Joyful News!

My family received joyful news this week. The multiple  scans of bone and body showed no cancer spread beyond the one lymph node for my Dad. So, he begins radiation treatment next Monday. For those with more experience than I, it will come as no surprise that in preparation for the treatment he was tattooed.

His first comment to me was “Why would anyone willingly get a tattoo?” I chuckled since I agree, but also have multiple family members with tattoos. Methinks the tattoos are either generational or a fad. Hopefully I will never Have to be tattooed.

Holocaust Survivors

Perhaps my aversion stems from the first time I saw a tattoo. My Mom had stopped outside a store in a strip mall near the beach to talk to an elderly lady she knew. I was young, innocent and curious. (Grade school but I don’t remember which year other than at least 3rd grade.) The lady had some numbers tattooed to the back of her hand.

I flat out asked why. This may have embarrassed my Mom, but her friend seemed glad I asked. She had been a child in a concentration camp during WWII. She gave me my first lesson in the terrors of genocide. Perhaps this is why to this day I read so many stories with a WWII setting. I feel a real connection. And I don’t want to be tattooed!

Cancer

That feeling of connection is the same with cancer. Once you personally know someone who is facing or has faced cancer, you become more attuned. This not only holds true for cancer but other diseases as well. This connectedness can generate both positive and negative feelings.

Thus, it is no surprise that I was extremely stressed out over the last weeks. The unknown is always scary to me. The extent of  Dad’s cancer was unknown. The days felt overly long. However, the docs’ moved fairly rapidly in diagnosing my Dad.

I have supported various funds fighting cancers and diseases I have been personally affected by. And even some causes that I have not had a personal involvement with. I bought into the 1000 Points of Light campaign posited by the late President George H.W. Bush. I feel an obligation as well as a desire to help. I don’t want to leave it to others. Donations have not always been monetary. Time and personal effort have also been given to various causes.

Joyful News

The better than expected results are truly joyful news. My thankfulness will be displayed in many ways. The least of which will be in the form of donations to my favorite causes. Foundations tied to supporting those affected with Breast Cancer will of course figure into the equation.

But there are many ways to express joy. Writing and painting allow one to share the joy. So does designing. Singing and praying also express joy. We often pray when we need something, but thankful, joyful prayer is just as important.

As I said above both positive and negative emotions are generated from a connection. My connection to cancer began as a child. Treatments back then were few. Outcomes were seldom good. This is not the case today. Furthermore, my Dad detected and acted quickly. Thus, in his case the outlook is good. The joyful news is certainly welcome at any time. But it definitely makes this holiday season one for the memory bank.

Breast Cancer Ribbon
Not for Women Only

 

 

 

The Gifted School Book Review

Book cover of the Gifted SchoolThe Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger caught my eye. The inside jacket narrative piqued my interest. Finally, the author’s writing style kept me glued to the pages. I finished this 400 plus page book in one sitting.

Since the publishing date is 2019, there is a good chance the book was written prior to the college admission scandal that opened eyes in the United States to the fact admissions are anything but equal. While The Gifted School centers on admission into a public middle school, the same ploys to gain a spot for one’s offspring is evident in fiction as in reality.

Character Development

Holsinger does an excellent job of developing all the characters. The women are upper middle class and the plot really follows the entwined lives of their four families. A side development revolves around the family of a woman who cleans house for two of the families.

The four women have been close friends since a Mom and infant swim class. The children are about to enter middle school. A new public magnet school which will focus on gifted and talented children is about to open. Thus, the competition begins.

Elitism in America

In not so subtle ways, the author explores the concept of elitist education in America. While I did not see the big twist in the plot, I did accurately guess which of the children would gain admission to the school. Three of the seven won admission. In some ways I would have added a fourth. But realistically, having three make it in was against the odds.

Holsinger does use his characters to show how education can improve one’s status. He also paints an accurate picture (as illustrated by the college admissions scandal) of the lies and underhanded actions parents will go to in order to provide the edge often needed for success.

The Gifted School

In the case of the three students admitted to the school, all were well deserving. Of those not admitted, a case could be made for most of them as well. The testing and then portfolio process was not random in the book. However, in many Colorado Magnet and Charter schools the process is one of a lottery. But that would not make for an entertaining tale.

The key point of The Gifted School however is the many arguments that such a school triggers. I felt that the author shared the opposing viewpoints. Although as stated above, I felt I could read his bias.

The major twist in the story, I did not see coming. Brilliant plotting by the author results in an “aha” by the reader once a key relationship is revealed. But the other characters also reach a climax in their stories. With the exception of the character of one of the middle school kids, I felt very satisfied with the outcomes.

Furthermore, I feel the author has made key points about education and about friendships. Society in the United States is very competitive. Often, competition is a double-edged sword.

I highly recommend The Gifted School.

Econogal’s Top Ten Favorite Books of 2019

 

Compiling the list for Econogal’s Top Ten Favorite Books of 2019 is proving quite difficult. One reason is the number of books read. Over the past 12 months, a book read and reviewed each week was the goal. A few weeks I read more, but that was offset by a stray week here and there where nothing was reviewed. And one week where nothing was even read.

Furthermore, if I use the same format as Econogal’s Top Ten Favorite Books of 2018 (Click here to read.) I need five fictional entries and five books in the non-fiction category. Herein lies the problem. I am short in the non-fiction category of books I care to recommend. But, the number of books for the fiction side is too numerous.

Statistical Favorites

Bloggers have many tools at their disposal to analyze the posts they publish. The backside of a website is quite complex, but also useful. Basic analytics include the number of times a post is accessed. The book with the greatest number of clicks is The Only Woman in the Room, a fictionalized account of the life of Hedy Lamarr. Heads You Win was a close second. I enjoyed both and both are on my list, but not at the top.

Debut Novels

I love discovering new authors. So each year I look for debut writings. Quite a few caught my attention in 2019. Allison Schrager’s An Economist Walks into a Brothel leads the way in the non-fiction category. The fictional counterpart listed in Econogal’s Top Ten Favorite Books of 2019 is Disappearing Earth which is the debut work of Julia Phillips.

Other outstanding new voices include Lydia Fitzpatrick with Lights All Night Long, and Maura Roosevelt’s Baby of the Family. Each provide food for thought while entertaining the reader. I highly recommend both.

Almost There

I have six titles that were in contention to make Econogal’s Top Ten Favorite Books of 2019. Each is worth the read. Look for them at your nearest library or book store. In no particular order: Last Woman Standing, Break Point, The Break Down, The Last Second, The Black Ascot and Only Killers and Thieves.

Since I am short on the non-fiction list, I offer one combined list. The designation follows the title. As with last year’s list, Econogal’s Top Ten Favorite Books of 2019 reviews can be accessed by clicking on the title.

 

Top Ten List

 

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips                                                       Fiction

Lights All Night Long by Lydia Fitzpatrick                                            Fiction

An Economist Walks Into a Brothel by Allison Schrager                    Non-Fiction

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center                                     Fiction

Heads You Win by Jeffrey Archer                                                             Fiction

Baby of the Family by Maura Roosevelt                                                  Fiction

The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman                                                  Fiction

Don’t Stop Believin’ by Jonathan Cain                                                     Non-Fiction

The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict                                 Fiction

Firefighting: The Financial Crisis And Its Lessons by Bernanke, Geithner and Paulson, Jr.    Non-Fiction

November 2019 Wrap-Up

November 2019 was a difficult month from an emotional standpoint. My Dad’s breast cancer diagnosis meant many trips to medical facilities as well as meetings with various providers. There is one more scan to run before treatment can begin.

The radiology oncologist assures us that radiation treatment will not slow him down much. The current plan is four weeks of treatment to the chest wall. My Dad has opted out of chemo at this point in time. As an octogenarian, he feels chemotherapy will be more harmful than helpful. I will support his decisions as well as any second thoughts he may have.

