Iowa (as related in my previous two posts), I embarked on another adventure. This one, closer to home: The Ohioana Book Festival.

I first heard about this event from my sister, Holly, who recently retired from thirty years with the the Cleveland Health Sciences Library.  But I guess she became familiar with Ohioana when she was a member of the Church and Synagogue Library Association rather than through the Health Sciences Library. (Is that right, Holly?) At any rate, she told me about the book festival, I applied, and was invited to attend as an author this year. I asked her if she’d like to go along to keep me company, and she agreed.

It was fun. Since she lives about an hour and a half away, she drove to our house on Friday evening so we’d be ready to leave bright and early the next morning. The directions I had said it would take two hours to get there, so we left at 7:15 am, hoping to arrive in plenty of time for the opening at 9:45, even allowing for delays.

Ha! I should have gotten directions from the event website rather than Mapquest. The directions I had would probably have been accurate under ordinary circumstances, but they didn’t take into account the massive road work. I was supposed to take I-70 W to I-71 N, then get off on I-670; but that exit ramp was closed. I went back to I-70 to see if I could find an alternate route, but no luck.

We stopped twice for directions and bought a Columbus map. Using a combination of these resources, we finally arrived at our destination at 10:20. I don’t think I missed anything important, and despite the rocky start, it turned out to be a good day.

After the book fair ended, we went to a reception at the Governor’s Residence gardens. Despite the name “residence,” no one actually lives there. But it’s a nice place to visit. Got to meet some more of the other authors and in some cases their spouses, and also toured the house and gardens. Then we headed home and arrived in good time with no incidents, tired but satisfied.

Holly & me at the Governor's Residence

The next morning Holly visited my church with me, went to lunch with the family, and then headed for home. It was a very enjoyable weekend (for me, at least — I think she had a good time as well). I think that’s the only time we’ve ever spent a weekend together like that. Maybe we can do it again sometime!

Before I go, I’d like to share a few things from the Book Festival. Besides meeting some interesting authors and others, I got to visit with my oldest daughter, Emily, who lives in Columbus. Also, friends Chuck & Joy Holt.

Joy had purchased The Story in the Stars online from Amazon and brought her copy with her for me to sign. But when I opened it to the title page, I was surprised to find my signature, along with the words (in my handwriting), “Praying for you, dear reader.”

Huh? It took me a few moments to figure it out, but here’s what seems to have happened: A few months ago I saw a request (passed along by someone in a Yahoo group I’m in) for donations of books. A woman was collecting books in order to start a library at a woman’s shelter in her town. I donated two copies, and that “Praying for you” inscription was what I’d written in each one.

It’s possible that one of the ladies in the women’s shelter stole the book and sold it on Amazon. But it’s also likely that the whole request-for-donations thing was a scam to begin with. I’ll probably never know for sure.

Another point of interest: one of the other authors at the festival was Mike Olszewski, an old friend of my brother’s from Bedford High School.

Third: The festival was well attended. One of the browsers I saw wandering around was a young guy in a green T-shirt sporting the words “Honk If You Love Jesus.” When he passed by, I said, “Based on what your T-shirt says, you might like my book.” He looked at it and said, “I might…”

I asked. “Do you like sci-fi?” He shrugged. “Yeah… I do…” So I explained that it’s a sci-fi story from a Christian point of view.

His face took on an odd expression. “Well, I wouldn’t say I’m a Christian.”

At that point, my expression was probably a little odd too. I said, “Really? Because your shirt seems to suggest that you are.” His reply: “Well, I love Jesus, but that doesn’t mean I’m a Christian.”

I tried to follow that logic. “That’s a bit of a mind-bender for me,” I started to say, but he abruptly turned and walked away.

Well. Okay. That was interesting.

Sunday afternoon, I finished with the last round of edits on Words in the Wind, Book #2 in my Gateway to Gannah series. Haven’t seen any cover art yet nor heard a release date, but stay tuned. I expect the book will be out this summer, and then you’ll wish I’d stop talking about it. Personally, I like the 2nd book better than the first. I hope you’ll let me know your opinions once you  have the opportunity to read it.

 

 

 

 

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Honey, I’m Home!

Due to severe storms in Chicago late Sunday, all flights in and out of that city were either canceled or delayed. I was scheduled to fly from Des Moines to Akron via Chicago – but the first leg was canceled.

Because so many others were similarly inconvenienced – and because the airlines have been cutting down on the number of flights to avoid the waste of planes flying half empty – they had difficulty finding seats for all the passengers. They wanted me to wait until Tuesday evening.

Tuesday?! That’s two extra days! I’d already imposed upon my friends’ hospitality for too long; I didn’t want to prolong it any further. So I booked a flight leaving early Monday morning for Pittsburgh instead of Akron, rightly assuming that hubby would rather drive the extra distance to pick me up than wait another day and a half.

For some reason this flight went via Newark, where I picked up another for my final destination. Yes, I had to backtrack, but that’s the way they do things sometimes. The second flight was delayed about 45 minutes, but no worries; I landed in Pittsburgh about 3:30 pm and soon found hubby’s smiling face at the baggage area (along with the rest of him). Woo hoo!

