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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Slaying the Dragon (aka Facebook)

Many years ago, before it was at its peak in popularity, I created a Facebook page. This was mostly so that I could keep up with what my daughter and sister were doing, share pictures, etc. Like I said, this was before it turned into the monster that overtakes and complicates lives, which (in my opinion) it is now.

Before I moved to Greenville, SC in 2011, I deactivated my account. By then, I was growing weary of it anyway and just didn't want to be distracted by it anymore. But once we were settled in our new place and there were pictures to share, I reluctantly created a new page. This was my first mistake.

At the time I deactivated the old account, I didn't know there was the choice to either deactivate or delete a Facebook profile. I just assumed that it would disappear after deactivating. WRONG. It stays out there forever, giving you the chance to reactivate it years later if you so choose, and also giving hackers the modus operandi they need to steal your info. I now know I should have just reactivated this account rather than creating a new one after we moved.

So last fall, in an attempt to simplify my life, I deleted my Facebook account. It was an unnecessary distraction in my life and I was and am glad that it's gone.

But then, a few months ago my sister texted me, asking if I had reactivated my account. When I said no, she said someone must have "hacked" an old account, because ads for products such as electronics and sunglasses were being sent with my name and an old picture. What? How?

That's when I knew the original account had never just disappeared and it was back to haunt me.

So the first thing I needed to do was get the old account deleted. I didn't have the password, and the email attached to the account was closed so I couldn't receive the email from Facebook in order to change the password. I even went as far as contacting the company that provided the old email account, requesting the account be reopened temporarily so that I could get access, but they said it was gone and there was nothing to access.

Wouldn't you think that with all the technology that Facebook must possess, that their system could figure out when an email is being sent to a closed email account?

After many tries to guess the password (the hacker must have changed it), many attempts to contact Facebook online (they make it very difficult if not impossible to do so), and messages on Twitter, I resorted to sending a certified letter "snail mail" and requested a signature upon delivery. Yes folks, I was willing to take this to the nth degree, if necessary.

But lo and behold, about a week after the letter was received by them, I received an email from Facebook Community Operations. They wanted me to reiterate the problem (assuming because they wanted to ensure it was me who sent the letter) and then in a second message asked for a picture of a government issued document, such as my driver's license. Once this was done and verified, they said they would delete the account.

What they did was change my email address on the account and the password, which allowed me to go in and deactivate, then delete the account. Strangely enough, Facebook makes it very difficult for you to delete your profile. I had to Google it to find out how to do it.

And it worked. I'm so relieved.

This might not seem like a big deal, but it was to me. The thought of someone using my name, and all the info and pictures associated with the page, just really bothered me. There were tons of people I didn't know on my friends' list, and all kinds of junk had been sent out in my name. I did get a lot of pleasure thinking about the hacker trying to log in to the account and finding out that it was gone!

Maybe it just comes with getting older, but I'm going to be so much more careful going forward where and with whom I share my personal info.

So, let this be a lesson. In this day and time, there are so many smart people out there using their time to do bad instead of good and it's too easy to have your identity stolen. Close and delete any unused open accounts be it credit or otherwise, and don't use your debit card online (another lesson learned previously). And if you have a Facebook page, add a second source of access to retrieve your password, such as by text on your cell phone.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Smart Moves

When I was 14, I got braces on my teeth for the first time. And they weren't the tiny ones that glue onto the front of your teeth; they were the big ugly ones that wrapped all the way around each tooth and literally had to be hammered on. And I had to wear those things for over three years. (They are even in my senior picture!) My teeth were in pretty bad shape, but by the time the braces came off I had a great smile I was proud of.

So now, some 35 40 years later, I've noticed how much my teeth have moved, especially in the front. One of my two front teeth has moved forward, and through the years has continued to protrude farther out. My bottom teeth have also crowded up and protrude out, which is pushing the top front tooth out. My husband is not much into details, but even he has even noticed how much my smile has changed.

I usually don't think twice about doing things for myself such as hair appointments, massages, and pedicures, but having my teeth done again was not something I'd thought seriously about until a couple of months ago. Since we don't have orthodontic insurance, it would be an out-of-pocket expense. So I started adding up the cost of those pedicures and massages (!) and thought, since it's an issue that's only going to get worse, that money would be better spent investing in my teeth.