Normal Routine altered for November 2019

As a consequence of supporting my Dad through his surgery and scans, I was away from home the entire month of November. Thus, normal fall activities fell by the wayside. Instead, I was able to see more of the action on the foreclosure than I anticipated. I also enjoyed the warm Florida weather. Multiple days of snow were missed. But not the single-digit weather. It is too bad snow needs colder temperatures. I like the tranquil look of fresh fallen snow.

My reading efforts included a couple of longer books. They were great for the waiting rooms. But I plan to indulge in a couple of quick fun reads this week.

Christmas Stocking

Working on a Christmas stocking certainly helped to alleviate the stresses of November 2019. I hope the newest member of the family will cherish the stocking for years. This is the first attempt at making a felt stocking and I am quite pleased with the result.

The kit made the creation fairly simple. The most time consuming part was attaching the sequins and beads. I now understand why completed stockings are so expensive.

Applique Snowman and cardinals on felt stocking
Finished Felt Christmas Stocking

Conflicted Feelings

It is with a clash of feelings that I traveled back to the High Plains from Florida on the last day of November 2019. I have missed my home. My husband and my cat have missed me. But I feel conflicted about leaving my Dad on his own. The winter months can make travel difficult, so quick trips across the plains are sometimes delayed due to highway closures.

However, I am confident that my Dad is not only capable but in a great frame of mind to undergo the daily radiation treatments scheduled for the remainder of the year. He has support of family and friends in Central Florida. He enjoyed the Thanksgiving visit of his first great-grandchild and will have many visitors in the next six weeks.

We all face mortality. A belief in God helps one accept life’s path. The prayers and wishes from the readers of this blog have been greatly appreciated by my Dad and by me.

 

 

 

Stress Relief, Art Therapy, and a Felt Christmas Stocking

This past week was quite stressful as I accompanied my Dad through his various medical visits. My blood pressure which is usually quite low spiked a bit. So, I turned to art therapy. Since I am away from home I cannot access my quilt room nor my acrylic paints. So I began working on a felt Christmas stocking for the youngest member of the family.

As discussed in Economical Christmas Traditions, each generation is welcomed by the grandmother making a felt Christmas stocking. This is my first and there has been a bit of a learning curve. But, so far I am quite pleased. The felt Christmas stocking is almost finished.

Artistic License

The kit for the felt Christmas Stocking features a snowman surrounded by cardinals. As soon as I spotted the design I knew this was the one-my Dad loves cardinals. The stocking is a positive reminder of his love now and in the future.

However, I am making a few color changes. Instead of the ice blue vest and two-toned green scarf, the snowman will don a vest of fuchsia. Additionally, the scarf is now K-State purple with an accent of the fuchsia used in the vest. I also switched out the green ribbon on the top hat with purple felt.

The bright fuchsia color reminds me of the bright pink of Stargazer Lilies. This is the lily often seen on Kentucky Oaks Day. Churchill Downs honors breast cancer survivors on Oaks Day. For me, using the color in the stocking will always remind me of this time spent with my Dad; A time of courage and of love.

The purple color so familiar to Kansas State University graduates belongs in the home of two alumni. Perhaps their little one will attend school there. At any rate, the colors are favorites.

Tips for Felt Christmas Stocking Construction

Felt Broom with stitching for straw
Narrow handle cut on fold to eliminate stitching.

The stocking kit came with almost everything included. Construction is by hand-sewing not machine and a needle is provided along with the various colors of floss to correspond with the felt. Good lighting is suggested. Late one night I thought the pale pink floss was white.  But I don’t think the mistake is noticeable.

There have been a few do-overs. I re-cut one of the bird’s heads as well as the brim for the top hat. The kit has a bit of wiggle-room for mistakes, but not much. The biggest challenge for me is keeping the beads and sequins from scattering about. I can see a use for little plastic containers if one was to create many items like this.

I also purchased a small pair of really sharp scissors. The smaller pieces would be difficult if not impossible to cut with either large scissors or a rotary cutter. Many, many curved pieces are involved in the pattern. Also, when possible as with the broom handle, I placed the pattern on the fold thus eliminating a seam.

Art Therapy as Stress Relief

Several of my college cross-country teammates were psychology majors. I credit them with introducing the concept of using art as stress relief. New England winters were not always conducive to running a 10K to decompress.

An alternative is art. I am grateful for the felt Christmas stocking tradition. This craft-work is fulfilling the artistic fuel my body and brain need at this point in time. Concentrating on the instructions as well as adjusting the pattern to fit my expression of color is having a calming effect.

The change in stress levels is so dramatic that I think it may be a key to the anger and stress that rears up in our society today. Creativity and completing work with one’s own hands provides a feeling of accomplishment. This sentiment is a positive that counteracts the negative. Perhaps the simple action of creation and enjoyment in art can provide the stress relief needed in today’s world.

 

 

The Personality Brokers Book Review

I struggled with The Personality Brokers:The Strange History of Myers-Briggs And The Birth of Personality Testing written by Merve Emre. Biographies were my bread and butter as a grade-school reader. I have read several this year, although some were a bit fictionalized. The Personality Brokers is my least favorite. But I did not expect it to be.

Subject Matter

Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs-Myers are the subjects of The Personality Brokers. After suffering multiple miscarriages, the elder Briggs compensated by focusing on her only surviving child, Isabel. Emre provides great detail in the early successes of Katherine Briggs both as a mother and as a published writer.

The dual biography is also adept at giving the reader a glimpse of how the Myers-Briggs personality test sprang to life. Katherine Briggs is portrayed as a determined woman with eccentricities. The odd behavior is reflected in her studies of children other than Isabel as well as her infatuation with Jung’s philosophy as well as with Carl Jung himself. It was not surprising to discover her diagnosis of dementia.

Isabel Briggs-Myers survives her mother’s child-rearing experiments. But she does not escape the author’s contempt. Merve Emre depicts Isabel as a Jill of all trades and master of none. I think this is a bit harsh. Briggs-Myers developed the personality assessment mid-20th Century. While women were beginning to work outside the home in part due to WWII, it was by no means common. Briggs-Myers worked tirelessly to promote the typing still in use today.

Merve Emre

The author was previously unknown to me so I did a bit of research. She is an alumnus of both Harvard and Yale and currently attached to Oxford University as an Associate Professor. So her credentials are weighty.

Her background is in English. This explains why I can find no fault in the writing itself. My criticism stems from my belief that biographies are historical in nature. As such, I am uncomfortable with an author freely interjecting personal bias. Throughout The Personality Brokers, Emre shows disdain.  For example, after quoting Briggs-Myers from a letter comparing a need for personality evaluations and careers to the fit of shoes, Emre writes:

Here was a fairy tale with a perfectly modern twist—the glass slipper screened, scrutinize, and labeled before it ever touched Cinderella’s foot, the employer restless to find the right match; the whole thing an example of the same romantic capitalist pursuit that Adorno had denounced. (p.135)

A further glimpse into the motivations of the author is found in the final chapter. During a course to become certified in “type” in hopes of gaining access to personal papers of the mother-daughter duo she writes:

Other times I played an extreme version of my ENTJ self: Brash, snobby, impatient, cocksure, a real bitch. I wanted to see who I could irritate and, more telling, how the conflicts that might arise between me and my fellow types would be resolved. (p. 265)

The Personality Brokers

I plan to look for other books involving the subject matter of The Personality Brokers. Merve Emre did pique my interest in both the Myers-Briggs exam as well as the women behind the letters. I would like to discover more about the field as well as the individuals.

My experiences with the different types is limited. While I concede that Emre has legitimate criticisms of Myers-Briggs, I disagree with her tactics and conclusions. Literary criticism, or criticism of any type, when tied to an agenda, loses its’ bite.

Waiting and Wondering

Today is the day we finely get to meet the oncologist my Dad has been referred too. It seems like an eternity since the surgery. The waiting and wondering of the last two weeks is almost over. Naturally, there has been a bit of stress.

