Archive forMay, 2008

A week from Sunday

Today is Friday. A week from Sunday (June 8th) I’ll be flying to Florida. I’m really looking forward to it.

As it gets closer to my departure, I get more concerned about my Mother (who has advanced Alzheimers). I’m really worried about her. It’s been nearly two months since I last saw her. I fear she will have forgotten me completely and I’ll have lost her.

I will arrive in Tampa at about 1:10. The airport shuttle is supposed to pick me up about 1:30. By the time they drive me to Kings Point, it’ll be close to 2:30. My first thought is to ditch my luggage at the condo and hurriedly go check on Mom.

But if I’m going to be logical and sensible, I know I should wait until closer to 5:00.

At 3:00, she’ll be impossible to awaken – mid-afternoon is when she’s sleepiest. At 3:00, she won’t know me. She’ll be in a stupor. It’ll be agony and disappointing. If I can postpone the visit until 5:00 (or even 4:45), which is her meal time, she’ll be more alert and responsive.

Can I stall?

I’ve talked it over with John and he says I should definitely wait. Otherwise I’ll be crushed by her reaction. He knows she’s lost in the mid-afternoon. He reminded me that I need to turn on the water, the water heater, and open up everything.

It’ll take a while to bring my luggage in and make the golf cart driveable.

Maybe I should just plan to slip into a swim suit and go say “hi” to our friends at the pool.

But what if she’s awake and she feels I didn’t come right over? What if she’s alert and I miss that time with her? Isn’t it funny how, even when your mother is as “far gone” as mine, you want her approval and you aim to do what she’d think is best.

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New Domain Name: http://sharons-blog.com

Some folks enjoy reading this blog… I don’t know why. My ramblings are every day things and therefore pretty dull. But when we’re in Florida, our southern friends like to see the photos and videos I add of things going on in the Sun City Center area, and when we return to Michigan, our music friends follow our music events.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been asked to write out the URL: “http://dulcimers.com/sharonsblog” but now I’ve made it easier for you (and for me). I’ve purchased the domain, “sharons-blog.com,” so you can just go to http://sharons-blog.com (notice that’s a dash between “sharons” and “blog.” (Most browsers will let you put in just “sharons-blog.com.” without adding www. or http://)

It should be easy to remember.

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New Florida Phone Number

I received my “magicJack” device today. This little device works by plugging into my laptop’s USB port and a regular house phone plugs into it.

When I installed it, I was able to select a phone number in Hillsborough County, Florida (Area Code 813). Anyone within the county can call any other number as a local call. Our new number is 813-398-4135. I’ve already started printing new business cards to distribute.

magicJack device

I was initially a disappointed by the sound quality, the voices were distorted. But there were a couple of suggestions, and it appears that I’ve made it better. I really won’t know until I’m in Florida with that internet cable, and the phone that we use in the condo. (I tried using a “powered” usb port, and it was much better.)

This service will act as a way of having a Florida line that will forward to our Michigan number or to our cellphone. Therefore, the service will give me the same forwarding ability I had with the virtual phone from Vonage, but at about 1/3 the cost. Being able to plug in a house phone is actually an “added bonus.”

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High Cost of Fuel

Gas prices are impacting us all. Obviously when John and I go back South in September, we’ll be paying higher costs to fuel our GMC diesel truck, which is our long-distance vehicle. (Our Saturn just wouldn’t make it!)

Right now diesel fuel is $4.779 per gallon in this area!! It’s hard to remember that back in 2006 we complained when it went over $2.00 per gallon! The trip to Florida and back, based on today’s diesel prices, will cost us about $744 round trip!!

I’m flying down to Florida alone to see how Mom’s doing in less than two weeks. Last year when I did this solo trip, I rented a car for the ten days I was down there, but this time I’ve decided that the high cost of gas makes such a rental beyond my means. Instead I hope to get by with our electric golf cart. The savings will justify a second solo flight to Florida in August to check on Mom.

I booked my flights many months ago but now it would cost me about $200 more for a flight to Tampa from the Tri-City (MBS) area. (I’ll need to watch and book for any trips I plan for the future well in advance.)

