Anatomy of Love


I’ve always said that love is the most important ingredient in life, especially when bringing up your children. I’m a firm believer in a) letting your children know you love them, and b) knowing and feeling that love will keep them on the straight and narrow and help them lead meaningful adult lives.

But love is much more than that, does much more than that. It can be shown/demonstrated in so many different ways. And it can be infused, appreciated, embraced in so many different ways.

In our very recent life, we’ve been inundated with completely emotionally and physically draining informational overload. Bad informational overload. Actually, the information isn’t bad, the problem it’s dealing with is bad. Seriously bad. So, our emotional stamina is at a record low. Or, at least it was until we were also inundated with love—which has been very sustaining, empowering, strengthening.

See, love is when an old friend calls you out of the blue to reaffirm the friendship and offer her own trials and a listening ear for ours.
Love is when a granddaughter, graduating soon as a Therapy Masseuse, comes to give you a fantastic massage. And a grandson surprises us with a visit immediately after his plane lands from Oregon.

Love is when another granddaughter and grandson just come over to have lunch with us, clean the kitchen, bring in my groceries and put them away, bring up my clean laundry and help me make my bed, put the second load of wash into the drier, move a little furniture and put away blankets and pillows–remnants from our rearranging for new furniture (a recliner chair).

Love is when my sister calls me, as she travels with her husband to family for Thanksgiving, just to check on how we are, how things are, and to part with encouraging words.

Love is when the assistant manager at the store where we bought the recliner chair (so Paul can sleep comfortably) sends us a card wishing us love for the holidays, thanking us for “making her day” when we were there, and letting us know that she had personally taken care of the delivery fee.

Love is when yet another grandson rushes over to set up our computers, making them functional and compatible, and proudly shows us the home he hopes to buy soon.

The love within and between us has grown immeasurably and nourishes us as we accept and relish that of our friends and relatives. It is the very essence of who we are, of what we are meant to be, and the most important ingredient of the common, strengthening link in our circle of life.

Healthcare Cyberattack


Oboy! I am really pissed. (I hate that word and never use it, but right now, it describes my emotions/attitude/condition perfectly.)

In the mail today, I received real, live letters. But before you get excited for me, let me explain. One letter, addressed to my mother, was from Excellus Blue Cross/Shield, and explained how their files had been cyberattacked and her information may have been “accessed” by the attackers.

My mother died at age 97 in 2002. And they still have her information in active files? (Joe said they could archive her records now—more than ten years. See below.) When I called the number “where you can get more information and/or ask any questions you might have,” the woman stated that there was no way anyone could use my mother’s information if she was “gone.”

Excuse me! How many times have we read/heard in the news that identity thieves check obituaries all the time so they can use the Social Security numbers of the deceased to get credit cards, passports, and Lord knows what other nasties they come up with.

So, Customer Service gave me absolutely no help with that question.

On to my next letter. This one, from Lifetime Healthcare Companies, was addressed to me and both letters were signed by Christopher Booth, President and CEO. I read through the letter, discovering that, not only were they cyberattacked on August 5, 2015, but the initial attack was on December 23, 2013. I can only imagine all the fun those criminal geeks were able to generate since 2013—and nary a soul in the Healthcare Companies figured out what was going on.

Back to this letter from Christopher Booth (does anyone have one of those lists of CEOs and their annual salaries?—just curious.) Each paragraph had a bold-face type header. What happened? What are we doing to protect you?… Where can you get more information?

Bottom line is Lifetime Healthcare Companies is tightening their cyber security. (Better late than never, I suppose.) Period!! Beyond that, we (the victims) can call several different places for “more information,” none of which is Lifetime Healthcare Companies. Their gratuitous solution for us is to enroll in Kroll’s identity theft protection services for two years—free.

So, I went to the given website and began to sign up for this service. At the end of—yes—giving my information out again, I read the “Agreement” before securing the service. Good thing! Turns out that they will alert you if they find this or that, but they are not responsible for anything bad that does happen. Also, they automatically renew the service without any notification to you and you have no recourse for a refund should you forget to notice the end date of your service. (Read on…)

It is obvious to me that Kroll provides no real service that we can’t do for ourselves: check our bank statements, our credit reports, our credit card statements, etc. etc. These things, Kroll advises us to do anyway.

