Good Day, Sunshine!

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Sunshine-AwardAs a writer and blogger living in Northeast Ohio, where the skies are, shall we say, quite frequently sun-challenged, I was gobsmacked to receive a Sunshine Award from one of my favorite bloggers, Lois Alter Mark over at Midlife at the Oasis. Aside from being a terrific writer, Lois has won some impressive awards—she’s this year’s Blogger Idol, don’cha know?—contributes, like me, to the Huffington Post, and (unlike me) went to Australia with Oprah. She’s also one of the nicest, friendliest, funnest bloggers I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. We crossed paths in real life at BlogHer12, where we both won Voice of the Year awards, and took each other’s photo standing next to our names on the big sign.

I’m honored to accept the Sunshine Award from Lois, and not just because I think she’s all that and a bag of chips. I’m in some pretty august company here; several of the bloggers Lois selected are among my favorites, and I hope you’ll visit her page to discover some excellent new blogs to add to your reader.

A few responsibilities go along with accepting this award. (Thank God walking a red carpet isn’t one of them, since I’m still in a plaster cast.) First, I must reveal seven random facts about myself. I can’t imagine what you don’t already know about me after more than two years of blogging, but here, in no particular order, goes:

  1. I must start each morning with a mug of hot lemon water, otherwise I get cranky.
  2. I was the Lebanese-Syrian princess in the International Festival Princess Pageant in Lorain, Ohio, in 1974, the year I graduated from high school.
  3. I performed in plays in high school and, after graduating, in local community theater productions. I wore a blond Gibson Girl wig in a production of Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness!, but made do with my own hair as Babe in Crimes of the Heart.
  4. I know how to twirl a baton.
  5. I’ve tap-danced on stage. I’ve also sung on stage.
  6. I tried to make roasted chestnuts one Christmas and vowed never to do so again. Have you ever tried to peel a chestnut?
  7. I’m happiest when I’m looking into my husband’s eyes.*

MarciRich_LebanesePrincess*Okay. You have to allow me one gushy item—this did start out as a relationship blog, after all.

But wait. There’s more. I have to answer these seven questions:

If you could go back in time ten years and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?

You have no idea how happy you’re going to be in ten years.

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Rocky Road, but only if it’s from Mitchell’s in Rocky River, Ohio.

If you were to take me on a date, where would we go and why?


I assume by “you” you mean my husband. (See what I did there?) We would travel to Ireland for him, and Sicily for me, because those are places that hold great meaning for us.

Above all else, what are you afraid of?

Loss.

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Speak, read, and write French fluently, play the cello, and spend at least five hours each day writing.

What has been your favorite age to be and why?

Every year since turning 50, because in spite of cancer and fractures and surgeries, that’s when I really came into my own…and when I found the love of my life.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee.

We’re almost done, dear reader. In fact, I think this is the best part. I get to choose 11 blogs that bring sunshine into my life (but I’m going to take a page out of Lois’s playbook and round it up to an even dozen). Suffice to say that many of the blogs on Lois’s list are among my faves, too, and I’m glad to discover some that I somehow missed before. I hope you’ll take my own list, then, in that spirit. Here, in alphabetical order, we go:

A Boomer’s Life After 50

Alexandra Wrote

Ann’s Rants

Dame Nation

Darryle Pollack: I Never Signed up for This

Dating Dementia

Empty House Full Mind

Grown and Flown

Lavender Luz

Midlife Mixtape

The Boomer Rants

Witty Woman Writing

I could go on and on, but since I can’t, please allow me to tell you that there are many other fine writers and bloggers whose work I admire, and you can catch them at three of my favorite sites: Midlife Boulevard, edited by Sharon Hodor Greenthal and Anne Jenkins Parris, the dynamic WHOA! Network, curated by Darryle Pollack and Lynn Forbes, and last but not least, Huff/Post50, edited by Shelley Emling. It’s been my honor to have appeared on their respective bandwidths, and I look forward to many more collaborations in the years to come.

Now go forth and spread some sunshine of your own. And Lois, thanks again!

What on Earth Does Malcolm Gladwell Have to do with my Blog?

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WordPress.com’s 2013 annual report for The Midlife Second Wife is chock-full of interesting statistics, including a revealing bit of information about the noted writer Malcolm Gladwell. Intrigued? Click the link below to find out just what the author of The Tipping Point has to do with little old me. (I was surprised, too.)

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 27,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Happy New Year!

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Taken at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, Manalapan, Florida

Taken October 2013 at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, Manalapan, Florida

May your skies be blue and your waters calm in 2014. Happy New Year!

My Verizon Boomer Voices Farewell Tour

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Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Boomer Voices program and will be provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.

Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Boomer Voices program and will be provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.