So I’ll use a shuttle service to get to and from the Tampa airport, and when I get to the condo, I’ll get by with our four-seater golf cart (with sides – when needed). Sun City Center is a golf-cart-friendly community. I can go from Beall’s and Home Depot on the west side of town to Publix on the east-most end.

Walmart is across a highway from Publix, and golf carts can’t cross that highway, but I can park at Publix. With my wheeled shopping cart, I can trot across to Walmart and shop to my heart’s content then come back to my golf cart parked at Publix.

Most of my trips will be back and forth to the South Club pool which is about a five minute (by golf cart trip) and to visit Mom (again about five minutes). If I need a car, I can rent one from Enterprise which has a local outlet.

It’ll take planning, but I figure, if I can get by with just the golf cart, I’ll save over $250-$300 in car rental costs not including the cost of fuel. My airlines tickets are $322-$350! So my gas savings, based on not renting a car, will cover the expense for a second trip in August.

When’s the inflationary rise in the price of fuel going to stop? It’s really changing the way we do things.

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New Look!

Tonight I spent a couple hours changing the theme used for this blog. With the previous theme, I couldn’t easily read the dates (which now show up directly below each entry’s title) so I switched to this “look.” Themes are optional design formats that you can add to your blog. They contain the style, colors and type fonts.

I frequently change the header photo but I’m not tired of this one yet, so I’ll leave it in place. It’s a view from “Little Harbor Marina” in Ruskin, FL. I took the photo on John’s birthday, March 1st, 2008.

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“Techie” Talk (for those who enjoy electronic gadgets)

Anyone who knows me very well knows that I love anything “techie.” I’ve been into computers since 1983, the early internet since 1992, website design about 1993, Pocket Mail devices (which worked with pay phones and an 800 number), internet by cellphone, very early digital cameras (I’ve had five or six camera upgrades), GPS for road travel, wireless internet for our home internet service and most recently for our home phone we’ve subscribed to VoIP phone service (phone service through the internet). We’ve tried two services (Speednet and now Vonage – Vonage has lots more features).

With all these high-tech gadgets, it doesn’t mean that I’m good at techie stuff, but I do love electronics. I finally have a reliable wireless network installed in my house in Michigan as well as an identical system in our Florida condo (with a wireless print server both places).

We really like our most recent VoIP phone service through Vonage. It’s feature-loaded and fairly inexpensive. For about $24.95 we get a month’s service. We’ve added on a virtual phone, which gives us a Florida phone line but that adds $4.95 monthly to our bill. There are also a few add-on charges. Our phone bills have been totaling $37.80 for unlimited 24/7 phone calling availability including 911 service.

Today I had intended to start a new add-on service with Vonage called a “soft phone.” My plan was to intermittently start-up a “soft phone,” which would work through my laptop computer. This would leave the Vonage system with John for his use in Michigan, but I’d have the “soft phone” for my trips to Florida (when I fly down alone). That was my plan.

About a month ago, I called Vonage to educate myself about a “soft phone” and I was told that there are no activation nor deactivation charges with that service so I could start and stop it

Today, while I was going through the sign-up to get the “soft phone,” I came to the final “bill” and discovered that Vonage was about to tack on a $9.99 activation charge in addition to the $9.99 monthly fee (for 500 monthly minutes). The only way I could avoid continual $9.99 activation charges would be to keep the service going with no breaks. Even if I’d substituted this service for the virtual phone, it would have been fairly pricey for 12 months at $9.99 per month plus activation. I would probably also be charged a deactivation fee.

My best laid plans just weren’t going to work.

But I recalled that I had seen a VoIP device when I was checking out VoIP soft phone prices. It’s called “magicJack” and it costs $39.95 for the device and a year’s service with a phone number in the many area codes, including the area code of our choice: 813. In January, magicJack won the PC Magazine Editor’s Choice of the year award.

This tiny thumb sized device plugs into your computer’s USB port providing a standard house phone jack. It’ll be clearer service than would have been available with a “soft phone,” (more equivalent to the Vonage or “standard” service). You plug in a standard house phone or wireless house phone system (which we already have in our condo). We’ll receive a new Florida phone number but then it should continue uninterrupted from year to year.

