1.31.2013

Do you need a Neo?




This last year I discovered a gadget that has been one of the best purchases I’ve ever made…and you might want one, too, when you hear how terrific it is!

It’s called a Neo by Alphasmart. It’s a portable word-processor that was originally designed for use in schools, and still are used that way. Because they were made for kid-use, they offer some outstanding features:
  • Extremely durable. You can throw them in a backpack, take them with you anywhere.
  • Instant-on.
  • Constantly saves your work so there’s never any need to save or backup.
  • Resumes right where you left off when you last turned it off (you can set it to have a key lock so you won’t inadvertently bump it and turn it on).
  • Has eight files that can hold up to 25 pages of writing each.
  • Has a built-in thesaurus, word count, find/replace function, font-size adjustment, and spell-check.
  • There’s a handy reference list on the back with commands and shortcuts you need for writing and editing. You can search the internet and download the user manual.
  • You can print directly from the Neo.
  • Runs on four AA batteries that last literally for years.
  • Auto-shut-off after a couple of minutes.
  • Uploading files is a breeze—you just use a USB cable to connect to your computer, open up any word processing environment (even a blog post window), and press “Send.”  Voila, your file loads, ready to work on.  You can then clear your Neo file with a “clear file” button. (Hint: don’t open any other window during uploading where you can add typed information—it’ll switch and start transferring it to there!)
  • Never gets hot like a computer so you can just work with it on your lap.
  • Here’s a fantastic benefit—no internet!  No distractions!  Just a pure, simple writing tool to capture your thoughts. 
  • I thought I wouldn’t like the small 6-line screen, but I find it actually a benefit to focused writing. You can adjust how many lines of type you want to see.
  • I love the keyboard touch.
  • They don’t need a case to protect them, though you can purchase one. I just got an oversized, padded purse from a thrift store and it works great.  Mine also fits handily in my canvas briefcase.
  • And one more—cost. You can get these used on Ebay or Amazon for as low as $35.  People buy them in lots when schools are upgrading and then resell them.  We each got one from Ebay and they seemed new, in perfect condition. (Hint: try to get one that has the USB cable included—though they don’t always list them that way.)

There are a few earlier versions of the Neo available (ex: the Dana), but the only one I would recommend is the Alphasmart 3000, which are usually a bit cheaper. These have a keyboard that is good for those who require a more defined touch.  We got an Alphasmart 3000 for my aunt after she had a stroke, and it has been excellent for her hand therapy and fine motor exercises.

There is also a newer, more expensive version of the Neo, the Neo2, which you can purchase directly online here.  (Note: the Neo2 is the only one that is currently being produced if you want a new one.)

Neos and Alphasmarts are popular among the writing community.  I first learned about them from a writer whose glowing recommendation convinced me I couldn’t live without one. Participants in the annual NaNoWriMo writing challenge rave about way Neos help them meet their daily writing goals.  I did the NaNoWriMo challenge this last fall and worked on my files with my Neo while travelling.  Be prepared for a lot of questions—people are fascinated with this new gizmo!

So how do we use them?  Let me count the ways…
  • I take my Neo with me everywhere.  As I write this post, I’m whacking it out while we drive to an out-of-town appointment.  I keep it beside me in my devotional time, capturing thoughts, writing prayers, or working on Bible study notes. When a blog post idea hits me, I can quick get it down before I forget it. It’s wonderful for journaling. I use it as a planner, list-maker, project & idea brain-stormer, letter writer…you get the idea.
  • It’s fantastic for school!  SweetPea, computer lover that she is, often prefers her Neo for roughing out a writing assignment. No distractions.
  • My honey uses it for Bible study notes when he’s preparing a message for the jail ministry he’s involved in. The immediacy and ease-of-use makes it the perfect study tool.
  • Take them camping or on vacation…on airplanes…to the library…to conferences…taking notes from TV or DVD programs…anywhere you’ve got a bit of extra time and two hands free!
So…have I convinced you yet?  I’d recommend doing an online search by product name and you’ll get a lot of information.  Also, the user reviews on Amazon are helpful.  And here’s a thought—these make wonderful gifts!