Dealing with Stress

However, our moods have been fairly upbeat. I attribute this to a couple of things. First, the day after the surgery he felt up to walking. So we did. But we took it easy. A fifteen minute saunter around the neighborhood would be a more apt description. The following day the walk lasted a few minutes longer.

Now Dad is back to his normal pace and time. Thirty minutes of walking at a good pace. Last night he walked on his own while I made an early dinner. He had a club meeting to go to.

He has not resumed lifting weights, but my guess is the surgeon will give the green light next week. The physical activity helps keep the spirits up. Plus, he believes it helps him sleep at night. Octogenarians benefit from exercise and good sleep too.

Family Support

A second positive during this period of waiting and wondering has been support from family and friends. My Dad’s siblings talk with each other on Sunday afternoons. I believe this tradition started when they were in college. For the oldest two, the college years took place in the 1950s. Long distance calls were not common and of course cell phones and their unlimited calling plans non-existent.

Fortunately, staying in touch these days is easier. So the phone calls have been more numerous. The brothers are commiserating since each is now battling cancer. Their younger sister is offering support through prayers and advice.

In my case, my biggest support is my husband. He flew down over the Veteran’s Day holiday. Even though the visit was brief, my spirits were buoyed. I just wish the distance wasn’t so great.

My kids have texted and called and my daughter-in-law has shared videos and pictures of the youngest member of the family. The little miss has mastered rolling over and cut her first tooth. Wonderful milestones to offset the waiting and wondering.

Friends

Support from friends played a big role during the last sixteen days since the surgical waiting room. On a couple of occasions my Dad joined friends for lunch. And he stays active in his Lodge meetings. He also continues to visit my Mom in the nursing home. Unfortunately, her dementia makes support from that quarter flighty at best.

Since my friends are distant, the support comes from phone calls, including a timely one yesterday regarding the purchase of Kentucky Oaks tickets. The email from Churchill Downs had gone to the Spam box. Fortunately, my time block to buy is later today. Kentucky Oaks Day highlights the fight against breast cancer. Survivors march along the track prior to the race for three year old fillies. I love Oaks Day. Attendance next year will be exceptionally meaningful.

Reading and Researching

Most of my reading the last two weeks has been via the Internet. Armed with preliminary lab reports from his mastectomy, I am reading mostly so I can follow the conversation he will have with the oncologist this afternoon. I am very grateful for the thorough website of the American Cancer Society. Male breast cancer is not common.

The waiting and wondering will continue after today’s appointment. But, I am hoping for an action plan of a sort. Obviously more testing will be done to see if other areas of the body have been affected.

I am not sure how much fighting my Dad will do. Side effects of cancer treatment vary by type as well as by the individual. Whatever decisions he makes, I will support. It is the least I can do.

Breast Cancer Ribbon
Not for Women Only

 

 

 

The Defector Book Review

I found The Defector by Daniel Silva intense. In fact the further into the book, the harder it was to put down. It was the first book I have read by Silva. If any of you follow Silva closely, you may have read the novel a decade ago. Since the book is over 450 pages and upon my dad’s bookcase, The Defector was the perfect companion for my week of waiting rooms and just plain waiting.

Book Series

The Defector is part of a book series. The series revolves around Israeli spy, Gabriel Allon. This particular thriller has a very large cast of characters. Indeed, I was a bit lost at first. Perhaps a reader needs to be more familiar with the series. Regardless, I found the story entertaining and I am glad it was close at hand.

Revenge for The Defector

The plot line revolves around the disappearance of the defector Grigori Bulganov. Unlike most men in hiding, Grigori flaunted his presence in London. Thus it was easy for the Russians behind his kidnapping to trick the Brits into believing a re-defection occurred.

However, Gabriel Allon did not fall for the ploy. He sets out to find the truth and the cloak and dagger commences. The twists and turns of the story were only outnumbered by the bodies left in the Israeli spy’s wake.

As referenced above, I believe reading the earlier novels would have helped. Silva does try to weave previous books into the narrative. But, I personally needed more. The large cast of characters demands a familiarity by the reader. One that I did not have.

Revenge is a great motivator. In The Defector both sides of the fight are driven by this most dangerous of emotions. As a consequence many lives are lost. The deaths are brutal but I did not find the writing too graphic. It is designed for entertainment with just a bit of politics thrown in. And lots of action.

Daniel Silva

Even though the novel is set in the 21st Century, Silva likens the fictional Russian government to the post-monarchy dictators and revolutionists of the early 20th Century. While a few scenes take place upon American soil, the bulk of the story occurs east of the Atlantic Ocean.

Silva’s writing subtly and not so subtly hints at the true differences between socialist and capitalist countries. He pulls no punches. Even a first time reader easily discerns his political leanings. In this respect Silva reminds me of the late (and in my mind, great) writer Helen MacInnes. Both write strong plot driven spy novels with plenty of twists and turns. Furthermore, both are unabashed proponents of freedom.

I am not sure how I have missed Daniel Silva’s previous novels. Granted thousands of books are published each year, but I should have discovered this series long ago. I enjoyed The Defector. Now I need to check out his previous works.

Book Cover of Daniel Silva's The Defector

 

 

 

October 2019 Wrap-Up

The October 2019 Wrap-Up showcases a roller coaster month with many highs and lows. But that seems to be the status quo for me. In fact a long time ago, a wise man told me that life had to have a few low points in order to enjoy the good times. Perhaps living on the High Plains offers the steadiness I crave in response to the path my life takes.

October 2019 In the Garden

The big garden is only partially ready for winter. Unexpected trips back East made it difficult to complete all the chores before the snows began to arrive. Garlic was not planted nor were the onion seeds I like to put out in order to have an early spring crop. However, I think there will be some self-sowed plants popping up next March.

I am quite worried about the trees and bushes in the yard, especially the old peach tree. The late September freeze was harmful. Extreme temperature swings have happened before and it never bodes well for the vegetation. The yard is stressed when a high of 92 degrees Fahrenheit is followed by a low of 14 degrees just 36 hours later. The last time this happened there was a lot of winter kill.

Bumpiest Ride Ever

Both spring and fall are accompanied by severe weather here in the United States. In the fall months, one often experiences the cold fronts sweeping down from the Arctic. Toward the end of the month on the way to Kentucky, my flight encountered turbulence. The type where you definitely needed a seat belt on.

Catching up on my Twitter feed a few days later, confirmed that the bumpy ride was not unique to the plane I was on. Bumpiest flight ever was posted on multiple accounts. I am very grateful the plane landed safely and amazed at the skills needed to operate these flying machines. But, I can definitely see the appeal for a better connected train system.

October 2019 Hobbies

Acrylic Painting from a Mountainside down to the Plains
A New Perspective

Just a few years ago, I began dabbling in acrylic paints. I was at a conference with my husband and the wives had a break-out wine and paint session. I loved how relaxing it was, and not because of the wine. So, I set-up a small work space in the front room of my house.

The latest painting is finished. It is the first that I have a name for-View of the Plains. Since I usually paint the mountains in the background, I thought I would reverse the scene. It was quite difficult. I have a long way to go in my development and really need to focus on the correct techniques. But I find the painting a wonderful avenue for expression. I just wish I had the talent of my great-great grandmother.

Waiting is the Hardest

We are still awaiting the final lab report from my Dad’s surgery. Unfortunately, the early test confirms the presence of cancer cells in the breast. Now we wait to see how advanced the disease is.

Serendipitous is the word that comes to mind regarding the timing of events. October 2019 saw many groups getting out the message concerning the early detection of breast cancer. Furthermore, support for those afflicted is everywhere.

Pink is everywhere. I am not sure when the colored ribbons for various cancers began, but the pink color has been adopted by sports players to T.V. announcers to paramedics and businesses. Many media outlets ran stories concerning this disease. I am particularly appreciative to CBS, my Dad’s go-to source of information. Their highlighting of male breast cancer was very helpful. Now we just wait.