So here’s the plan, I’ll get an 813 (Tampa area code) number from magicJack. When I’m not in Florida, I’ll forward that number to our Michigan phone. (It’ll forward even when my computer’s not on.) Folks in Sun City Center can still call us as a local number and it’ll ring into our 989-781-0849 number. But here’s the advantage: when I fly down to Florida, I can use the magicJack device to provide me with a regular house phone while John continues to use the Vonage phone at home.

I’ll need to have my computer on to receive calls but when my laptop is off, incoming calls will go to voice mail or they can be forwarded to my cell phone.

Once I know it’s working, the Vonage “virtual phone” will be canceled. We’ll still have two lines, but one will be Vonage the other will be magicJack.

The only minor problem is that I have already made up a bunch of business cards with the Vonage 813 number. It’s not really a problem because we know who we gave them to, and we’ll just have to let Sun City Center folks know that our Florida number has changed. I have time to make more before I leave for Florida on June 8th.

I’m so hopeful that this magicJack device is going to work well that I purchased five additional years of service for an additional $49.95! That means that totally, I’ll have paid $100.80 but that will cover FIVE YEARS’ unlimited usage on this magicJack (Florida) phone line (which comes to about $20 per year) and there’s a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.

Wow! It can’t be much better than that!

Love techie stuff!!

If you have questions or think that you might benefit from a magicJack or Vonage system let me know and I’ll help you get signed up. I might get a finder’s fee.

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Panic is passing

Maybe I shouldn’t admit this but I feel that I’m “over-the-hump.” I’m no longer in a panic state regarding the Evart workshop organization. I have the “daily grids” nearly ready to be presented to the masses. I’ll groom them for another week or so before I distribute them because once they’re out there, it’s lots harder to tweak them. I realize that once I think I have things under control, that’s generally when things go a-muck. I therefore won’t be surprised if I end up with major problems yet, but right now, it’s looking good.

John’s been under the weather for a few days with a cold. Monday he spent a lot of the day in bed and I took advantage of the opportunity and really made headway with the workshop scheduling.

We were gone most of Tuesday with a good performance at Wescourt (Senior Residence facility) for our Sub-Strings Dulcimer Club.

We still have lots of decisions to be made regarding our kitchen renovation, but things are coming together. I’d like to see us get to the point that John can start the actual tearing apart when I am in Florida (leaving June 8th). That’s only TWO weeks away. Can’t believe it!!

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Panic!

I’m getting frantic. Panic is creeping in and I can feel it. Three weeks from today I’ll be heading back to Florida and before I leave, I MUST have the workshops scheduled for the huge Evart festival. No more cavalier attitude. I need to focus. The job is enormous.

I need to take the approximately 140 workshops which have been submitted by the wonderfully talented volunteer instructors and schedule them over three days (July 17, 18 and 19) from 9:00 until 5:00 each day with classes running simultaneous in eight areas. The raw descriptive information totals 87 pages. When completed, the schedule will be distributed in a 16-page program and posted on line. (Again, it’s all my job.)

Within the next week or two (definitely before I head back to Florida), I need to complete the four page pull-out section which will display the “grids” and the alphabetical index. I need to complete the the class description portion of the program by June 23rd at the latest which means I’ll be working on it during my trip to Florida (June 8-21). At least I’m flying down there alone so I can burn the midnight oil without distracting DH (Dear Hubby). July 1st I’ll need to take the completed copy to the printer so I can pick up the thousands of copies which will be distributed to the attendees of the ODPC Funfest (aka Evart).

Yesterday I tried to isolate myself so I could concentrate on this project. I was partially successful but ended up being distracted. My plan is to concentrate on it today. I’m going to do my best to stay focused.

On a side note, Friday evening I received an email message from an old friend, John Whitman. John was my best guy pal in high school. We were really close and even promised each other that we’d get married when I was 39, if no one else wanted us. He was really good to me, toting me around, and listening to my boyfriend woes.

John W. was three years older and even after he’d left for college, he’d come back from Michigan State and take me to our favorite “hang-out” the Music Box, a teen age night-spot at Prudenville, MI. John now lives in central Florida.

I was honored that he said he named his youngest daughter “Sharon” after me!