Since I've already had the metal kind, I thought Invisalign would be the way to go. (I was willing to go for the tiny metal ones if the cost was unreasonable.) After doing some research online, I called my dentist's office before moving forward. I trust them, and wanted their opinion on how I should proceed, and to also get a referral for an orthodontist they recommend.

As it turns out, their office offers a new procedure called Smart Moves. It's like Invisalign, but not as intensive or costly. It's mainly for straightening anterior (front) teeth, and like Invisalign, not appropriate for everyone. Since my issues are mostly in the front, I was hoping I'd be a good candidate. After a consultation and finding out this procedure would work for me, and then finding out that the cost is at least half of what Invisalign would have been, I felt like this was the way to go.

After impressions of my teeth and then a couple of weeks for the lab to make my aligners, I returned to my dentist to be fitted. He had to file some space in between a few teeth to give them room to move, which was mostly pressure and not too bad. After that, they popped right in and here's what they look like:

 
They do take some getting used to. The first set is called a "hard-soft" material. I slur a little when I talk, and my tongue and sides of mouth are a bit raw in places from some sharp edges. I've been more self conscious about them than I thought I would be. I feel the need to explain, especially when I'm talking directly to someone.

After the first day, I felt my teeth moving. I'll get my next set of aligners in 2 1/2 weeks, which will be made of a harder material. I'll get a new set every two to three weeks after that for six months, and my dentist guarantees my satisfaction, which is reassuring.

An added benefit will hopefully be some weight loss. With these in my mouth I'm less likely to mindlessly snack, and I'm mostly drinking water because I have to take them out to drink anything else or to eat.

I've been getting up in the morning and taking them out and leaving them out until after my coffee, giving my mouth a bit of a break, and then brushing and putting them back in. Overall, I'm wearing them at least 22 hours per day. They are not hard to keep clean. Toothpaste is abrasive, so I'm just using warm water and a toothbrush in the morning and at night, and I take them out several times a day to refresh with cold water and pop back in.

Wish me luck! Stay tuned for updates and more progress photos...

Friday, April 10, 2015

Feast and Famine

As a transcriptionist, I've always been blessed with an abundance of work. I've seen comments on the internet about other transcriptionists who were not as fortunate, so I knew I was lucky. Over the past few months it was to the point to where the hospital system couldn't accommodate the number of transcriptionists needed to finish the work, and, along with the doctors who were constantly dictating, the TAT (turn around time) was suffering. I knew changes were ahead.

A couple of weeks ago we were notified that hospital was changing to voice recognition. This means the doctors are dictating into the new system and, instead of a human (me!) transcribing the reports, a computer is transcribing them. This type of change usually leads to layoffs as transcriptionists are no longer needed, but the hospital instead chose to transition us into voice recognition editors. Editors take the computer reports and proofread and edit them as needed, and then return them to the doctors. It is a different procedure on a newer system and it doesn't require as much typing, so this was good news. After some anxiety about all the changes, I was looking forward jumping in with both feet.

Well...as it turns out, I haven't had much of a chance, as most of the doctors are now editing their own reports. I know this has come as a huge surprise to the company I contract with, and to the hospital. I'm sure they are currently at a loss as to how to proceed since they don't know if the doctors' enthusiasm for the new system will last.

So, where does this leave me? Right now, I am still working my part-time shift. Most of the time there are "no more files available". A few jobs will trickle in here and there - on the new system and the old. Right now I am still paid an hourly "downtime" when there is no work, so it's just basically staying close by and monitoring the system every 10 minutes. I know this will not last much longer. The hospital will not want to continue to pay us to sit and wait.

But right now, the silence from the powers that be is palpable.

Even before this happened, my husband and I had been praying for direction with both of our careers, and for help in seeing open windows of opportunity. I am starting to think about what I'd like to do going forward if it's not transcription or editing work. At one time I thought about going back into an office setting, and at another I considered a position at our church. But having worked independently at home for almost 13 years has left me lacking in confidence to do anything other than what I'm used to. Starting over at 53 would be daunting, but not impossible with God's help. All the more reason to stay aware of His direction for me.

