Monday, June 20, 2011

Joan Does Kindle


This is what you will frequently hear if you are a fly on the wall in my home while I am sitting in front of my computer and it won't do what I'm telling it to do.  Rest assured, I have never, ever been accused of being a techno-wizard.  I fall more under the category of "Special" when it comes to all things computer, video, digital, and the like.

Fortunately for me, I am married to a computer genius.  Alan is able to fix just about any computer problem in a matter of seconds, and he can navigate his way around one with expert precision.  So, whenever I am sitting at my laptop and begin experiencing problems, you can hear the above, screechy call to my husband, imploring him to come save me from my technologically-challenged self.  He usually arrives and fixes the problem within seconds.  I thank him profusely, he sighs, pats me on my head and heads back to his office.

So, imagine my reaction when Alan recently suggested that I try out a Kindle.  Kindles are e-books, sold by Amazon, that allow you to instantly download dozens of books, newspapers, or magazines in a matter of minutes.  Since I am an avid reader, Alan thought it was something I could use.  I think I replied with something like "Oh, hell no."

I resisted, mostly because I'm one of those crotchety old people who talk about how much they love to "turn the page" rather than hit the "next" button.  But I also feared the technology of the thing.  It looked dangerous, quite frankly.

But when I saw one in the store recently and was able to hold it in my hands, I have to admit I really liked the lightness of it, as well as the cute, decorative covers that actually made it FEEL like I was reading a book.  Hesitantly, I told Alan I was onboard.

When my Kindle arrived in the mail, I quickly handed it to my smart, computer savvy husband.  He dutifully accepted it (I think he likes to play with these kind of new toys, anyway!), and immediately began the process of getting me registered and ready to go.

He gave it back just a few minutes later telling me, "You're all set!"  and showed me how to access the online bookstore to make my selection.  The store was set up in Alan's account, but he told me we could switch that later.

Since I'm pretty caught-up on all my favorite authors, I decided to do a massive search. This time of year, less than a month before our Key West vacation, I love to listen to Jimmy Buffet and read "beach books" to get me in the mood for our trip.  So, I did a quick "Key West fiction" search.  Within seconds, hundreds of titles emerged.  I clicked on the first one, which was labeled,  "Key West."  Hmm.  Sounds perfect.  The screen was too small to make out the actual cover, so I clicked on what I thought was "description."  Apparently, I had inadvertently hit "reviews."  Rather than scream for my husband again, I decided to just read those instead.  They said things like, "Four stars!"  "LOVED the surprise ending!" and "I now want to read EVERYTHING by this author!"

Well, that was good enough for me.  I hit "download" and within less than a minute, my book "arrived" on my screen!  Hooray for modern times!

I read the first sentence (LITERALLY, the FIRST sentence) and performed an audible gasp. Then I decided to go back and check the "description" like I should have done in the first place. That's when it hit me.  I had just downloaded my first book, on my brand new Kindle.  And it was erotic fiction.

But, you know, being somewhat of an author myself, I felt it was only fair that I read a fellow writer's work.  I mean, I'd want HER to do the same if she accidentally downloaded something from my blog.  It's the courteous thing to do, people!  Besides, I'm a sucker for a "surprise ending!"

So I read it.  It was really, really "interesting."  But I must admit, the ending WAS surprising.  I did NOT see that coming!

Here's the fun clincher to this pathetic tale:  You know how Amazon, once you've purchased a particular book, will then send follow-up, "If you liked THAT book, we recommend THESE titles as well" emails?  Yeah.  Alan's been getting LOTS of "suggestions" for potential reading material on his Amazon account!  Because he is awesome and (thankfully) has a great sense of humor, instead of being angry with me, he just reads me the titles of the suggested books.  We've had a GREAT time pouring over THOSE!

So, in conclusion, I must tell you that this technologically challenged old biddy really DOES approve of her new Kindle.  Since that original debacle, I have actually learned how to effectively search for (and read the descriptions of) more appropriate reading material.  I am really enjoying it.