I answered his message, but haven’t heard back. He suggested getting together in September when he comes to Michigan for his 50th class reunion but we won’t be available.

Our September is already booked: I’m flying to Florida in late August, coming back on September 9th in time for the celebration with my sweet husband of our 23rd wedding anniversary on September 10th. Husband John and I will hit the road for our trip back to Florida September 14th. The few days between our anniversary and our departure for our southern trip, we’ve already scheduled a club practice and my John has the Flint Banjo Club’s Banjorama.

I’m sure John W. and I will find a way to get together. I’d love to have him meet my husband. Maybe we’ll be able to coordinate a visit when we head south. Husband John’s fine with this reunion. He’s always heard about “my other John.”

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Performing tonight

Tonight our group, Saginaw Subterranean Strings Hammered Dulcimer Club, played for a Mother-Daughter Banquet at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Bay City (actually between Bay City and Saginaw). We had a great turn-out of 21 musicians including seven hammered dulcimers!!

I’ve been busy this week getting the workshops organized for the Evart hammered dulcimer festival. (It’s a huge job with about 200 classes over three days in eight areas.)

Yesterday I had a fun/memorable experience.

I answer lots of questions via email and phone about the ODPC Funfest because, in addition to being Workshop Chairman, I’m the webmaster for the festival’s website. Sometimes I’m busy and I hustle through the answers but I always try to make sure the person feels welcome. Yesterday, at about 4:30, I received a phone call.

It was an older gentleman who was sweet and very interested in what goes on at Evart. I gave a good over-view (maybe 10 minutes of friendly conversation). I was winding up my “pitch” by explaining that this fellow could, for $3, have admission to the festival which would avail him of the approximately 200 workshops including those for accordion, harmonica, dobro, fiddle, etc. etc. etc.

I assured this very nice man that he could come and he’d have the availability of all of those wonderful instructional workshops in addition to lots of vendor access, stage shows, and of course lots of jamming, all for the remarkable cost of $3 for the whole event.

At that point he quietly said, “I play dulcimer.”

I was pleased and said, “Well, you’ll fit right in.”

Then he said “I’m Paul Van Arsdale. I’ve never been to Evart but I’ve always wanted to attend.”

I went balistic. PAUL VAN ARSDALE!!! I babbled something about we’d love to have him come and I’d always been admirer of him and his playing. I think I said something about “I’ve heard of you all my life!!” He handled it very well.

He said he’s not sure but he’s hoping to come. No workshops, no star treatment (although I did assure him that I’d somehow find a way to get him a campsite with hookups because he just HAD to attend.)

If you aren’t a dulcimer historian or don’t recognize his name, you can read about him on the on-line Wikipedia (on-line encyclopedia), at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Van_Arsdale. Paul is one of the pioneers who helped elevate the hammered dulcimer to it’s current status. He’s 87 years old and one of the most respected musicians in the dulcimer world.

I hope I have a chance to explain to him that I really don’t think Paul Van Arsdale needs to take dorbro or harmonica classes. I just didn’t know who I was talking to and until he said “I’m Paul Van Arsdale” he got the standard spiel.

It was probably the best way to welcome him because I know he realized everyone is welcomed at the festival and made to feel special.

He kept saying he’s not firm about coming but he’s hoping he can make it.

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Renovating

We’re fairly far into the planning stage of a major renovation of our Michigan home. We have been looking at granite samples for counter tops, and tile for floors in the kitchen, hallway, utility and half bath. We’ve also had roofers come to see if our roof replacement is mandatory this year.

We started looking at hardwood floors for the dining room and living room too, but it all gets over-whelming.

We’ve kind of come to the conclusion that, since we have picked out the granite counters, we should get them and then see what would look best for the floors. We’re backing up and looking at one thing at a time.

It’s not the fun stuff which we enjoy in Florida, but these are renovations we’ve been putting off and it’s now time to tackle some of these projects.

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My Perfect Family

I attended Emily’s wedding shower today. I truly felt like I was part of her family. What a blessing it’s been to discover he’s my brother (Jim). He came equipped with a lovely wife, two beautiful daughters and his very nice talented son.

I’m blessed.

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