The thing that really, really, gets me is that over a week ago, I needed a new prescription filled for my blood pressure. We (doctor and I) had tried several drugs to keep it under control, and found this one to be successful. My doctor had been giving me samples from her office, but the samples are no longer forthcoming. Hence, the prescription.

BUT, Excellus told Wegmans that it cannot fill the script until forms are filled out and sent in to it explaining why I needed that drug, if we’d tried others, etc etc.. After two weeks, we still do not have approval and, if/when we do get it, I’m willing to bet the co-pay will be close to or maybe more than $100. (My doctor was able to get samples of part of the drug—I have to cut it in half—and a script for the other part.)

So, what are we to do? I refuse to be duped, especially after being victimized. I called the number given in the letters for answers to our questions, which was useless. The woman didn’t know the possibilities out there regarding misuse of my mother’s information and tried to assure me that nothing would happen. And she had no capability of letting the CEO or other officers about the objections callers might have.

Not to be deterred, I got the telephone book out. (Remember what that is? The website for Lifetime Healthcare did not have a phone number for it listed.) Lifetime Healthcare Companies’ corporate office is located on 165 Court Street, Rochester 14647. The phone number is (585) 454-1700. Press 0 to speak to a person. (I asked for Christopher Booth, CEO, but of course, he “wasn’t in his office.”) But I was persistent and did get to speak with an Alisa. She said I’d hear from someone who could help me within five days. (Surprise. They’re inundated with phone calls.)

Very shortly thereafter, I received a call from “Joe.” (By this time, I’m on my fourth glass of Diet Pepsi, which I haven’t succumbed to in years!) And I have to say, Joe saved the day. He said Kroll will indeed notify us immediately of infiltrators and will not automatically renew the service without letting us know. And then, we actually get four years of the service for free. (I know that’s what he said, but I don’t know if that’s just for me, because I’m such a b—-, or all of us.) He is also getting me some help on the blood pressure medicine, whose co-pay is indeed $95.

I gave him the rest of the day off.

I’m switching to water now.

The Road of Life


Life often has been bumpy—sometimes those bumps closer to mountains—for me, but lately it has been really good. I’ve been almost euphoric because of the good things that have been happening. Some serious synchronicity!

But I wasn’t watching the road. Bumps are one thing; pot holes quite another. So, when I was enjoying this season’s premier of NCIS, I was completely unprepared for the little segment in which Gibbs flat-lined in the operating room. During the few seconds when the drama escalated in the operating room procedures to save his life, Gibbs, in his new consciousness, spent the better part of a day with his little girl, who had died, with his first wife, in an auto accident many years ago.

Mark Harmon doesn’t get to really act in NCIS very often, so his look of tenderness and love and longing as he discovered his daughter was actually there for him again was emotionally overwhelming for me. My immediate reaction was, oh, it would be so worth flat-lining if I could just spend some time again with Mary Kay, my own daughter.

I can’t tell you much about what happened through the rest of that show. I was either crying, wiping my eyes and nose, or trying to pull myself together. Bedtime wasn’t much better, but I did finally get to sleep. Only to awake about 3:00 a.m. with absolute sobs. I’d alternate between visions of Jethro Gibbs smiling at his daughter and my daughter smiling at me. (I know—this is really feeling sorry for myself, but that’s what transpired.) Actually, the images I had of Mary Kay were of times we laughed hysterically together at pretty much nothing in particular. We were always in a public place where hysteria was inappropriate, which, of course, struck us funnier yet. So, the moments I shared with her in my reverie were, at least, fun moments.