Just maybe it's the start of something new and better than I could ever imagine...





Thursday, March 26, 2015

Honestly...

It's been a rough week.

I seem to always fall into a slump whenever I visit family, but am usually able to shake it off. This time I'm in a "pit", and its been difficult to crawl out.

I think some of it has to do with my work. I was notified last week that the entire dictation system I work with is changing. This was expected to some degree, but I wasn't prepared for it to completely change my job. I've been a medical transcriptionist for 12 years, but now am being trained as a voice recognition editor. There is a part of me that is very happy about this as it adds a new skill set to my resume. It will bring my job into the current century rather than working on an outdated, overrun system. But there is also the part of me that is older and set in my ways and resistant to change. The fact that the company I contract with is also unsure of all of the ramifications of this change has left me feeling somewhat insecure.

All of this, together with the emotional upheaval of being with family but not having enough time to really enjoy being with everyone and do everything I want to do, has pushed me into despair. I start asking the questions I thought I already knew the answer to, like "Why are we here (in Greenville) and what is my purpose (when I am needed more there)?"

I know what to do to help me with this situation, so why don't I do it? Wallowing in self pity is not something I allow myself to do very often, but for whatever reason it gives me a sense of control over my life when all I feel is out of control. My husband gets confused, but as long as he knows it's not about him, he can deal - and wait it out. I'm better today than I was on Monday, so he can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Deep down, I am angry. I lived close to my family for so long, but it was when they didn't need me as much. Now that they need me, I am too far away to just drop everything and run to them. I used to reason in my mind and trust that it was for the best, but when you're being irrational, all reason goes out the window.

So, where to go from here? I am praying for understanding. I think I've matured enough spiritually to know that God expects us to have human flaws, and it's ok to get angry and frustrated, but it's not ok to stay that way. All He wants at times like this is for us to realize our need for Him. I need to get back to what I know to be true, and trust that HE knows much better than I about where I belong.

So I smile and keep moving forward, and just keep thinking about this beautiful, precious boy who calls me Mimi, and is a blonde version of my little girl all those years ago...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Rocky Mountain High

We just returned from a glorious week in Colorado!

We stayed in a small town about 10 miles outside of Vail called Avon, the home of Beaver Creek Resort where the World Alpine Ski Championships were held just the week before we arrived. Good timing, because it was a relatively quiet week with small crowds.

I think I was familiar with the name Beaver Creek, since I grew up in the heyday of Wide World of Sports. They were always broadcasting ski competitions from there.

 
The drive in from Denver was a bit precarious. We kept saying we were up for an adventure, and we were about to get one. There had just been a huge storm and the roads were a mess, and it was still snowing a little. We had what should have been a two hour drive, though it was slippery at times and dark by then since it took a while to get our rental. Why didn't we take a shuttle and let someone else do the driving? We like being able to do what we want when we want, and because my hub is an online shopping genius, our rental cost less than the shuttle. Luckily we had an SUV, but without 4WD. The biggest fear was not knowing where we were and what was ahead (kind of like life in general, right?) So we just kept it slow and steady and prayed a lot! Once we made it to Avon, the wind was blowing so hard we almost couldn't get the car doors open. It ended up taking just over three hours. We had frazzled nerves, but we were SO happy to be there.

Waiting for our luggage at DIA - we didn't have a clue!



The roads looked like this up and down the mountain passes
 
We are Starwood timeshare owners, so we stayed at the Sheraton Mountain Vista. The location was so great - everything we needed was within a short drive or walk. Our one bedroom condo on the 6th floor was very nice and had everything we needed to live comfortably for the week. The condo was very warm from the heat rising in the building, so most of the time we had a window or the sliding door cracked open. Surprisingly, we never turned on the heat and never used the TWO fireplaces. It was just too warm inside! We ran a humidifier constantly because of the dry air and also the ceiling fans to keep the air moving.

View after a heavier snowfall

On our first day, after stocking up on essentials at their lovely Walmart that is nestled in the mountain (everyone was so friendly), we took off to sightsee and get the lay of the land.

Why yes, I did take a picture of Walmart!