Today is my last day as a member of the Verizon Boomer Voices program. I feel as though I should go out with a song—you know, something by the Verizon Boomer Voices—that great girl group that used to record on the Motorolatown label. (That’s borrowed from a joke I cracked at our dinner in Chicago on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Tower.) Envision 16 midlife bloggers from across the Midwest, dressed in spangley gowns and performing synchronized, rhythmic hand gestures while holding a variety of mobile devices.

Dinner at Coco Pazzo Cafe with some of the Verizon Boomer Voices gang.

Dinner at Coco Pazzo Cafe in Chicago with some of the Verizon Boomer Voices gang. I’m at the far left.

What a ride this was. From those intense training sessions in Chicago at the start of the program in June, to testing the DROID RAZR MAXX HD and the FitBit, to my house party in October, to the finale—my great, big raffle earlier in December—the experience has been extraordinary. I’ve had fun, elbowed my way out of my technology comfort zone, and made a rebellious decision.

In June 2014, when my contract with AT&T ends, I’m jumping over to Verizon Wireless. Why? Because it’s a phenomenal company with great customer service that just happens to have the fastest 4G LTE network around. And although I no longer live in Oberlin, Ohio, I still visit my old college town fairly frequently. AT&T’s service there has always been spotty at best. It will be a relief to enjoy social media with my coffee at the Black River Café!

Verizon Wireless surprised my program colleagues and me in November by sending us each a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 to test. As you might recall, I fractured my foot around that time; I wasn’t in much of a mood, therefore, to go exploring new technology, especially since I was ingesting some powerful pain meds.

BrokenFootNote3Fear not, dear readers. I found a workaround to the dilemma that pleased my husband to no end. I gave him the device as an early Christmas present, and to thank him for being such an incredible tower of strength and support during my time on the injured list.

I think of the Galaxy Note 3 as a phone masquerading as a tablet. John had recently acquired a tablet, but he quickly abandoned it favor of the Note 3.

He’s come a long way since the day I first met him, checking his email on his Blackberry. When that conked out, I gave him an old iPhone of mine to use so he could discover the joys of the touch screen.

Now, after using the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, he’s an Android convert. He likes the Note 3 better than the iPhone, and certainly more than he liked his tablet. “It offers all the advantages of the tablet, but it fits neatly in my hand,” he says.

He finds reading a breeze on the Note 3, since the standard text is, he says, “comfortably sized,” and the retina quality display is “easy on the eyes. Samsung has made the most of the viewing surface.”

He also finds the built-in app that allows him to accept Microsoft Office docs  “very useful.” If the developers really want to send him over the moon, they’ll devise a way for the Note 3 to launch a new MS Office program. A frequent flier, John often works on the plane; this way, he says, he’ll no longer have to bruise the shins of the unlucky passenger seated in front of him while grappling to remove his laptop from his briefcase.

His favorite feature, though, is the snooze button on the alarm.

He does have one minor quibble, and I’ll let him tell you:

The developers have built-in a small quick-view tab that remains on the left of the screen to allow the user to access folders and other frequently used apps. Because it is always there, the small part of the screen that it occupies covers up areas of games that are occasionally important to see. Although this is a nuisance (I have yet to find a help topic that will allow me to hide it), overall I’m very happy with the Note 3 and plan on making it the only companion to my laptop.

For an executive who travels a lot, this is high praise.

I want to thank Verizon Wireless for sending me such a fabulous mobile device, thus solving my Christmas-shopping dilemma at a time when I can barely leave the house. I also want to thank them for inviting me to be part of this incredible program. I’ve learned so much, and made many wonderful new friends. To all of them—and to you, my loyal readers—a very Happy New Year!

From the Verizon Boomer Voices Greatest Hits album…

Do DROIDS Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Advertisers Care what Boomers Think?

DROID’S RAZR MAXX HD Vs. the iPhone

FitBit Fits the Bill, I’ll Fit in New Dress

Whad’ya Know About Verizon Wireless?

Is it Better to Give than to Receive? Find Out with this Verizon Wireless Raffle.

The First Winner of the Verizon Wireless Raffle …

The Second Winner of the Verizon Wireless Raffle is …

And the Grand Prize Winner of the Verizon Wireless Raffle is …

How I Learned to Stop Worrying (Sort of) and Love the DROID. And yet …

In Memoriam: Seamus Heaney, and Other Writers we Lost in 2013

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A prized possession: a first-edition copy of Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney's poetry, inscribed to me.

A  first-edition copy of the Nobel laureate’s poetry, inscribed to me: “To Marci—well met in Oberlin. Seamus Heaney”

I thought about writing the standard New Year’s Eve fare this year, illustrated with balloons and noisemakers, and festooned with streamers of resolutions. In a contemplative mood, I even toyed with the idea of riffing on the word “resolution” to see where the associations might take me. (You know: “I’m a writer. I resolve to write every day without fail.” That sort of thing.) But my contemplative mood took an unexpected turn. I pulled this copy of Seamus Heaney’s poems down from my shelf, and began thinking about the writers we lost this past year.