When I finally was exhausted enough to fall back to sleep, it was about 6:00 a.m. I awoke about 8:00 with a huge sense of longing. The tears were gone, but the longing for her was humongous. I thought, frustratingly, about how I’m convinced our minds have the capability of reaching another state of consciousness whereby we could communicate with our loved ones who have passed. After all, they communicate with us, in very basic ways, I agree, but they do communicate. I won’t get into all the times/ways I’ve heard from my departed loved ones; maybe another blog someday. But I’m sure many or most of you have been with a terminal relative who suddenly will smile, looking somewhat upward, and greet a long since gone relative. My mother, at age 97, saw her mother, who had been gone well over 60 years. Even in her dying (and comatose) state, my mother’s eyes lit up, she smiled and said, “Mama! Oh, Mama…” A few days later, she saw her brother-in-law with the same warm welcome.

My point being: why can’t we figure out a way to achieve that level of consciousness in which we can reach and visit our departed loved ones? Not to bug them constantly, but when the missing them gets so raw, you’re practically dysfunctional, a brief visit would be so therapeutic.

Anyway, I moved along in my day, determined to persevere. I had a pre-arranged Reiki exchange with my Reiki Master at 10:00, so I went to that. By this time, I was in control, steady. But when Bette Laders gave me Reiki, I came away re-balanced, energized, and completely at peace.

The rest of the day went smoothly, although somewhat rushed. But I got done what I had to and was able to go to my granddaughter’s (Mary Kay’s daughter) presentation at the MuCCC as part of the Fringe Festival.

1902043_10151870045241765_1759523776_n_002mary kay moms 80thFirst of all, when Brittany came out through the doorway onto the stage, my mouth fell open, all the air left my lungs, and I’m sure my heart skipped a beat. It was Mary Kay! She walked across the stage to the lectern, smiling, and greeted us in the audience with confidence. She spoke of what it’s like for a young artist to try to “make it” in today’s society, breaking down the requirements to three basic points. She had interviewed other young artists, a band leader and a ballet school director, to offer their perspectives. It was a very informative, well documented, and instructive talk.

But, for me, she spoke like her mother, ending many of her sentences with that down-toned voice, the finality of the aural period. And, like her mother (and me, as a matter of fact), she switched ever so slightly from one foot to the other. She’s beautiful, her long brown hair hanging in soft waves to just below her shoulders—just as Mary Kay used to wear hers when she was younger. Brittany is a petite five feet, like her mother.

The upside of the evening—aside from the fact that the show and book signing were successful—was that I had a half hour to spend with, listen to, and look at Mary Kay. In addition, we had a little celebration at a local pub (the Tap Mallet?) afterward so that we could all celebrate Brittany, which I was delighted to be a part of. (Never mind I kept calling her Mary Kay, not even realizing it until someone mentioned it.)

So my road is smooth again. For now. I’m ever watchful for the bumps, but it’s those pot holes that can do you in. You have to be careful—some of them can develop into sinkholes.

Interview with Author Brittany Touris


Allow me to introduce Brittany Touris, author of the debut novel, “Stars Melt to Milk,” available in hard copy and electronic at http://www.amazon.com, http://www.barnesandnoble.com and the Kindle version at IBookstore.

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Brittany with nephew, Miles

stars melt to milk

 

JB: Good Morning, Brittany. Another busy day scheduled today?

BT: Of course. I worked my part time job this morning and am taking care of some other work right now. There’s always more to do!

JB: I’ve read some really great reviews of your book on Amazon. How do they make you feel?

BT: It’s always great to get good reviews. I especially appreciate honest reviews. Ones that can point out the books strengths and weaknesses. Getting feedback is the best way to improve and reach my readers. But of course seeing that people enjoyed the book is always nice.

JB: How has this book changed your life? Or has it not changed it at all?

BT: In a practical way, not much has changed. I still have a lot of work to do before I see my writing changing my life in concrete ways. But I have felt a shift in my mindset. Now that I have a novel published, I’ve felt more of a pull towards being a fiction writer. Before I was mostly known as a “social justice blogger” to people—it’s how I thought of myself too! Now I feel more like a novelist who also blogs about social justice issues.

JB: I really admire how you dedicate your full day, every day, to your writing. Almost every writer I know has a problem with setting aside time just for writing. How do you manage that and still maintain creativity?

