Writer Wednesdays: Favorite Phone Apps

The Wednesday Writers are back, with a new list of slightly wacky topics for 2017. This month we’re asking one another “what is your favorite phone app?”

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WW 2017

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It was the prospect of phone apps that pushed me to move to a smart phone after years of carrying a basic Tracfone in my purse. I insisted for years that I didn’t want or have any use for a cell phone, until I started commuting to a job thirty miles from home. Shortly after I found myself marooned on the side of the freeway at twilight, waiting for a Good Samaritan to happen by and tow me to safety, I bought that first Tracfone.

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I seldom used it. Didn’t give out the number. Didn’t even turn it on very often. And then one evening, twilight again, about a year and a half ago, my car stalled on the way to an RWA chapter meeting. And I found out just how hard it was to contact AAA, and to punch in my account number, on that little phone (my sister-in-law swears I somehow called her before I got AAA).

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There must, I thought, be an app for this.

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phone apps 1So about a year ago, I finally marched into the local Verizon store, bought an expensive phone (an LG V10), and signed up for service. Among the first apps I downloaded were AAA and my car insurance company. Thankfully, I have yet to use either one of them.

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I still don’t make many phone calls with my cell phone, but I have learned to text. I give out the number now. I get robo-calls, which I have learned to recognize and ignore.

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But I certainly use the phone, the little computer I carry in my purse or park on my kitchen counter. I check my email and Facebook with it when I’m away from my computer (or my Internet connection goes down), but I don’t use Twitter or Instagram. I’ve never even opened any of the games that came with it. I don’t have any music on the phone, and I don’t watch videos. I use the Kindle app now and then, usually when I’ve forgotten my Kindle. Last summer I used the RWA Conference app quite a bit, and it’s still on the phone.

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I use the calendar all the time, and I’ve developed an obsession with the Google maps timeline feature, since the day I was startled to discover that the phone knew where I was. Most of the time. For some reason the maps app is convinced that my phone wanders off from time to time, usually at night, and apparently without me. But as long as I keep an eye on its roving, I find it a useful record of where (and when) I’ve been from day to day.

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My bank app makes it super easy to deposit my weekly paycheck from my kitchen counter. And speaking of the kitchen, I no longer keep a grocery list on the refrigerator door, where I all too often left it when I went out to shop. Now everything goes on the QuickMemo app as soon as I think of it, and I always have my shopping list with me.

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But I think my favorite app is the camera. My last Tracfone included a camera, but I never phone apps 2used it because I had no way to transfer the pictures out. (There probably was one, but the useless operating manual kept it a dark secret. It also claimed it could reach the Internet, but I never succeeded in making that happen.) The camera on my smart phone (far better than the digital camera I never remembered to carry with me) takes beautiful pictures and easily sends them to email addresses, Facebook, or someone else’s phone. I’m pretty sure I haven’t figured out half of what that camera will do. But I always have it with me, and I frequently remember to use it.

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What do you use your phone for? Any great apps I should know about?

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For more favorite phone apps, visit this month’s Wednesday Writers: Tamra Baumann, Pamela Kopfler, Priscilla Oliveras, T L Sumner, and Sharon Wray.

What’s in My Purse?

The Wednesday Writers are back! We took July off because so many of us were going to the RWA National Conference in San Diego. Oddly enough, there’s actually a connection between that event and the contents of my purse.

.WW August 16

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I have for years carried way too much junk around in one oversized purse after another. Way back in high school (in a previous century), I had a shelf full of purses and changed them frequently to match my outfits. I guess that seemed important back then, and I probably had less to carry around. Definitely no phone or camera, probably a wallet, a hair brush, school supplies, and a paperback novel.

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Now I buy a purse and use it for months, until something breaks or I get bored and crave a new one. And for years I’ve been very particular about purses: must have three sections, with a zipper on the middle one, so many pockets, some place to clip my keys on, and so forth. All very well, and all rather large. I bought a new one earlier this summer, and realized it was closer to a tote bag than a hand bag.

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Heading for San Diego in July, I decided I needed a small purse, something easy to carry, that would hold my large wallet, my new smartphone (also rather large), my Kindle, and a few other odds and ends. And I discovered I really liked it, but when I got home it was just a bit too small for everyday use.

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So I went out and bought a slightly larger purse in the same style: one section, a couple of outside pockets, a couple of inside pockets, and someplace to hang my keys. And I set out to declutter my purse.

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No need for that big notebook, not every day anyway. Cut the fourteen pens down to five. Ditch the address book—I’ve put all that information in my phone. Ditto the shopping list. And the calendar. (Heck, that’s why I spent all that money on the phone, isn’t it? I don’t make many calls, but I sure like having a little computer in my purse!)

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PurseNow I’m down to wallet, phone, checkbook (I could probably leave that at home), keys, extra sunglasses (clip ons, I keep my regular pair in the car), aspirin, bandana (for cleaning my glasses), tissues (smallest possible package, highest cost per tissue), five pens and two styluses (styli?), lipstick (the extent of my make up needs), chapstick, hand cream, nail file and clipper, magnifying glass and measuring tape (don’t take up much room), extra car and house keys, clip on watch (I don’t wear one, and with the new phone I probably don’t need the purse watch), and a hair brush. If I need something to read, my Kindle fits in there, too.