Observations and Thoughts From a Surgical Waiting Room

Breast Cancer Ribbon
Not for Women Only

Surgery is difficult for both the patient and those in the waiting room. Some waiting rooms have more tension in them than others. A waiting room for elective surgery for example does not throw off the same stressed out vibes as one reserved for emergency room surgeries. But you find a mix of personalities in both.

Unfortunately, I have been in more than my share of surgical waiting rooms. So I have experienced both the life and death feeling as well as the mere anxiety that something could go wrong even with a fairly healthy patient. I tend to be the quiet one waiting in a corner. Although one time I was the only one waiting. Hospitals always have some level of noise in the background.

Elective Surgery

Today I am waiting on an “elective” surgery patient. But many, especially during this month of breast cancer awareness, would question the term elective. Unfortunately, a close member of my family found a lump in the right breast. It is being removed as a type. At 31 mm it is somewhat size-able. Why was it not found in a routine mammogram? Because most men do not undergo routine scans.

Yes, a male member of the family is having a tumor removed. I am thankful that during this month of breast cancer awareness, various media outlets including CBS, stressed that men can get breast cancer. This spotlight motivated the patient to not put off getting help.

Obviously, at this point in time I do not know if the tumor is cancerous. His doctors were in agreement that the lump needed to come out regardless of unknown toxicity. The needle biopsy that can be a prelude to removal was skipped. Perhaps the family history played a part in this. Or a belief that a quickly growing tumor needs to come out before it causes problems.

Waiting Room Patient Confidentiality

Back to the observations. This particular waiting room uses numbers instead of names to give the standard updates of when a patient goes into surgery or is in recovery. The numbers are displayed on a screen similar to those that show arrivals and departures at an airport. Instead of comments such as On Time and Delayed, this board posted Pre-op, Procedure-In-Progress and Recovery alongside a long number. Only the patient’s family knew which number represented their loved one.

There is a mixture of singletons as well as clusters of families waiting to hear the magical words that the patient is in recovery. Additionally, several languages fill the room. Along with the snores. More than one individual has fallen asleep. Not surprising since most of the same day surgeries require an early check-in. I woke the patient at 5 A.M. in order to make the drive for a 6:30 arrival and a ten in the morning surgery. The process is lengthy which can add to the stress.

Final Thoughts

In my case, I am not as worried about the procedure as I am about the final diagnosis. For an eighty year old, my Dad is in fantastic shape. He still lifts weights and exercises regularly. So the surgery should go well.

It is the findings that are concerning. Cancer or no cancer? If cancerous how far along? Difficult when you are the only surviving child. So many decisions to be made by the patient. So many by the caregiver. I am hoping for the best case scenario. Only time will tell.

 

 

Board Books at Halloween and Anytime

Alphabet book highlighting fruits and VegetablesThis weekend I will spend some time with the youngest member of the family. So I have picked out a handful of board books that I think will entertain. Youngsters can enjoy books from a very young age and board books are perfect for chubby hands as well as drooling mouths.

Halloween Board Books

Since Halloween is just around the corner, two of the four books are holiday related. The first of these is titled Peek-A-Boo. It is published by Simon & Schuster under their Little Simon imprint. This is truly a board book for the very young with virtually little writing but lots of drawing. Ellen Appleby is the illustrator. Each page has a different type of Halloween costume. This book is a great way to prepare little ones for their first Trick-or-Treat experience.

The second book could easily be attacked by the anti-capitalist crowd, but I love it. The Cheerios Halloween Play Book is another production by Little Simon. Lee Wade is the author. This Halloween-themed board book has an interactive component. Each page spread asks the child to fill in empty spots with Cheerios. I only wish this book had been available when I had toddlers at home.

Instructional Board Books

The remaining two board books are among my favorites. The first is one of the alphabet books I reviewed earlier. Click here to read that post. Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert is one of the Red Wagon Books by Harcourt Brace and Company. I have owned it for over twenty years and it was a favorite of my youngest child.

Each letter of the alphabet is represented by one or more healthy, delicious fruits or vegetables to eat. The author manages to creatively portray an edible item even for the “difficult” letters. I consider Eating the Alphabet a classic. Every home should own a copy.

The final selection is simply titled the horse. The book was originally published in Italy. The author is Emanuela Bussolati with illustrations by Carlo A. Michelini. This board book is more advanced with the text.

Basic information about horses is given regarding the types of horses, their markings, as well as how to care for them. The author shows the many places horses live and the type of jobs they perform. This is a perfect book to read before visiting a ranch, farm or even a race track.

Books All Life Long

I believe books are an important part of life. So, board books have an integral place in the family home. Occasionally, they do fall apart. But many others can last for decades and for multiple generations. Those like Peek-A-Boo are primarily an early introduction to words or themes. But others, like the horse impart far more information.

All have a place in the home library. Reading to a child, even one that has yet to form words, is an essential first step toward education. Learning is more than attending school. While one can learn without reading, the written word makes life for most of us so much easier.

If you have an infant in your life, buy them a board book. Read to them and let them handle the pages. Board books are the first step in a journey that should last a lifetime.

Four Board books
Four Favorites

 

Green Tomato Pickle Relish Recipe

Econogal’s Green Tomato Pickle Relish

Since I had an overabundance of green tomatoes at the end of this year’s growing season, I tried several new recipes. One that I am sharing today is for a Green Tomato Pickle Relish. I found the handwritten recipe in one of my recipe boxes and so have no idea of the origin. I tweaked it a bit as well.

This mostly sweet relish does have small super-hot peppers placed in the bottom of the jar along with a fat garlic clove. This can be modified to suit your preferences. The prep requires an overnight draining period so planning is essential.

My stock of cheesecloth was depleted so I substituted coffee filters to make the Bouquet garni of spice seeds. This trick is a great time saver. I used two coffee filters, filled with the spices and then twisted the top and secured with kitchen string.

Spices wrapped in coffee filters to make a bouquet garni
Shortcut to make a bouquet garni

The Prep

The recipe calls for finely chopped vegetables so I used a food processor instead of chopping by hand. While this cut down on the prep time, it still took about 45 minutes to chop 10 cups of green tomatoes, 2 cups of green peppers and 2 cups of onion. But the prep time the following morning was almost nil.

In the morning, drain the vegetables while bringing the liquid mixture to a boil. Add vegetables and return to the boiling point then quickly remove from heat.  Place garlic glove and two small hot peppers in the bottom of each jar. Then you are ready to can and process.

2 hot peppers and a garlic glove at the bottom of a canning jar
Place peppers and garlic in bottom before adding green tomatoes.

Maybe a total of 45 minutes is needed on the second day. So the entire time of actual prep and cooking is an hour and a half divided by an overnight rest in between. Makes 7 pints.

Ingredients for Green Tomato Pickle Relish

About 5 lbs. Green Tomatoes finely chopped to make 10 cups chopped

5-6 Green Sweet Pepper finely chopped for 2 cups chopped

2 lbs Onions finely chopped for 2 cups chopped

½ cup canning salt

1 quart Cider Vinegar

2 Cups Sugar

2 Tbs. Mustard seed

1 tsp whole cloves

7 large garlic cloves

14 small hot red peppers

2 paper coffee filters

Instructions for Green Tomato Pickle Relish

Day One: Finely chop tomatoes, peppers and onions. Sprinkle with canning salt and let sit overnight.

Day Two: Drain vegetables. Make a bouquet garni by placing mustard seed and cloves in the center of doubled coffee filters. spices wrapped in a coffee filter to make a bouquet garniTwist shut and secure by tying string around the top. Combine vinegar and sugar in a non-reactive stock pot. Add bouquet garni and bring to a boil. Remove the bouquet garni then add vegetables and return to the boiling point. Immediately remove from heat and pour into hot, sterilized jars. Add lids and bands and then process in a water bath for ten minutes. Add appropriate time if you live at altitude.