BT: A lot of writers set a certain word count goal for the day, others get on a routine schedule, others set a certain amount of time. They’re strict with themselves. I don’t do any of that—although I’ve tried all of it. I write when I’m inspired and give myself general tasks to complete. There really aren’t any tricks to dedicating yourself to something, you just have to tell yourself to do it.

JB: You’re scheduled to present at Rochester’s Fringe Festival later this month. Tell us about that.

BT: I’m going to be giving a talk at the Rochester Fringe Festival on September 23rd at 7pm at MuCCC.  (Multi-use Community Cultural Center, 142 Atlantic Ave., Rochester, 14607) It’s free and will last about a half hour. I’ll also be selling and signing my book. Here’s a brief description of the program:

Young Rochester-born author Brittany Touris chronicles the struggle and allure of being a local artist. Through her own tales, as well as those of other artists in the community, she shares some insights and oddities about “making it” with an unconventional career in this city.

JB:       What is the Fringe Festival, anyway?

BT:      The First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival is one of the many Fringe Festivals worldwide. Since its start in 2012, it’s attracted more than 30,000 attendees. Its focus is on the arts—all kinds of arts. You’ll see a lot of eccentric and creative pieces. It’s truly inspiring and I’m incredibly excited to have a part in it this year.

JB:      In your novel, Stars Melt to Milk, you have two, three really, characters who are struggling with the reality of Life and all its demands, rewards and punishments, the third character in a peripheral sense. Do you have a favorite among them? If so, why?

BT:      It depends on what you mean by favorite. Janis is definitely the character to admire. She’s strong and passionate and never gives up. I relate to her artistic inclinations and the way she views life. So I definitely love Janis.

Ray was always a really interesting character to me. He was the one man in the book who was as kind-hearted and passionate as Janis, but he was just a kid. I like to think sometimes about what he’d be like in five or ten years. Maybe we’ll see him in a possible sequel? I just feel like there’s so much to explore with his character that I haven’t yet.

Charlie, however, was my favorite to write. Despite most people liking Janis better, I genuinely think I did a better job writing Charlie. He stirs more of an emotional response in readers from what I’ve noticed—even if it is negative. A lot of times while writing I found myself bursting out in laughter at something Charlie did or said. It’s all just so … Charlie. I think I’ll look back in years to come and really appreciate what I did with Charlie’s character.

JB:       I’ve heard you say that you’re beginning to work on another novel. Is it a sequel to Stars Melt to Milk? Or…?

BT:      I haven’t started work on a sequel for Stars Melt to Milk, although I’d love to some day.

I’ve actually begun work on a series, titled The Gold Dust Odyssey. I suppose I’d have to place it in the adventure category, but that’s debatable. It’s about a young woman, exploring a series of fictional realms, taking a philosophical lesson from each place.

JB:       There’s no doubt in my mind that the writing/reading world will hear more about Brittany Touris. How and where can we keep in touch with you and your progress?

BT:      You can get updates via email by subscribing to my blog on oshitbritt.com. Also like me on Facebook (Brittany Touris), follow me on Twitter (@oshitbritt), and follow me on Tumblr (oshitbritt.tumblr.com). Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel too! I’m trying to hit that 1,000 subscriber mark by the end of the year.

JB:       Thanks so much, Brittany, for your thoughts on the creative process that so many of us call writing and for letting us peek into your writing persona.

BT:      It was my pleasure!

Printing Postures


Looking back, I realize that for more than a year I have had one problem after another with printers, with my printers. That’s no small thing for a writer. It isn’t necessary these days to send printed manuscripts to editors and/or publishers—most of them prefer electronic submissions. But writers do need to print out sections of their own or of others’ manuscripts for critiquing purposes. And sometimes, I really want to see a story I’m working on in black and white for myself, to really take it apart, realign scenes and/or paragraphs, see the way the words appear on the page, whatever. Also, I create all of my greeting cards on my computer and print them out. By “all” my cards, I mean hundreds. I have a large family, which keeps growing, and many friends and acquaintances, all of whom have many occasions for celebrations, acknowledgements, or regrets.

All of this by way of saying, I need a working printer.