What I did not find at the baggage area was my baggage. Turns out it opted for an extended stay in Newark. (Only a suitcase could understand why that’s a place to be desired!) I was finally reunited with it this morning (Wednesday), and now all’s well in the world.

Well, not really. But I’m feeling a bit more settled now.

ARGH!

Unfortunately, things still aren’t quite back to normal, and won’t be until I get to an Apple Store. On Tuesday morning, when I turned on my computer the first time after arriving home, I discovered I’d somehow managed to break my laptop screen. The computer was in my possession the whole trip, so I can’t blame the airline for that one.

And speaking of blaming the airline: I do wish people would be more considerate of the unfortunate souls who have to deal with complaints. While I was there, another woman whose luggage was lost (from a different flight) made quite a scene.

I fully understand her frustration, but there’s no need to take it out on the person behind the desk, who was doing her best to help her. But when the employee’s answer wasn’t what the customer wanted to hear, the woman yelled, “Don’t you tell me no!” and, stabbing the air with her finger, added, “And don’t shake that finger at me!” when the employee made an unconscious, non-threatening gesture. The controversy went on for quite some time, involving the manager, and unsettling the rest of us who were unwilling spectators. The only one raising her voice or being rude was the angry customer.

She and I left the baggage claim area at the same time. She growled about how she was going to make a report about that woman’s (and “woman” isn’t the word she used) extreme rudeness and how she was going to make life miserable for her. I’m not usually one to butt in, but I’d heard about all I could without commenting. I said, “I thought she was very pleasant and polite, under the circumstances.” Then heard myself adding, “Which is more than I can say for you.”

Well, of course she took exception to that, but at least she continued on her way instead of pausing to physically assault me. She just said, “Don’t pass judgment on me, lady. You haven’t had the last 24 hours that I have.”

True, I hadn’t had the last 24 hours that she had; from what I heard as she vocalized her complaints, her whole experience was far worse than mine. But I’d just been making a claim for lost baggage, so she should have known everything hadn’t been going smoothly for me. How did she know I hadn’t had a worse 24 hours than she’d just had? Because I wasn’t ranting, like she was? As to her objection to my passing judgment, well… I won’t comment on that.

Before my book signing in Pella, Iowa

Despite the bump in the road at the end, though, I had a wonderful time in Iowa. Friends Susan and Glenda and their dear husbands extended their warm hospitality and made me feel very welcome. Susan and her hubby even acted as if they didn’t mind when I interrupted their plans with additional runs to the airport, one of which was at 5:30 am. I sold (or used as promotional give-aways) every book I brought with me. The writer’s retreat was as delightful as last year’s; and I have many happy memories from the trip.

But I’m glad to be home! Next stop: The Ohioana Book Festival in Columbus this Saturday (May 12). If you’re in the area, stop by and see me!

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Blogging on Vacation

Not doing very well at this, am I?

Even though I haven’t been writing about it, I’m having a wonderful time with wonderful friends. I took some photos in lovely Pella, Iowa yesterday afternoon but neglected to download them to my computer OR to bring the camera with me today, where I’m working in a coffee shop (as my current host has no wireless internet for me to use). So I’ve stolen some shots from the Tulip Time website to brighten your day.

This year, some cheerful residents are referring to this year’s event as the Stem Fest. Thanks to an unusually warm spring, the tulips bloomed early and so are past their prime. It’s unfortunate, but the show will go on as scheduled, with tulips or without.

My dear friend Glenda (who’s growing dearer by the moment!) arranged for a radio interview this morning on the local Christian station, KCWN, to talk about The Story in the Stars.

Not sure why, but I wasn’t particularly nervous about it, going into it. And any little twinges I may have been suppressing were completely gone when she prayed with us (Glenda and me) before going on the air! Didn’t expect that, but it was a perfect way to put the whole thing in proper perspective.

After that, the interview was absolutely painless – especially considering the radio announcer did all the talking. She’d just read the book last night and was bubbling over with excitement about it. I did manage to get an occasional word in every now and then, but for the most part, she provided, free of charge, the best advertising money could buy: enthusiastic reader testimonial.

Glenda also arranged a book signing for me at Branches, a bookstore here in Pella, perfectly timed to commence at the conclusion of the afternoon Tulip Days Parade. The bookstore is located behind the parade grandstand, right in the thick of things. Add the timing and proximity to the publicity from this morning’s radio program (not to mention some advertising Glenda submitted to the local papers), and I’m seriously concerned about running out of books to sell tomorrow.

However, the store has agreed to order more for their customers if I sell out.  The customers will have to wait for them to come in, then come back to the store to get them. But since store owners generally like return visits by customers, they might be glad if I have more demand for my books than my supply can handle.

Don’t want to shortchange my other dear friend who’s hosted me, Susan Lawrence. She and her husband Gary picked me up on their way home from vacation and tolerated my presence at their home for a few enjoyable days before Glenda took me off their hands. The Lawrence and Mathes families are fabulous ambassadors for Iowa. Based on my recent experiences, I have to agree with the Kevin Costner character in the movie “Field of Dreams.” It’s not quite heaven here, but close.

Lots more I could babble about, but I’ll spare you for now. Just one more thing: if you like pastries with a wonderful almond flavor, you must come to Iowa to try a Dutch letter!

 

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