This green tomato pickle relish is great served over hot dogs or bratwurst as well as alongside roasted meats. Enjoy!

Green tomatoes in a food processor
Finely chopping green tomatoes is easy using a food processor.

 

 

Lights All Night Long Book Review

New literary voices are fun to discover. Lydia Fitzpatrick’s debut novel Lights All Night Long will appeal to readers of multiple genres. Unsolved murders lurk in the background of this novel exploring contemporary issues.

Exchange Student

The protagonist is high school exchange student Ilya Alexandrovich from a remote part of Russia. The town is connected to an energy company which arranges exchanges of students to a Louisiana town also revolving around an energy company. Hence the title Lights All Night Long.

Fitzpatrick utilizes flashback chapters to explain how and why Ilya arrives with a burden. The change of location keeps the story line straight. But there are many similarities between the two towns which reach far beyond the refineries. One could substitute for the other.

Contemporary Issues

The author subtly presents the split between students who become engaged in learning and those that fall prey to outside sources. There is a large presence of drugs in both towns and the writer successfully demonstrates the many forces involved in drug abuse. Along with the use of drugs and alcohol, the novel touches upon teen sex as an outgrowth of the disengagement of students from school activities.

Murder Plot

Entwined with the story of Ilya and his brother Vladimir are a series of brutal murders. A major twist occurs when Vladimir confesses to the crimes. But Ilya does not believe the confession. Furthermore, he is determined to prove the confession was coerced.

Lights All Night Long in America

Ilya’s exchange family is given the contemporary stereotype of Evangelical Christians. But the oldest child, Sadie, does not quite fit in. Yet, she has her own reasons for staying out of the hardcore drug scene.

Between Ilya and Sadie, Fitzpatrick demonstrates through the actions of her characters the close binds of family. Both youngsters rise above the drug drenched culture found in many places today. But both are loyal to those captured by drug addiction.

Lights All Night Long is an excellent debut novel. The chapter flashbacks are a key part of the story. Lydia Fitzpatrick does a good job of moving the story along during the flashbacks and the current day chapters. The twists and turns in the murder plot keep the reader turning the pages.

But what I liked best about the book were the characters. At first glimpse many seem stereotypical. But they are not. Each develops into a complex human being. Perfection does not exist, but neither does total failure. Above all, there is love.

 

 

 

Overload of Green Tomatoes

Table full of produce harvested just before a killing frost
An abundance of green tomatoes

The big freeze last week left me with an overload of green tomatoes. Many of them are ripening while just sitting on the dining room table. But I need alternatives. So, I started searching through my recipe boxes. Family recipes are the best. Especially those handed down from generation to generation just like in the novel I reviewed, The Recipe Box.

At one time I used a recipe written down by a neighbor to make Green Tomato Jam. However, it used canned pineapple from the grocery store and lots of sugar. I also have a good green tomato relish recipe. Currently, it is at the top of the list for using up the tomatoes.

Online Recipes

While the green tomato relish makes a great presentation as a Christmas gift, I have a lot of tomatoes. So I started searching the Internet for recipes. One of my favorite recipe websites belongs to Deb Perelman. If you have yet to discover Smitten Kitchen take a look.

Another site I frequently visit is The Spruce Eats. I am very tempted to try the Green Tomato Cake recipe. Some days you just feel like having sweets. Actually, quite a few recipes from the posting 15 Fabulous Green Tomato Recipes are calling out to me.

Ripening Green Tomatoes

Quite a few of the tomatoes are turning red. We are enjoying the heirloom slicing tomatoes. In addition to processing a bunch of the green tomatoes today, I plan to dehydrate a batch of Romas that have ripened.

It is nearing the end of the canning season for me. Although my favorite Small-Batch Preserving recipe book boasts of year-round production, I hang up my processing hat shortly after the first freeze. To be honest, the cooler weather pulls me toward the quilting room instead of the kitchen. But, first I need to can the green tomatoes.

The World That We Knew Book Review

Cover of The World That We Knew

 

Alice Hoffman has long been a favorite of my offspring. So, when I saw The World That We Knew perched on the new arrivals at the local library I picked it up. I am so glad that I did. The book is moving.

World War II

The Second World War is the backdrop of Hoffman’s novel. The story opens in Berlin. A mother is torn between getting her 12 year old daughter to safety outside of Germany and honoring her duties to her own mother. In the end she stays in Berlin while arranging for the safe passage of her young daughter.

The safety factor is a golem. This mystical creature of Jewish lore is created by the daughter of a revered rabbi. Ettie is the rabbi’s daughter. She violates many traditions creating the golem. The price she charges is two train tickets so she and a younger sister can also flee the Nazi’s.

The World That We Knew

Ettie and her sister and young Lea and her guardian golem leave their old world behind. The novel follows their separate paths until they again merge. The reader experiences the terrors of the Third Reich through these protagonists. But the characters that will steal your heart are the Levi brothers.

Hoffman shows how class systems and age differences break down during wars. Furthermore, she explores the responsibilities of parents and the connections made by blood and love. Each character, including that of the golem, face soul-searching decisions. Life or death decisions. The World That We Know explores how often sheer chance weighs into decision making.

Good vs. Evil

Finally, the novel showcases good vs. evil. The Nazi’s were truly evil and Hoffman makes that clear. But, she also shows the struggles of those who are inherently good when they choose immoral actions to combat the evil.

I know there are many novels on the market with World War II as the setting. This is an excellent account. It is fiction, but I believe the book portrays the resistance in France accurately. The World That We Know is a worthy addition to any library, public or private.

Paradox Book Review

The latest Savich and Sherlock FBI thriller from Catherine Coulter that I have read is Paradox. Since these two characters are among my very favorites, it is only fair to warn you I may be biased. Nonetheless, I think Paradox is worth reading. There are plenty of psychological components to make it a thriller.

Coulter’s opening scene captures your attention. There is a break-in and an unknown man is found looming above a sleeping Sean Savich. His mom, FBI agent Lacey Sherlock, interrupts the kidnapping. The couple, familiar to many readers, race to discover the identity of the would-be kidnapper of their son Sean.

Parallel Stories

Simultaneously, Chief Ty Christie witnesses a murder from her back deck. She is helpless to do anything but watch since the event takes place in the middle of the lake. Coulter melds the two stories into one in prime fashion.

Christie is the protagonist for the parallel story line. Coulter does a good job with her character. She becomes a friend more than a love interest to another key character. This is refreshing.

Paradox

A paradox is a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement that when investigated may prove well-founded or true according to my online dictionary. There are multiple instances of paradox in this novel. All but one proved easy to understand.

People act against or outside their personality for a variety of reasons. Coulter is masterful at manipulating the actions of characters both main and secondary in ways that are paradoxical throughout Paradox. The title truly fits the story.

Earlier editions of the FBI series which featured Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock coupled thrills with steamy romantic scenes. Perhaps because the two are a married couple, Coulter has toned the action down quite a bit.

Furthermore, the relationship Ty Christie engages in does not meet the criteria needed to make Paradox a romance as much as a thriller. The book’s focus is that of a thriller joined with a bit of the paranormal and a hefty dose of psychotic killers. A good book to read- but perhaps not just before you sleep.

 

September 2019 Wrap-Up

The month of September 2019 flew by. Two conferences, one in Billings, Montana and one in Vail, Colorado created havoc with scheduling. Furthermore, the garden once again provided an abundance of produce. So, it was tough to squeeze in time to read.

September 2019 Travel

I expected to see lots of color change in both Montana and Colorado as both conferences were in the second half of the month. But that was not the case. I am glad my primary goal focused on the conferences and not sightseeing.

The last time I visited Billings was back in the spring of 1985. Much has changed. The population is close to double. My visit included visits to both Montana State University-Billings and Rocky Mountain College. Both institutions of higher learning were very impressive.

The Vail trip included information on detecting incidents and breaches with respect to online activity. One break-out session reiterated the importance of unique passwords. Please read my post on passwords by clicking here.