I’d had a Hewlett Packard printer for many years and loved it. It had served me very well over the years, but the feeder rollers—or something to do with the paper feed—started giving me grief. I was low on money, not unusual for me, so purchased an inexpensive Epson XP310. I soon discovered that those little ink cartridges run low pretty quickly. And, even though the ink is low, not empty, the printer will not print. An error message appears on the mini screen, stating “Yellow (or some color) ink cartridge low.”

My HP printer would always continue to operate, even if one or more ink cartridges were low. The lower the ink color level was, the less of that color appeared in the printouts. I was fine with that, unless I was making a greeting card or some important document.

So, when the Epson XP310 refused to print the first time, I begrudgingly inserted a new cartridge. All too soon, I had the same problem and again, put in another new cartridge. It didn’t take me long to figure out that this was a black hole (or red, yellow, or blue holes) for my money.

I tried to get tech support to get the printer to keep printing even if one of the ink colors was low. Nobody could help me. So, I checked on line until I learned the name and address of the CEO of Epson and wrote him of my dilemma, explaining that I’m a senior citizen on a fixed income and this situation was not financially acceptable, nor was it productive. After a few weeks, I received a phone call one evening from a woman (can’t remember her name or title) who tried to appease me, but offered no replacement or return. A couple weeks after that, I did receive a package of Epson ink cartridges in the mail.

Recently, I contacted the CEO again, asking if I could return this printer to them. Received another phone call from a different woman who said they’d sent me cartridges and could do no more. She added that, since I’d purchased the printer more than a year ago (True. I just couldn’t deal with that on top of my more recent printer problems.), it had outlived my year’s warranty and there was nothing more they could do.

Meanwhile, in complete frustration, I bought a Hewlett Packard color laser jet printer and loved it. A huge thing, it plunked out all my printing jobs beautifully. Until a few weeks ago. There was a paper jam in the output tray that could not possibly be reached to pull out and there was no way to take any covers off to expose the problem and undo the jam. I couldn’t get Support to help me because it was obviously a technical issue that needed a printer mechanic to fix.

I wrote the Corporate Office of HP and immediately was turned over to a Case Manager. He sent me a refurbished same model printer and a packaging label for me to send my printer back to them. Turns out THAT printer too soon developed a 50.7 Fuser Error and would not print. At this point, I was horribly frustrated and really angry. I couldn’t find the Case Manager’s number, so called the Corporate Office again. She called back and said my Case Manager would be in touch soon.

And he was. He sent me a brand new, upgraded HP color laser jet printer that is to die for. State of the art, it’s beautiful to look at, but more important, it prints beautifully. I have the fax connected and set up (haven’t used it yet) and I am happy.

And I plan to live happily ever after.

A Preposition For You


No, that’s not a typo. Here’s a preposition for you. In fact, here are several. These are the smallest of words in our language, yet they impact us—or rather, our words—with a real force. I’m not going to get into all the prepositions in our usage; the New York Writers Guide to Style and Usage has pages and chapters devoted to prepositions and their correct, as well as incorrect, uses.

I am, however, going to address the most-used in everyday conversation prepositions and how they affect the words following them, particularly the personal pronouns. I don’t object to how people, especially our younger counterparts, use the prepositions so much, but oh boy! do I object to how they misuse and abuse the personal pronouns that follow. I believe that if they learn the correct way to express a prepositional phrase, then they won’t misuse the personal pronouns. The one that really twists my knickers (and I don’t even wear them!) is the objective case of the pronoun *I*, that is, *me*. Ex.: Me and my buddies are going to the movies. OMG!

So let’s begin with our personal pronouns: singular subjective: I, you, he/she/it. Plural subjective: we, you, they. Now, let’s go to the objective case of those. Me, you, him/her/it. Plurals are us, you, them. For some reason, the more youthful among us have decided to use “me” as the subject in any and every instance. I’ve even heard brilliant contestants on Jeopardy declare, “Me and my buddies were in France… or wherever…” Alex Trebek joined me in turning various shades of red, purple, green and yellow as our tongues bled dry. First of all, it’s very rude to put yourself first. Not only should you use “I” as the subject, but you should put the other people before you in the sentence. Eg.: My buddies and I were in France….