Seamus Heaney, awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995, died on August 30. I met him in the late 1980s; he had come to present a lecture and reading at Oberlin College, where I was a student majoring in English. (A “specialization” within the major allowed me to take creative writing workshops, where I could concentrate on my own poetry.) Members of the English and creative writing faculties were entertaining the “greatest Irish poet since Yeats” at a dinner preceding his lecture. To my astonishment and eternal gratitude, my poetry professor invited me to join them. I was the only student there.

What do I remember of that dinner? There were perhaps six of us, seated at a round table in a windowed corner of the Oberlin Inn. I remember drinking a glass of white wine with whatever it was that I ate. Seamus Heaney regaled us with wonderful stories. Another of my professors talked about reading Danté in the Italian with an esteemed emeritus.

You have to remember: I was an older student, probably 31 or 32. My parents never went to college. I hadn’t even read an English translation of Danté yet. But one thing was clear to me: I had come a long way from the darkened movie theater where I saw Educating Rita and resolved to return to school.

My professor had told Seamus Heaney something of my story: married student with a young son, commuting every day to classes from a neighboring town, writing poetry that they all thought showed promise. I know this because at the book signing following the lecture, the greatest Irish poet since Yeats told me. “I think what you’re doing is wonderful,” he said. And then he signed two books for me.

Rest in peace, Seamus Heaney. I hope you’re enjoying many fine meals in the sweet hereafter, and that Yeats and Danté are among your table companions.

In Memoriam

Chinua Achebe, Nigerian author

Iain Banks, Scottish writer

Dr. Joyce Brothers, psychologist and author

Carolyn Cassady, writer

Tom Clancy, best-selling military novelist

Janet Dailey, romance writer

Roger Ebert, film critic and journalist

Syd Field, author of books on screenwriting

Rev. Andrew Greeley, best-selling author and columnist

Marcella Hazan, cookbook author

Seamus Heaney, Irish poet, Nobel Laureate

Oscar Hijuelos, Pulitzer Prize winning Cuban-American novelist

Peter Kaplan, editor, New York Observer

Elmore Leonard, best-selling crime novelist

Doris Lessing, novelist, essayist, poet, Nobel Laureate

Albert Murray, novelist and critic

Alvaro Mutis, Columbian writer and poet

Ahmed Fouad Negm, Egyptian poet

Barbara Park, children’s book author

Ida Pollock, romance novelist

Lou Reed, songwriter, singer, musician

Andre Schiffrin, editor

Mary Thom, feminist, writer, editor

Ned Vizzini, YA author

Bernard Waber, children’s author

Colin Wilson, British author

How I Learned to Stop Worrying (Sort of) and Love the DROID. And yet …

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The DROID RAZR HD's "self-portrait-by-screenshot"

The DROID RAZR HD’s “self-portrait-by-screenshot”

Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Boomer Voices program and have been provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.

When I was younger I was a worrier. Now this might run counter to most people’s experiences, but I’ve found that the older I get, the less I worry. Maybe it has something to do with the wisdom that accrues with age. Or maybe it comes with the realization that in my life’s narrative arc—divorce and cancer being two notable plot points—anything else is small potatoes. (I’m not thinking of the global concerns that keep me—and you too, I suspect—up at night, but that’s fodder for another post.)

In my own little corner of the world, I have learned to let go, explore, and question old habits. Take my iPhone habit, for example. I’ve been a Mac girl ever since my first Apple desktop back in the 1980s, and I can state, unequivocally, that I’ll never trade in my Mac for a PC. But after three months of testing the DROID RAZR MAXX, I have to admit that I seriously thought about trading in my iPhone for the DROID.

Thought about it…agonized over it…but ultimately decided that although I’ve kinda sorta stopped worrying about the DROID, and can say in all honesty that I do love it, I’m not in love with it. You know what I mean?

In an earlier post on this topic, I said the clincher for me would be cost and security, and I promised to write one more post on the DROID to let you know how this all settled out for me. So let’s talk.

The DROID lists for $199.99 But then so does the iPhone 5S (at least, the one with the least amount of horsepower—16 GB). To lock in the price for both, one must commit to a two-year contract with a wireless provider such as Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint.

As for the new low-cost option Apple released this year, the plasticized iPhone 5C with a list price of $99.99 plus a two-year contract, I say good. Those who have longed for an iPhone but couldn’t afford one are benefiting from Apple’s decision to enter the lower-end market. It’s not for me, but I like that it exists.