Fall colors were almost non-existent in Billings and in the early stages at Vail. Higher elevations in both states displayed more of the typical color I expected. Unfortunately, my October schedule will not include travel to see fall color.

September 2019 Garden

The big garden as I like to refer to my raised row garden is growing like gang busters. The only crop not living up to expectations are the beans. The runner beans have put out a mass of flowers but not much in the way of fruit.

The root crops are great. An abundance of garlic is in storage in the basement. Pickled beet jars line the pantry. The onions were combined with tomatoes and peppers to make the family recipe salsa. This salsa is always gone by February. Additional tomatoes not eaten fresh are used for spaghetti sauce.

Eggplant has also produced well this year. We have fried them and made multiple batches of eggplant parmigiana. I also canned some eggplant in a Lemon Basil Eggplant Caponata. This is a multi-use dish. We had the Caponata atop noodles, but rice works too. Plus, I think it would make a great spread for crackers or bread.

September 2019 Books

I struggled to finish books to review this month. Part of this was due to the above mentioned items. Additionally, I have spent time on fall cleaning. But the month did bring a review of Things You Save in a Fire which I highly recommend. This past weekend I finished two books on my night stand so check in on Friday for another review.

Foreclosure Re-model

A lot of my spare time has been spent coordinating long-distance on the re-model of a foreclosure. The storms in the Atlantic delayed a tile shipment-still not here. So, we chose an alternative. Of course this changes other selections.

I am anxious to see the progress in person and plan to make a trip back to Florida soon. I could use a break from the Central Plains heat and from canning! Plus, I can check on my family member with Alzheimer’s.

I hope all of you had a productive month! My September 2019 was quite eventful. Thanks for reading.

Wired Book Review

Julie Garwood is known for her romance novels. Earlier novels had historical settings. But she has moved into the 21st Century. Recently, I read Wired and it revolves around computer hacking. The protagonist is Allison Trent, a Boston College student and computer geek extraordinaire. And a hacker. But, mostly to do good deeds.

Liam Scott is FBI. He needs a hacker. Someone, somewhere is putting agents at risk. Allison Trent fills the bill. So he arranges to meet her. His offer of employment cannot be refused.

Wired Attraction

The pair share a natural attraction. Thus, only a small bit of the plot revolves around the romantic tensions. Furthermore, this is not a sweet romance. So early on the question of will they end up in bed is answered.

Instead, Garwood focuses on the dangers to Allison Trent. Multiple people have it in for her. She thinks she can handle everything on her own. For the most part she can. But, Liam does come to the rescue a time or two. Garwood handles this in a way as not to offend women. Allison is not a scatterbrained character. But she has issues. She is way too forgiving.

The technology is vague. Perhaps Garwood does this on purpose. Other than sharing with the reader that her protagonist is a coder and a hacker, details are omitted. Technology is changing rapidly, so this keeps the story from dating itself. After all it is mostly a romance. As the reader, you know who is good and who is not right from the start. Thus, not a suspense.

I have read many of Garwood’s books, although it has been awhile since I have read a new one. Some are favorites to be read over and over. I enjoyed Wired. But I consider it to be in the good category. Definitely worth reading, but perhaps not compelling enough to re-read multiple times.

 

 

Things You Save in a Fire Book Review

I have waited all year to be moved by a book. Katherine Center achieved that feat with her latest book Things You Save in a Fire. The novel has much to offer. First, an understanding of how tough women must be to excel in a male dominated industry. Furthermore, the strength needed to survive abandonment and the courage to keep going after a sexual assault. But most importantly, the importance of forgiveness.

This is the first book I have read by Center. If the others are even half as good, I am in for a treat. I plan to read them as well. This is a must for your TBR (To Be Read) list! The writing is surpassed only by the characterization. Truly a great book.

Non-Traditional Career

Cassie Hanwell is the heroine of the book. She is a twenty-six year old firefighter, top notch first responder and an outstanding medic to boot. Perfect on the job. Perfect for the job. Until she is caught off guard at an awards banquet. In a #MeToo moment, she loses it when groped while accepting her award for valor. Loses it in a big way. As in puts the offender in the hospital. Obviously there is far more to the story since the “victim” refuses to press charges.

Nevertheless, it is the end of Cassie’s meteoric rise in the Austin Fire Department. Coincidently, her estranged mother seizes that moment to plead for help. She has had eye surgery and needs her daughter’s help. Unwillingly, Cassie agrees to make the move. It is the lesser of two evils she is presented with.

On her way out the door, her veteran captain gives her a long list of dos and don’ts. Things she will need in the unfriendly atmosphere of a less progressive fire station. Things the captain experienced herself. Cassie takes the list to heart, for multiple reasons.

New Beginnings

Cassie gets off to a rocky start in her new surroundings. Her mom pushes for a relationship that Cassie isn’t ready for. Plus, her new workplace is full of pitfalls. Cassie is determined to prove herself. And she does again and again. But, the crew does not want anything to do with a female firefighter. With one exception. The Rookie. He shares the first day on the job with Cassie. Then he shares so much more.

Forgiveness

The underlying theme of Things You Save in a Fire is one of forgiveness. Cassie needs to forgive both herself and others. This is a compelling part of the story. One cannot develop as a human without this basic component of life. Center does an outstanding job of demonstrating what, when, who and how to forgive. The other topics, non-traditional work roles, parent-child estrangement, assault and addiction are just the backdrop for the importance of forgiveness.

Book Cover

Katherine Center entertains with her novel Things You Save in a Fire. But she does so much more. She addresses the need for women in male-dominated fields. Furthermore, she addresses the biases toward those same women. She recognizes how women go overboard to prove themselves in those fields.

But she takes the story a step further. She explores old hurts and what it takes to heal. Then she shows the importance of forgiveness and the need to be forgiving in order to free oneself to live. And to love.

I absolutely loved this story. The characters touch your heart and so does the author’s message. I am sure Things You Save in a Fire will make my best read books of 2019 list. Find a copy soon.

 

 

Periodicals Can Pack a Punch

Check-out Stand Periodicals

Since retiring, much of my reading has been fiction. I still read non-fiction. Usually, the non-fiction material is found on the new books stand at my local library. But every once in a while I fall prey to the supermarket check-out stand. One can find periodicals of all kinds tempting one while waiting in line to make a purchase.

Recently, among the periodicals was Discovering the Way to a Smarter Brain. To catch my attention even further were titles of articles How the Brain Can Mend Your Mind and Body and The Myths of Male and Female Brains. So I naturally succumbed to the pressure.

BBC or Immediate Media Company Bristol Limited-Publisher?

The surprising thing about this periodical is the absence of ownership. I think the publishing company is either the BBC or an affiliate. If you input the website given below the editorial information www.sciencefocus.com the opening page clearly indicates the BBC involvement. But the magazine itself is copyrighted by Immediate Media Company Bristol Limited. Perhaps the magazine is a joint effort. Either way, it is a winner. Not all periodicals are.

Discovering the Way to a Smarter Brain has 98 pages chock full of information about this important organ. The periodical begins with a brief history of brain research. Then the articles run the gamut from the anatomy of the brain to artificial intelligence. While topics in Neuroscience comprised two thirds of the issue, articles in the categories Mental Health and Future Minds enjoyed more than just a passing mention.

Written for the Common Man

The best part of the magazine to me was the ease of reading. Many of the topics discussed were out there as far as concept, but the editors and writers did a great job with the writing. The average person gains an understanding of this complex material. The articles captured my attention and provided references to the scientific research for those wanting a deeper explanation.

The cost makes me wish my library was a subscriber, but pinpointing the company behind the issue might be a tad bit tricky. Even more difficult is the possibility that the topics of the published periodicals might be random. I might find this release fascinating yet have no interest in the next. Nonetheless, I found the money used to buy Discovering the Way to a Smarter Brain well spent.