I'd spent weeks acquiring warm clothing for what we might encounter. We had lows in the 0s and one day it got up to 45, but for the most part it stayed in the 20-30s, but it just didn't feel the same as it does at home. It's a dry cold, and it just doesn't smack you in the face when you walk out the door like it does here (unless the wind was blowing). We were able to bundle up in our ski jackets and hats and walk comfortably for miles in the low temps when the wind was quiet. My $29 Totes boots and $59 Jessica Simpson parka from 6pm.com were the smartest purchases I've ever made. My feet were never cold, and the fur collar and zip off hood on my coat were perfect for all conditions.

Our first look at the slopes at Beaver Creek

Yours truly, contemplating my fate
 
We skied twice, one day with official lessons and one day without. The first day both of us were fitted incorrectly for our ski boots, and we limped around with too small and too narrow boots thinking this was how it was supposed to feel since we weren't used to them. This is what we looked like after that first ski day:
 
Our legs were like noodles

Chuck did better than I did, but I was still proud of myself for lasting as long as I did with sore feet and legs, in the high altitude thin air, and using muscles I hadn't used ever in years.

After a day of rest, we were fitted correctly in our boots and took off for the slopes on our own. What a blast! We put our lessons to the test and, thankfully, stayed upright for the most part. I was even able to figure out the chair lift and actually enjoyed it (after thinking I'd somehow miss the chair or somehow fall getting off, but they really make it easy!)

There were times that we actually got too warm and had to shed our ski jackets. We noticed a lot of the more experienced skiers were wearing shorter, less bulky ski jackets and layers underneath. I did feel like a stuffed sausage at times with all my gear. Live and learn!

Thumbs up!
 
My hub, the phantom skier
 
A view from the lift on a clear day

We didn't stay still much during the day, and one day was spent in Vail. There are a couple of villages surrounding the ski slopes, and the day we went to Vail Village it was snowing and so beautiful! We felt like we were in a winter wonderland. They still had evergreen wreaths and bows up in places so it felt very holiday-like.

A view of Vail Village

My handsome hub


Feeling a bit stuffed, but warm

Willow Bridge in Vail Village
 
Lionshead Village

We thought about skiing there but then changed our minds. Since it was our first time, we stuck with what we knew. We know we'll be back and can try the slopes there next time. We shopped, walked for miles, and just enjoyed the beauty of where we were. With every step we just thanked God for the opportunity to be where we were together. It was a special day.

Our resort had two hot tubs, one indoor and one out. We enjoyed the one outdoors, especially when it snowed. We'd put our bathing suits and sock caps on, take a glass of wine, and sit and chat with other guests while we soaked. Then we'd RUN from the tub in the freezing air into the building and go straight for the eucalyptus steam room, which was hot but so relaxing. I miss that part of the day the most!
 
Our happy spot

We enjoyed so much good food, a lot of rest and a lot of exercise, and just the joy of doing what we wanted every day. Starbucks greatly benefitted from our visit! (Be sure to take a registered gift card and rack up the points!) Most of the time on vacation we are ready to go home by the end of the week. I can't say that we weren't this time because we love our home, but we both felt much more sad leaving. It was that good!

At Beaver Creek after a heavy snow
 
Pristine beauty
 

Happy us

On a side note, we had all kinds of preconceived notions about CO and the legalization of marijuana there. Are there really that many people who take advantage of the new law? Would we smell it? Would we see it sold in stores? What we found were a few stores off the highway that sold it only for medical purposes, one car driving around advertising it for sale elsewhere, and we didn't smell it or see anyone smoking anywhere. I think the media makes a bigger deal of it than it really is.

After seven nights, we left for a full day of traveling. We finally flew in to Greenville at midnight, and were home by 1:15. After indulging in freshly made donuts (heavenly) and milk from our 24-hour QT, we were finally in bed by 2 a.m. Oh, and I lost 4 pounds on the trip. Yay me!

This little girl was so happy to see mommy and daddy.


Thank you, Colorado for the best vacation and for the happiest memories made. We will be back!


Monday, January 26, 2015

Moving It

I've never been a gym person. As a matter of fact, I've really not exercised much my entire life, which has led to just having an average, lately mushy, body type. Just like most people, I get inspired at the beginning of the year or if I hear about a new fad. Last year I tried a low carb lifestyle, not diet, and stuck with it religiously for a few months and lost about 8 pounds, but then slacked off, and I didn't combine it with exercise. I still don't each much bread, but my downfall is cereal. It's actually supper a day or two each week at times.