If you say, give the pencil to me, that’s the correct usage of the personal pronoun, I, in its objective case—object of the preposition to. You don’t say, give the pencil to I. That shouldn’t even sound correct to you. By the same token, you would correctly say, this is between you and me. Both you and me are the objective cases of you and I, object of the preposition between. (Note, the Establishment chose to keep the pronoun “you” the same for subjective and objective cases, as well as singular and plural. Easy, peasy.)

Let’s try to simplify all this.

Personal Pronoun/Subject (Insert/Assume Verb) then a Preposition Personal Pronoun/Object
I/We Of, for, to, by, with, between, in, on, from, over, upon, etc Me, us
You/You Same as above You/You
He/she/it…they Same as above Him/her/it…them

If the subject of a sentence (the person or thing who is performing the action/verb) performs that action, the results—or object—of that action has to be in the objective case. Most words don’t change at all between the subject and the object, except for their placement on the diagram should you revert to those horrible punishments. (I love English and grammar, but I still hate diagramming.) BUT, the personal pronouns do change. And they change exactly as they’re outlined in the table above.

So, if you walk away from this blog with nothing else, please leave with the determination that you will never, ever use the objective case (me) of the personal pronoun (I) as a subject. Repeat after me: I will do this; I will go there; I never use “me” as a subject. I do everything. I am only me when I receive.

Whew! I feel so much better.

Generations


There are generations in more things than families. I’ve known this, of course, but the realization recently hit home in a new way. We have generations in appliances, computers, technology, cars—just about everything that *is*.

My granddaughter, Jamie (3rd generation Foley/Baier), her husband, Mike, and their two boys (4th generation) visited me recently. Beyond my recognizing how the human designer was very wise in assigning the child-bearing potential to the younger generation, I was thrilled to enjoy the loving and trusting behaviors of the little ones. Austin, 3, crawled into my bed at 7:00 a.m. the first morning. He snuggled next to me and settled his head on the pillow. Then, he whispered as he looked out my shade-less windows, “It’s not dawk out.”

Rather than discuss or argue that fact (I was NOT ready to get up!), I just softly rubbed his temples; again and again my hand swept gently back into his hair. And it worked. He fell soundly to sleep and still slept when I later got up to shower. So that set the pattern: each morning, he’d scramble up into my bed and cuddle up into my arms. How special is that?

The next day, a Sunday, we had the rest of my Rochester family gather so Jamie and Mike could see all of them. It was a great time—counting me, there were four generations present. That includes two of my sons, a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Like I said, it was a *great* time!DSCN0399

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I commented later to Mike (my grandson-in-law) that it was awesome to see three little boys quietly playing with their iPads on the living room sofa. (I don’t think I ever saw my three sons, when they were boys, sit quietlyDSCN0394 on a couch for several minutes, let alone an hour.) But these boys were each completely absorbed by the games they were playing on their pads.

That’s when Mike voiced his concern. He said, “We’re afraid that this next generation will totally lose the ability to program, or even work with, a computer. They, and even teens and young adults, are very adept at using their phones for everything—directions, research, taking photos, communication. Anything and everything.”

His Rx, he said, will be to teach his boys to program by designing games for them to play and inadvertently learn the business of computer programming. Of course, both Jamie and Mike have graduate degrees in Electronic Engineering, so that’s an easy fix for them and theirs.

But it’s interesting to consider that, even though I’ve lived through monumental changes in our society and its products, so will my heirs. And, years from now, they’ll shake their heads and say, “Boy. I remember when….” (Let’s hope the world is still moving and progressing then.)

Meanwhile, I still just love seeing my little guys come running to me with open arms, snuggling with me, “helping” me bake a cake, listening to my stories with wide, wide eyes, and following me on their balance bikes as we form a motorcade for the President. A phone call (on speaker phone) to *President* Paul confirmed for us all that our motorcade was indeed keeping him safe, for which he thanked us profusely.

I guess some things never change: the innocence of a child, their dedication to play, and the love that makes it possible.

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