 

 

The Book Charmer Book Review

Every once in a while I want a book to escape in, so I can leave stress behind. I found The Book Charmer perfect for my needs. This delightful novel by Karen Hawkins provided an afternoon of pleasurable reading. The characters were easy to like and the plot straightforward if predictable.

Multiple Back Stories

There are three central characters in the book. Sarah Dove and Travis Parker are life-long next door neighbors in Dove Pond, North Carolina. The third character, Grace Wheeler has arrived in Dove Pond with the intention of staying just a year. All three neighbors form bonds albeit with reluctance on Grace’s part.

Key to the formation of friendship is dementia. Travis’ dad passed away from the disease and Grace’s foster mom is rapidly deteriorating. The two grudgingly work through initial dislike aided by this common ground. Furthermore, Grace’s orphaned niece brings the battle-scarred vet and overwhelmed guardian together.

Book Charmer

Sarah Dove is the book charmer. She brings a touch of mysticism to the story. Books talk to her and she listens.

As a member of the founding family of Dove Pond she has strong ties to the area. Unfortunately, Dove Pond is in decline. When a book whispers to her that Grace can save the town, Sarah does everything she can to entice Grace to stay beyond the short term.

Contemporary Topics

In addition to the backstory of dementia, Hawkins touches on the state of the foster system. Grace’s determination to raise her niece stems from her own experience as an orphan. Back flashes explain how and why Grace is so attached to her own foster mother, Mama G. Thus her willingness to leave her city job for small town life in hopes of easing the confusion of dementia makes sense to the reader.

An additional topic that is touched on is the overdose death of Grace’s sister. But, despite all of these difficult topics, The Book Charmer leaves the reader in an upbeat mood. The efforts of Sarah, Grace and others give Dove Pond the spark it needs. Plus, the development of friendship between the characters showcases the power of relationships even among those hiding or running from the past.

I loved reading The Book Charmer. Readers can escape for a few hours of pure fiction. This was the first Karen Hawkins novel I have read but it certainly won’t be the last. I look forward to more in the series.

 

Econogal Replaces a Power Button Board

Recently, the power button on my HP Envy x 360 stopped working. After removing a computer keyboard for the first time ever, I discovered a hardware problem. A key component of my power button had sheared off interrupting the connection. For the last few days I literally had to open up the computer and hold the broken piece in place in order for the power button to function.

So, the arrival of the replacement part came none too soon. I ordered the GinTai Power Button Board Replacement for HP X360 774599-001 15-u 15-u001xx 15-u002xx 15-u010dx 15-u011dx 15-u050ca 15-u000 15-u110dx 15-u111dx 15-u170ca 15-u100 15-u200 CTO last week through Amazon. Click here if you need to order a replacement board.

Do It Yourself

To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive with the idea of a DIY when it came to replacing the internal part of a computer. But, I am serious about creating new brain connections and I believe learning new things helps make new connections. New connections are important for Brain Health. So, I searched articles and watched videos until I felt comfortable attempting the replacement of the power button board.

There were some considerations made before deciding to attempt the replacement. First, I backed up files, folders, pictures and the like before starting anything. Second, I was prepared to replace the computer if I irreparably damaged the computer. These are things everyone should think about.

Having said that, I found replacing the power button board on my HP Envy x 360 one of the easiest repairs I have made in a long time. Furthermore, the satisfaction was tremendous. (Remember I grudgingly belong to the Baby Boom Generation.) Replacing a computer part and having the computer still function is an absolute thrill.

So, I thought I would share a step by step tutorial on how I replaced a power button board. Keep in mind I am not an authorized repair person. So, this is just for those willing to take the risk. And it is your risk.

Power Button Board Replacement

Step One

Remove the keyboard. To do this, you actually start on the back/bottom of the laptop. Tiny screws rim the outside of the back. There are also six screws with covers. Two small ovals mid-back. Remove both as well as the screws beneath. There are also four round circles. The two circles nearest the hinges are safe to remove both the covers and the screws underneath.

Bottom side of HP Envy x 360
Back of Laptop

But do not touch the bottom two circles nor their corresponding screws!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Back side of laptop with a warning not to remove to specific screws
Do not remove the two lower circle covers nor the screws beneath.

 

Step Two

Once the screws are removed, carefully flip the laptop upright. Then gently pry up the keyboard. You will only be able to lift it an inch or so because several connector ribbons. First you need to remove these connectors, including the battery connector by gently lifting up on the connecting bar. Once all are disconnected, carefully place the keyboard cover on a nearby flat surface.

Connector ribbons inside a laptop
The white and gold ribbons connect the keyboard cover to the Laptop

Step 3

Another connector ribbon ties the power button board to the motherboard. Disconnect this in the same way by lifting up the connecting bar. Then I carefully moved the end of the ribbon out of the way of the power button board.

Connected ribbon and power button board
Close-up of ribbon connector and power button board

Lifting bar connecting ribbon
Lifting bar connecting ribbon

Connector ribbon tucked aside
Gently fold connector ribbon out of the way

Step 4

The circuit board for the power button rests upon two posts that resemble a plus sign a bit more than an x. A single screw holds the board in place. Once this screw is removed, the board easily lifts out. Then the new board can be positioned over the two posts. If the new circuit board does not slide down the posts so that the two posts are slightly above the level of the board, you may need to apply a very, very slight bit of pressure.

Power Button Board
Power Button Board ready for removal

Small phillips head screwdriver removing screw
Remove screw from power button board

New power button board
New power button board

Step 5

Now it is time to begin re-assembly. Replace the screw that attaches the power button board. Do not over-tighten.

replaced screw in power button board
Replaced screw

Step 6

Reattach the connector ribbon.

Re-attaching connector ribbon to power button board
Reattach the connector ribbon

Step 7 (Optional)

I took the opportunity to remove some dust with Q Tips.

Step 8

Reattach the four ribbons connecting the keyboard cover to the internal machine. Now test your power button. It should power up the laptop.

Reattaching Keyboard Ribbon connectors
Reattaching Keyboard ribbon connectors

Screen from laptop powered on
Successful powering from newly installed power button board

Step 9

Gently press the keyboard back onto the case.

Step 10

Flip the laptop over and replace all screws and all covers which includes the 2 circles near the hinges as well as the two small oblongs in the middle.

Replacing exterior screws with small screwdriver
Replace exterior screws

 

I realize my terminology may be incorrect. But this process worked for me. If you have any concerns about replacing this part or are not willing to risk messing up your computer beyond use, I suggest you find a computer repair person. Also, check and see if this would void any warranty. My warranty expired a long time ago, so I had nothing to lose.

Nonetheless, I found this repair quite simple. And very satisfying. I am adding some additional photos below. I wanted you to see which part of the power button board broke. This tiny piece of hardware is actually responsible for my newest learned skill.

New power button board above broken circuit board
Comparison of new and broken circuit boards

ner circuit board
Close up of new circuit board with critical piece center top

 

 

 

August 2019 Wrap-Up and Labor Day Greetings

August 2019 was long, hot and eventful. So eventful that this is just now posting on Labor Day. Of course, that means the calendar has moved to September. Such is life when one is busy. Enjoy this August 2019 Wrap-Up!

August 2019 Wrap-Up

Road Trip

A road trip to the East Coast and back took up over half of the month. It was a quasi-business trip so no time to sight see. But plenty of time to observe. Since it is summer time in the Northern Hemisphere, lots and lots of road construction all along the way. However, that was not the only construction.

Small towns and big cities alike appear to be adding restaurants, stores, houses and apartments. Of particular note is the new trend of Big Box complexes. For those of you in other countries, a Big Box complex is a variation of a strip mall. Stores such as Home Depot or Best Buy anchor an area of restaurants and smaller retailers. Lots of choices for the shopper or one looking for a place to eat.