Anyhoo...my husband has been going to the gym for the past couple of weeks while I've been working in the evening (boo!), and he said the gym has acquired a few new toys since my last visit, namely rowing machines. So, since I was feeling the need to move this weekend, we took off for the gym together this past Saturday.

After the obligatory 15 minutes on the treadmill to get my heart rate going, I then attempted rowing. It's intimidating at first, so my husband set it up for me. I started rowing and was thinking, why is this so easy? Do I have it set to low? And then I just kept going and going. I was amazed! (The only problem I did have was my right hand going to sleep, but this may have been from holding the handle too tight). My husband was on the stair climber looked over at me and couldn't believe it. He assumed I would not last as long as I did (and I'm always pleased when I'm stronger than he thinks I am). I was sweating, and my muscles were burning. I believe this is the first time I've ever surpassed what I thought I could do physically without actually giving up.

Do you know that feeling? It just makes you want to KEEP going! Have I found the holy grail of exercise (for me)? We shall see.

This is not me below, but this is the exact machine at our gym. After reading the article below, I realized my technique was not exact (which may have led to the numb hand) but I can feel that it was effective.






http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Tips-Using-Rowing-Machine-3019487?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:%20fitsugar%20(FitSugar%20-%20Healthy,%20happy%20you.)&utm_content=Google%20Reader

The fact that I went back to the gym on Sunday is testament to how much I love this workout!

And I think that's the key. We're all different, and we have to find what works for us. If we can find a way to move out bodies and enjoy it, we'll stop making so many excuses not to do it.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

It's a New Year again!

Oh wow, Happy New Year! When I read my last post from January of LAST YEAR, I can actually see a bit of change in myself. I suppose that's the most we can hope for is that we can grow in a positive direction from year to year.

This year has started out rough with sickness. I'm not the type that usually gives in to the crud, but it has knocked me for a loop this time. It started with a glob in my throat that gave me laryngitis for three days. Thinking I was getting better instead of worse, I did not go to my Dr. in between the holidays. By the time it had moved into my chest and then back up into my head, it was Jan. 2 and her office was closed. Riding it out one more day with new over the counter meds didn't help, so by Sat. morning I was first in line at the neighborhood express clinic. They were wonderful, and with some new antibiotics for bronchitis, sinus infection, and conjunctivitis (the sinus infection affected my eyes), I'm feeling much better 24 hours later. Now though, my sweet hub is a few days behind me with his symptoms and although he also went to the clinic yesterday, he seems a bit worse off today. Its damp and rainy anyway, so we'll just hunker down one more day and nurse ourselves back to a somewhat healthy state.

As usual, the new year has brought on thoughts of getting into shape. I said last year I'm heavier than I've ever been, and I'm at least in the same place or a couple of pounds ahead of that now. As it does when we get older, the fat "shifts" into different places and this is what has made me most uncomfortable. When I see someone jogging, or a commercial for Nordic Track, I am inspired, but when it comes down to doing it, I'm just a big blob. Today will be dedicated to putting together a food plan for the next week so we can focus on eating better, so that's a start. I don't think it's so much the volume of what we eat, but the poor choices. Also, I sit a lot with my work and this doesn't help.

For Christmas, I bought my husband a Fit Bit. He loves it, and tracking his steps, sleep patterns, and what he eats has been so easy with this. I think this would be helpful for me as well so I may add this one more purchase to the after Christmas budget.

On another note, my grandson has grown to a precious 15-month-old bundle of cuteness...

 
Oh, just look at that gorgeous kid! I see so much of my daughter Ashley in that little face, but she had dark curls when she was his age. The blonde comes from his daddy. I sure miss being with him, but have also learned over the past few months to give up the stress I was putting on myself by trying to control my daughter with too much input when it comes to raising him. She and his daddy are completely capable, and my role is to be a supporter when she needs me. Hey, he's my first grandchild and it just took a little time to find my place, even three hours away.

Wishing everyone a blessed and positive start to 2015!