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With a little effort (or a smaller wallet) I could probably downsize even further. Maybe back down to the purse I bought for the conference. Maybe I could even pick up a couple of other colors and change them now and then. Maybe . . .

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Stop by and see what Tammy Baumann, Wendy LaCapra, Priscilla Oliveras, Carol Post, and Tosha Sumner have been carrying around in their purses.

Vacation? What’s a Vacation?

The topic Favorite Vacation makes me realize how long it’s been since I actually went on one that didn’t involve something other than traveling for pleasure.

WW June 16

It’s not that I’m a workaholic. I only show up at my day job three days a week (although sometimes the Houston traffic makes it feel like more). It’s just that travel for me has always been about business. The last few years I’ve called my trip to RWA Nationals my vacation (and I’m going again this year), and that’s let me visit several cities I’d never seen.

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For many years my late husband and I traveled for research, historical and archeological, and that was great fun. We wandered all over the Southeastern states, as far north as the Ozarks, Cincinnati, and Washington, D.C. We went to Santa Fe one summer—alas, my suitcase went on to Los Angeles without me, but it did find its way back before we had to come home. We even made it to Mexico City, where the museums and restaurants were a lot more interesting than the oil industry conference we were writing off our taxes.

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When I was a teen, my dad was part-owner of a small ad agency in Miami, too small to have people wandering off on long vacations every summer. But he also had quite a few clients in travel and entertainment, and I remember trips to a motel in the Florida Keys, a visit to an amusement park somewhere on the Florida Coast, and a touristy trip to Charleston, South Carolina (I have no idea what prompted that one—I was about twelve—but we did get to see Fort Sumter).

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My family had moved to south Florida when I was ten, and the next summer I was allowed to fly back to Milwaukee, by myself, to spend the summer with my cousins. Much of that season was spent at The Cottage, a summer house my family had (and my cousins still own) on a lake in central Wisconsin. I haven’t been there in more than fifty years, but from the pictures my cousin Bob posts now and then on his Facebook page, it hasn’t changed much, although I suspect the shores of Round Lake have seen a lot of development.

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The Cottage on Round Lake, with its sleeping porch and uncomfortable beds, brings back more vacation memories than any place I’ve visited since. We went there every summer, our fathers joining us on weekends. When I was very young, we had no plumbing, until my Uncle Norman, who was in the plumbing supply business, took care of that. The summer my brother was born, when I was almost six, my dad and I went up to the Cottage without my mother. That was the year I walked up behind my dad while he was working the pump. I had a chipped front tooth from that little incident until I had the tooth capped decades later. (I’ll bet Dad’s explanation to Mom when we got home was memorable, but I don’t think I heard it.)

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Here I am on the lake shore below The Cottage, my mother in the background. I was probably about three. It makes me happy to know that my cousins’ grandchildren still play there.

Kay at cottage

This month my fellow Wednesday Writers are Tamra Baumann, Carol PostTL Sumner, Jean Willett, and Sharon Wray. I’ll bet they all have prettier pictures than mine!

When I Grow Up

When the Wednesday Writers picked “What you wanted to be when you grew up” for our May topic, my first thought was That was decades ago—I don’t remember. My second thought was Am I there yet?

WW May 16

Back then, in a previous century, the big three choices for girls were Teacher, Nurse, and Secretary. None of those really did it for me, although any of them would have pleased my mother, a very intelligent woman with a high school education, whose work experience was limited to the years during World War II when all the men were away. My dad, on the other hand, was convinced I could be whatever I wanted to be, and told me so.

I did at least think about teaching, briefly, and about following my dad into the advertising business. A well-traveled journalist neighbor encouraged me to study foreign languages and aim for the Foreign Service, and I took Spanish, French, and German in high school.

I went off to college with no particular target, took more Spanish and French, and somehow wandered into an anthropology class. Next thing I knew I’d majored in anthropology and archeology, moved on to grad school, married a fellow archeologist, and gone into the cultural resource consulting business.

Somehow there was a thread running through all the detours. Remember my dad in the ad biz (in Milwaukee and Miami, thank goodness, never Madison Avenue)? He was there because it was one way he could make a living while writing, and I caught that from him. By the time I was twelve I was writing fan fiction (although that wasn’t a thing back then, and there was no way to share it). In high school I took honors English and creative writing, and wrote chunks of a totally unauthorized senior class satirical yearbook (I think I still have a copy of that somewhere, but thankfully not of the fan fiction).

I happily wrote term papers through college and grad school, and when Jack and I did archeological work I wrote the reports. And eventually I realized that what I wanted to do when I grew up, and what I’ve been doing under one name or another all my life, was write.

Here’s my dad at his desk in 1946.

And here’s my desk in 2016. Big changes in equipment, same love of the written word.

Desk 2016

This month my fellow Wednesday Writers are Tamra Baumann, Carol Post, Priscilla Oliveras, Sharon Wray, and TL Sumner. Pop over and find out what they wanted to be when they grew up.