As for contracts: I’ll have a word or two about wireless providers in my final wrap-up post for the Verizon Boomer Voices program, so look for that in the coming days.

Back to my comparison exercise. With cost eliminated as a factor, we’re left with security. And this is where I do sleep better at night with the iPhone.

Apple is famous (some might say notorious) for its closed operating system, which limits the seemingly endless opportunities presented by software designers who are free to contribute to Google’s Android system. That’s why the DROID can practically butter your toast for you. But what the iPhone lacks in options, it makes up for in security. According to a recent article in the MIT Technology Review, a study at North Carolina State University revealed that “changes manufacturers made to the stock Android software were responsible for more than 60 percent of the security flaws uncovered in phones from different handset companies.”

In years of using an iPhone—indeed, in years of using a Mac—I’ve never once experienced a security issue. Malware and viruses were things that happened to other people. That means something to me. One could say that with Apple, security derives from simplicity.

In design and functionality, the DROID lacks that elegant simplicity. Because the DROID’s open operating system allows it to do so much more than the iPhone, it arrives with a certain amount of baggage—numerous mysteries to unlock before one can give in to its charms—although the tutorials and videos, accessible from the DROID’s Help icon, are a nice touch. Some of that baggage, however, includes the risk of a security breach. At this stage of my life, I just don’t need the hassle.

So there you have it. I’m staying with my iPhone. But I was thrilled to have had the chance to experience the Android operating system, and for that I have Verizon Wireless to thank. As for those of you who want help buttering your toast, I am happy to recommend the DROID RAZR MAXX HD. It’s really a cool, fun phone.

PREVIOUS TMSW POSTS ON THIS TOPIC:

“Do DROIDS Dream of Electric Sheep?”

“DROIDS RAZR MAXX HD Vs. the iPhone”

Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Boomer Voices program and will be provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.

From my Home to Yours, Happy Holidays!

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Rich_FullMoonChristmascrpd

Photo credit: John Rich

By the light of the silvery (full) moon earlier this month, I wish you and yours a happy holiday and a joyous new year!

And the Grand Prize Winner of the Verizon Wireless Drawing is …

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Ellipsis7WinnerWish I had a sound file of a drum roll for this. I’m pleased to announce that the grand prize winner of this week’s Verizon Wireless drawing—the lucky individual who will receive the Verizon Wireless Ellipsis™ 7, is:

Julie Phelps of Massachusetts

Julie, your tablet is on its way to you, along with a SIM card and a few other goodies from Verizon Wireless and me. Not sure it will reach you before Christmas, since there’s a lot of traffic out there what with Santa’s reindeer and his massive fleet of UPS trucks. Nevertheless, you and Patricia Craven (winner of the Mophie Juice Pack Power Station) and Shawna Elkins (winner of the Mini Jambox by JawBone), definitely have something wonderful in store.

My heartfelt thanks to all of you who entered the drawing through the blog, the Midlife Second Wife’s Facebook page, and on Twitter. And a special thanks to Verizon Wireless for being such a phenomenal brand partner for the last six months. My time with them is drawing to a close, but I’ll be back here in a week or so with some closing thoughts on the experience.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Boomer Voices program and will be provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.

Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Boomer Voices program and will be provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.

The Second Winner of the Verizon Wireless Raffle is…

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MophieWinnerLadies and gentlemen, the plot thickens in the exciting cliffhanger known as “Who Won Those Three Amazing Devices?” in the Verizon Wireless raffle. The drawing was held Wednesday, Dec. 18, and I’m delighted to announce that the person who can expect delivery of the Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation is …

Patricia Craven of Connecticut

Congratulations, Patricia! Your prize will be shipped soon, along with a few other goodies from Verizon Wireless and me. Thanks very much for entering the drawing!

Now, for those of you playing along at home, that means there’s one prize left—the The Verizon Wireless Ellipsis™ 7. But you’ll have to check back here tomorrow to find out the winner!

My heartfelt thanks to all of you who entered the drawing! And there were a lot of you!

Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Boomer Voices program and will be provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.

Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Boomer Voices program and will be provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.

The First Winner of the Verizon Wireless Raffle…

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JawboneWinnerI held the drawing this afternoon to select the winners of three amazing devices from Verizon Wireless. Because I suspect you all love suspense as much as I do, I’m going to announce the prizewinners individually over the next day or so.

This evening, I’m happy to announce that the winner of the MiniJambox by Jawbone is …

Shawna Elkins of West Virginia

Congratulations, Shawna! Your prize will be shipped to you soon, along with a few other goodies from Verizon Wireless and yours truly. Thanks so much for entering!

Check back later for news about the other two winners!

Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Boomer Voices program and will be provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.

Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Boomer Voices program and will be provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.