Although I'll never look at Key West the same way again...

Thanks for Reading!!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

God Does William Wallace

I've never been a fan of Mel Gibson's, even before his drunken, anti-semitic, womanizing rants.  But I admit I do love the movie Braveheart, Mel's movie based on the life of Scotsman William Wallace.

One of my favorite scenes from the movie is the first battle in which William and his fellow countrymen must fight the invading British army. The Scots are outnumbered, out-weaponed, and don't appear to stand a chance.  But they show up, paint their faces, and after a rousing speech about freedom and country from Wallace, the battle begins.

The British fire arrows, then start an all-out charge, driving directly at the standing Scottish line.  Wallace raises his arm in the air and, as the line stands perfectly still, shouts, "HOLD!" The British continue to advance, Wallace again repeats, "HOLD!"  The Scotsmen shift their weight nervously and tighten their grip on their shields.  A few of them steal a sideways glance at their leader with worried eyes that say, "Really?  Are you SURE?"  Once more Wallace shouts, "HOLD!"

When it appears that the British are literally on top of them, Wallace yells, "NOW!" and the Scotsmen stoop down, drop their shields, and pick up long, sharp, crudely-made spears. The British, too close to stop or retreat, are immediately impaled.

Here's a quick look at the scene:

Intense stuff, huh?

I've been thinking a lot about William Wallace lately, and how God's been showing me His impression of the Scottish Warrior these days.  God's been telling me to "HOLD!" quite a bit. Let me explain:

Our home in Pennsylvania has been on the market for a full year now.  We actually thought we had a buyer very recently.  We agreed on a price, but they backed-out at the last minute. So, we're back to square one.  In the meantime, we're renting a home in Tennessee, waiting for the house to sell so we can buy something here.  I am aching to be settled into our own home, painting walls, hanging curtains, and working in the garden.  Instead, God tells me, "HOLD!"

There's also the issue of my "book." Last September, after Dad's funeral, I decided to gather the stories from my blog and compile them into book form, dedicating it to his memory.  I sent the completed manuscript to the independent publisher in October. She told me I'd have it by mid January.  I still don't.  Over the past eight (EIGHT!) months, when I email to inquire about the book's progress, she replies with a string of excuses about her busy schedule and health issues.  Once again, I'm told, "HOLD!"

Then there's the ever-present, foreboding, lymphoma.  In April, I learned my tumors have grown.  In November, I will be re-scanned to determine whether or not it's time to begin chemotherapy.  In the meantime, I try very hard not to think about November.  I down my daily doses of Curcumin (the latest herb that's supposed to shrink lymphoma tumors) and try not to finger the palpable lumps in my neck.  Beside that, there's really nothing else I can do until November.  Except, of course, to "HOLD!"

I've never been good at waiting.  Like Wallace's warriors, I stand in place, nervously weight-shifting, grasping my gardening tools, asking "Really?  Not YET?" But like those Scottish soldiers, I know I must trust my Leader.  His timing is perfect, even if it seems excruciating to me.

So, excuse me as I sigh, paint my face, throw on a kilt, and grab a spear.  I've got more holding to do...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Angels Watching Over Me

One of the neat perks of being a ghost tour guide is hearing my guests tell me their own chilling stories.  Just about every night, someone will approach me as we're walking from one site to the next and say something like, "You know, I live in a haunted house!" or "I had a ghost visit me in my room when I was a kid!"

Whenever this happens, I give my guest my full attention and insist they tell me EVERY detail.  Truth is, I'm a sucker for a great ghostly tale!

But a few nights ago, one of my tour goers unveiled a story of a different kind.  She was a quiet,  older woman, there with her two girlfriends enjoying a "Girl's Night Out."  Her companions did most of the talking and answering of the trivia questions I asked (Yes, we play a trivia game on the tour, and the winner receives a Haunted Tavern Tour shot glass!  WHY haven't you been here yet?).  But since I want to make sure ALL of my guests are having a good time, I sat down next to her at one of our stops and struck up a conversation.

