Columns

My Outlook’s Getting Brighter

I don’t like change.

I like reliable routines, familiar faces, and grocery stores that don’t rearrange their aisles every few months.

I’ve kept the same husband for 36 years, still live in the house we bought in 1993, and use a paper planner and a wall calendar with cute kitten photos to track my days.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Then my email broke, and I couldn’t fix it.

It was a catastrophic computer event that I couldn’t blame on my kids, since I’m the only user of the device.

I’ve used the same email program since before my youngest son was born. My current email address is only my second. (My first was an AOL account. Yes, that’s how old I am.)

If I just used email as an old-fashioned way to stay in touch with folks, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But I use it to track every single story and project on my to-do list.

My newspaper articles are assigned and filed via email, and I schedule interviews and bill clients through it. Without it, I might as well be banging away on a Smith Corona, stuffing envelopes and looking for stamps.

Tech support (my husband) resuscitated the program a couple of times. I’d start the day bright with hope, only to have it fail repeatedly. When you have more than a dozen people waiting for you to schedule their pandemic project story, you really don’t want to lose their names, addresses and the descriptions of their projects.

“The problem is you have way more email than Juno is designed for, and the company hasn’t updated their program in forever,” Derek said. “It’s just no longer sustainable.”

I gasped.

“You mean I can’t use dchval@juno anymore? What will happen to the hundreds of emails in my folders?”

Derek told me not to panic until he did some research. Meanwhile, I panicked anyway and frantically backed up several years of mail. OK, more than several. My earliest saved message is from 2009. But. I really need that note.

“I’ve got good news and bad news,” Derek announced the following day. “There’s a program I can buy that will allow me to save your Juno email, and you can still use that address.”

“That’s wonderful!” I said throwing my arms around him. “What’s the bad news?”

“You’re going to have to learn how to use Outlook,” he said.

Outlook is a personal information manager software system from Microsoft. Friends and professional contacts have urged me to use it for years, but I’ve never seen the need. My trusty paper planner and antiquated email provider served me well, until now.

Knowing my propensity to ask, “Is it fixed, yet?” repeatedly whenever he works on my computer, Derek wisely chose a time when I’d be away from my home office for the day.

When I returned, he was working in the backyard.

“Oh, no!” I said. “Is my problem unfixable?”

He grinned.

“Nope. I finished hours ago. Your email is up and running, and I don’t think you lost a thing.”

You see why I keep him? He’s an absolute hero. His heroics, however, only go so far.

“Sam can show you how to use Outlook,” he said.

Our future-college-professor son patiently showed me how to configure my address book, how to send and receive mail, and where to find my folders. That’s when we discovered one of the largest folders had duplicated contents, and another folder was a jumble of old and new contacts and projects, but most important, everything was there.

Obviously, I’ve been saving way too many emails, so now a couple of times a day I poke through a folder and delete items. Sometimes it turns into quite a stroll down memory lane, as I read encouraging notes from former editors and warm letters from readers. But I am resolute in my purging, even though Derek said I no longer have to worry about my email crashing.

I even learned a new trick. I can now categorize my emails and tasks with pretty, little colored flags. Though I’m still figuring out this new-to-me program, I already wonder why I ever balked at using it.

In fact, you could say my Outlook is getting brighter every day.

———

Cindy Hval can be reached at dchval@juno.com. Hval is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation” (Casemate Publishers, 2015) available locally at Auntie’s Bookstore, Barnes & Noble locations and on Amazon.

Columns

A visit from the Frown Fairy

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In which I’ve come unglued. Or something. Seriously, aging isn’t for the faint of heart– or weak of ankle.

Squinting at my phone, I rubbed my thumb across the screen, certain there was a smudge on it marring the photo I’d just taken of my friend and me.

After posting it on Facebook, I checked the enlarged photo on my computer and that shadow I’d seen between both of our brows was still there. Only it wasn’t a shadow – it was most definitely a crease. How had we both suddenly developed frown lines right between our eyes? Neither of us is prone to frowning.

And not for the first time, I realized I should have listened to my mother.

Sometime in her late 40s in an effort to combat wrinkles, my mother came up with an innovative solution to prevent pesky frown lines. Before going to bed at night, she affixed a corn plaster right between her eyes. She dubbed them “frownies” and was confident the plaster would prevent wrinkles from creasing her forehead while she slept.

 The only problem was sometimes those frownies migrated during the night. She’d come to the breakfast table with one in her hair or on her cheek. This was the subject of great mirth to me and my siblings. To Mom, not so much.

I’ve noticed other signs of increasing decrepitude. A few months back I started having severe pain in my right elbow that radiated down my forearm.

“How could I have tennis elbow?” I moaned to my husband. “I haven’t played tennis in 25 years!”

I took ibuprofen and soldiered on, unwilling to spend time or money on a doctor visit. A colleague heard my groans and diagnosed the issue. Turns out it wasn’t tennis elbow – it was “mouse elbow,” a common problem for people who work at computers all day.

She sent me a chart about how to sit at my desk to help alleviate the pain. I adjusted my chair and desk, bought an elbow brace and before long, the pain was gone. Who needs a doctor when you’ve got a journalist?

It’s a good thing my elbow felt better, because lately I’ve been limping. The pain radiates from my Achilles tendon, making walking miserable. This is not good news because I walk several miles three to four times a week and need this exercise for both my physical and mental health.

Achilles tendinitis is most common in runners, and I can assure you I only run if something or someone is chasing me. Baffled, I tried ice and heat and ibuprofen. Nothing seemed to work.

I took several weeks off from my walking routine, but it’s not like I can go through life without walking anywhere.

Even my journalist friends were baffled.

Then one day while sitting at my desk, I discovered the source of my strain. While writing, I often cross my legs and push my right foot against the back of my desk, flexing my Achilles. I also often tuck my legs behind me, flexing my right foot against the chair leg.

Bingo! Pain solved. Kind of.

Keeping my feet on the ground while working has fixed the source of the problem, and I’ve been able to resume my walking routine, but hills are still painful and if I walk too much, the limp returns.

According to Google, this type of injury can take up to two years to heal. Google further said this problem is also associated with the aging process.

Sometimes I really hate the internet.

So, there you have it. Apparently, I’ve reached the age where frown fairies sneak into my room and slap a crease between my brows while I’m sleeping. I can hurt my elbow by typing and my Achilles by sitting at my desk.

This morning I woke up, stretched my arms over my head and sighed when I heard my shoulders snap, crackle and pop. I didn’t bound out of bed, I cautiously tested my tendon and groaned when I felt the familiar ache that told me I’d walked too many miles yesterday.

I took the stairs to my office one at a time and carefully adjusted my mouse pad, keyboard and chair before I began writing.

As I type my feet are firmly on the ground. At this rate, they’re going to be the only firm thing about me.

Like Bette Davis famously said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”

Which could be why she also said, “There comes a time in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of Champagne.”

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.