Of course no trip across country is complete without a stop at a Buccee’s. This gas station on steroids is geared toward travelers in cars. Semi-trucks are limited to the refueling tankers. Of interest to me, was the fact that attached to the fuel tanks were Help Wanted signs complete with information on pay. As you can see by the picture, the starting rates are above minimum wage. Yet another indicator of current economics.

Image of a help wanted sign
Looking for employees

Foreclosure Project

The long road trip allowed me to transport some building supplies and equipment. The newest project is coming along. In addition to finding specialized contractors for the AC, plumbing, electrical and roof repairs, we are using a general contractor for much of the work.

Econogal using a jackhammer to break tile floor
Breaking up the tile

However, we did get in on some of the deconstruction. Removing the existing tile from the kitchen floor was quite a chore. Taking the cabinets out required care since each came with under cabinet lighting. The wainscoting in the formal areas was actually a thick cardboard made to look like wood on one side. But the ancient and painted wood paneling in the fireplace room was the real deal. It too is no longer present.

The walls are down and the preliminary work is done on expanding the kitchen. I am looking forward to seeing everything progress. A walk-in pantry will anchor a peninsula with enough space for cooking and eating.

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment was the successful trapping and relocation of the armadillo making a home too close for comfort. These animals cannot be lured with bait. Thus it took a few days for the animal to wander into the cage.

Armadillo
Cute but destructive.

Armadillo in a cage
Ready for a new home

 

Spider Update

For the faithful readers of this blog, the mystery of the spider is partially resolved. After releasing Mystery of the Resident Spider (Click here to read) I patiently watched as the spider “ate” its web. Research leads me to believe the spider belongs to the Orb family of arachnids. They take their webs down each day.

We enjoyed the spider for the better part of a week. Then a new mystery. A double web stayed and stayed. But no spider. The only clue was a small bit of a down feather caught in the web. My best guess is the circle of life continues.

 

In the Garden

Meanwhile, the garden continues to produce. But, the successes are not the same as last year. For instance, I have only harvested one cucumber to date. Fortunately, other crops are keeping me busy. The cabbage is fantastic as are the various types of tomatoes. The concord grapes are ripening and I believe I will be making grape jelly in the next week or two.

However, my beans continue to flower without producing beans to eat. Perhaps it is the heat. We expect another triple digit temperature on this Labor Day.

 

Labor Day Festivities

A quick trip to the Front Range started the Labor Day weekend. Gathering with family from far and wide is always a treat. But, it is good to be back home for the actual day. Travelling on holidays is stressful. So returning home early alleviates the stress. Plus, the Floridian in the family needed to return home in order to prepare for a potential strike from Hurricane Dorian. Remember September is National Preparedness Month.

Hardware Issues

Finally a note on computer hardware in this August 2019 Wrap-Up. I use a HP Envy 360 for my work. It has served me well. But, the machine dates back to 2013. So it was not too surprising when a hardware issue popped up. Or maybe I should say popped off.

The on/off switch on the outside of the laptop should connect with a button which in turn presses down on a circuit. However, the inside button broke off. This tiny piece is critical. For a temporary fix, I can unscrew the keyboard and hold the button in place. But this is not very practical.

So, I have ordered a replacement power-on board. Hopefully I will find You Tube as helpful replacing the board as I did when I was troubleshooting the problem in the first place. In the meanwhile, my posts may remain sporadic.

Size comparison between a penny and a computer part
Broken hardware piece compared to a penny

 

 

 

Firefighting: The Financial Crisis And Its Lessons Book Review

Firefighting: The Financial Crisis And Its Lessons is the three person account of The Great Recession and the steps taken to repair the economy. The individuals credited with writing the book are Ben S. Bernanke, Timothy F. Geithner and Henry M. Paulson. The information presented is straightforward. One of the best aspects is the use of the firefighting metaphor to explain the steps taken at the time to mitigate the panic. Furthermore, my own memory of the tumultuous time meshes with the writing. So, the information rings as fact more than opinion.

A Keynesian Approach

Those of you with an economic background can differentiate between a Classical and a Keynesian approach to economic policy. For those of you unfamiliar with the theory, click here for a tutorial. The steps taken during the financial crisis of the Ought’s clearly represent the teachings of John Maynard Keynes. The Federal Reserve led by Bernanke, and the Treasury Department, first shepherded by Paulson during the Bush Administration then spearheaded by Geithner under President Obama, went to great lengths to stop the downward spiral of the economy. Firefighting takes you step by step through the interventions.

I appreciate the book for what I perceive is an honest portrayal of the cause and effect of the crisis. The authors go to great length to posit why some firms survived while others folded.  Since I vividly remember public events as well as personal anecdotes from the time, I feel quite comfortable highly recommending the book.

Firefighting Lessons

In addition to relating the fiscal and monetary steps taken to fight The Great Recession, Firefighting puts forth warnings for the future. The authors have two key concerns. First, the three former public servants are concerned with a loss of power for both the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve. They make a good case for the immediate ability by the agencies to react to future crises.

Second, the authors are duly concerned with the functionality of Keynesian economics. Government intervention in times of crisis is only one-half of the economic theory. Keynesian economics also calls for replenishing the coffers during expansions. This is not occurring. Instead of bringing the deficit down, our debt levels are increasing. Thus, the authors believe, both monetary and fiscal policy will be hampered in firefighting the next economic downturn.

The argument between interference and non-interference in the markets is central to economic philosophy. The debate between the Classical school of thought and the Keynesian Theory is reflected today in our divided politics. I encourage all to read Firefighting including members of Congress.

One of my favorite websites to share with new students of economics is the US Debt Clock. Visiting this site is eye opening. Similarly, Firefighting will also open eyes. For example, the book acknowledges the public relations nightmare of propping up AIG.

Personally, I saw and was offended by the lavish expenditures of AIG during the height of the meltdown. But I did not know the flip side until reading Firefighting. Grudgingly, I admit the intervention was necessary. Thus my appreciation of the work of Bernanke, Geithner, and Paulson. Both for the book and their many sleepless nights a decade ago.

 

Mystery of the Resident Spider

Spider web

This past weekend we spotted a beautiful web attached to our back porch. Since I was busy in the garden, I did not stop to study. But I did leave the web and its’ resident spider alone. However, during a break from gardening I noticed the web was completely gone. A brief discussion ensued with neither of us recalling accidentally  running into the web. Plus the web was big enough to notice if one passed through.

Speculation abounded. Perhaps a breeze knocked it down. Or one of the many birds inhabiting our trees enjoyed a tasty breakfast. The hummingbirds use the silken strands in their nests. So perhaps they were the culprits. Maybe even the sprinkler destroyed the web. But the next day another web appeared and disappeared.

This appearance then disappearance is on day five. But I finally have an answer. Or at least a partial answer. However, I now have many more questions.

Spectacular Web of the Resident Spider

Large intricate spider web
Spiral threads make a beautiful design

Today’s web is spectacular. The photos don’t quite do it justice. While taking the pictures, a breeze blew up. Then the spider skedaddled to the safety of the roof eave. (Our breezes on the High Plains can resemble gusts in other parts of the world.) So I now know what happens to the spider. I am typing this on the back porch in hopes of discovering what happens to the web.

I am not sure what type of arachnid is constructing these webs. There are some spiders I can identify. Tarantulas are easy and are currently on the move in this region. They are most often spotted on the roadways, but do occasionally appear in the side yard. Daddy Long Legs and Black Widows are also identifiable. Wolf spiders are given free rein in the garden, and it is possible that this one is related. But I’m not certain.

Close up of resident spider
Do you know this spider?

So, I think some research is in order. The youngsters in the family might know of an app I could use, but they are not around. Perhaps, I might do a web search. But, most likely I will make a trip to my local library. The generation gap exists for me. I tend to search for answers the old-fashioned way.

Meanwhile, the wind has died down. So the resident spider has returned to the web. Maybe the breeze is not the cause of the disappearing webs after all. But, do I have the time and patience to just sit and observe? Perhaps.