She didn't come out with it right away, but in the process of talking, she revealed to me that she had a certain "gift."  Like Haley Joel Osment in Sixth Sense, she can see dead people! She said the streets of Nashville are filled with tired, sad ghosts of former confederate soldiers and lost cowboys.  She told me that she did her best not to make eye contact with them, because as soon as they noticed that she could see them, they would follow her.

I wasn't sure I believed her, but I told her to keep an eye out and let me know if she saw any of the spirits I mentioned on the tour.  She promised she would.  At the end of the evening, I approached her once more and asked her if she "got" anything along the way. She said she saw a few spirits relating to what I was talking about.

But then she pointed to a building across the street. "There's a LOT going on inside THERE!" she said.  I had heard that the structure to which she was referring had some "stories of haunting" attached to it, but my company is still researching and verifying the accounts, so it's not yet part of the tour.  She had no way of knowing this.  My doubt in her ability was beginning to fade.  It was a good thing, too, because I was more prepared to hear what she had to say next:  "You have two male guardian angels attached to you."

Two!!  That's right, TWO!!  Sadly, my first thought was, "I wonder if they look like this guy">>>>>

Unfortunately, the tour was wrapping up and I wasn't able to question her any further. She smiled as she took my hand, thanked me, and wished me luck. Then she was gone.  And there I stood, on 3rd Avenue in downtown Nashville, wondering.

Wondering why God decided I needed TWO guardians, first of all.  I mean, it's not like I do a lot of sky-diving or bungie-jumping these days.  A great deal of my time is spent reading and napping!

Which brings me to another issue I stood pondering:  Aren't my angels BORED?  Also, do they see me when I come out of the shower?  Oh, these poor, poor celestial beings!! They must complain about their job on a daily basis, begging to be reassigned!

But on the drive home, I recalled a book I read several years ago.  It was kind of a Christian science fiction story which revolved around guardian angels fighting for the human beings on earth.  They were constantly battling with the demons that encircled the humans to which they were assigned.  The demons' names were things like, "Self-Doubt," "Greed," and "Shame."

The evil beings would buzz around the ears of the earthlings, whispering condescending words that the humans immediately believed about themselves.  They'd slouch over, burdened by the weight of it.  The angels would swarm in and engage in battle with the demons, warning them to keep away from God's precious creatures.  It was some powerful stuff!  It occurred to me that if this was the case, then I was DEFINITELY in need of two of these guys.

So, with that in mind, I'd like to take a moment to speak to my angels, since we're now aware of each other:

Dear Guardian Angels:

Hi fellas!  I'd just like to start off by thanking you for, so far, a job well done!  I've managed to live 47 full years without a whole lot of tragedy or drama, and for that I'm truly grateful! Also, thanks for having my back each night after my tours as I walk back to my parked car in downtown Nashville. I've always felt some kind of protection on those nights, now I know the source!  You guys ROCK!!

I imagine the "fighting off my demons" thing can be pretty tiresome for you both.  As we all know, I've got plenty of them buzzing around to keep you busy.  Lately, Anxiety and Body Image have been running pretty rampant, so I'd really appreciate if you could just stick a large, sharp saber right through both of their hearts.  That'd be just terrific.  Also, quick question:  Is there, by any chance, a guy named "Keep Her Metabolism As Slow As Possible" encircling me?  If so, could you please see that he dies an intensely painful, slow, torturous death? Thanks!

Here's my last question and then I'll let you get back to work:  Did God send you here to fight my lymphoma? Boy, would that be awesome.  I've been trying so hard out here on my own, and there's a chance I may be losing this current battle.  I could sure use a couple of celestial warriors on my side, because I'm feeling a little weary these days.

Lastly, thanks for believing that I'm special enough to protect.   That may be worth more to me than the actual protection itself.  Another demon bites the dust...

Thanks for Reading!