Happy writing!


1.27.2013

Faith & patience

Our pastor was speaking today about the faith battle we have as believers when we’ve prayed about something—and then it seems like God just doesn’t answer. We may respond with discouragement and impatience, or being tempted to think “this is just not working.”

What should a right response be?

~ Know that God set the thing in motion when you prayed. He will work out all the details—and what is for your best good—as you wait.  (Patience is not our strong suit!)

~ Stay in faith, whether it’s long or short.  Don’t give up.  Don’t give up.

~ Deal with any blockages in your own heart—disobedience to God, failure in loving others, doubt and unbelief, trying to control things, etc.

~ Recognize that the devil is a liar all the time.  Choose to believe God’s Word about your situation.  Choose to speak His Word about the situation instead of your own doubts.

~ Rejoice and praise God in the meantime!  Your answer is on the way.

He also spoke about how to keep our minds renewed with the Word of God, citing some interesting statistics.  Here are the percentages of how much  information you retain through various methods:
  • hearing – 10%
  • reading – 25%
  • studying – 50%
  • meditating – 75%
  • memorizing – 100%
It keeps coming back to making the Word our #1 priority, doesn’t it?  All else is affected by it, and certainly that’s the way to build our faith.

So I’m starting my new week encouraged to ‘hang in there’ in faith, to wait patiently on God, and to work at those last two on the list especially.

May the Lord bless your week and fill you with renewed faith in Him!


1.21.2013

Improvements

winter scene
January, with all it’s anticlimactic, post-holiday space, has been wonderful.  Having decided to cut back on some of our outside activities, I’ve been slowly plugging away at getting our home and life back to a more normal pace after such a hectic fall.  I’d sort of forgotten how lovely it is to have ‘margin’ throughout the day and week.  I’d highly recommend it!

One of January’s delightful gifts has been enjoying my honey’s retirement status.  Not only do I have more help around the house, but he’s stepped up to help with some of SweetPea’s homeschooling.  She now takes her math woes to him, and I’ll often overhear lively conversations going on in the next room about economics, world affairs and current events, or spiritual issues.  He’s a wonderful teacher.

His first big project has been to redo my kitchen.  (A restful retirement activity, huh?)  Amazing what he’s gotten done when he’s had days on end to devote to it, not just Saturdays.  All the cabinets and drawers are in and functional, with just some finish work required. 

Kitchen1
My kitchen is delivered!

Kitchen2
And assembly begins....

Kitchen3
Out with the old!

Kitchen4
I was only without water one day

Kitchen5
In with the new!

Kitchen6
Removing the old countertops

Kitchen7
Love those drawers!

Kitchen8
So much better for organizing

Next are the countertops and backsplash, then new flooring. I have to be honest and say that I’m not sad to say goodbye to the 1970s harvest-gold theme. So now the decision is—with white cabinets, black-and-white specked granite countertops, and warm wood-toned flooring, what color scheme for the walls to go with it? Ideas, anyone?


1.07.2013

New year thoughts

Ah…a new year. I love the word new – it’s loaded with such freshness and promise. I, like many others, love the chance to craft a new list of resolutions and goals. I write up overviews, think through the to-do’s of a busy life, journal my prayers and commit my life in the year to come to God for His leadership and strength. I consider the areas I failed in the past year and try to come up with something more effective that might work this year (you know, like ‘you don’t get dinner unless you’ve exercised’). As an inveterate box-checker, the new year provides a candy store of stuff I can happily make lists over.

I’ve even done a bit of this for 2013, will probably do more. But 2012, being the year of upheaval, uncertainty, and demand that it was for me, has drawn me into a different thought process for this year. Usually I get a ‘theme’ from the Lord of what we’ll be working on for the year, He and I. But the season before me holds the possibility of great change, and I’m not sure I have the luxury of following a comfortable checklist to keep me on track.

So my new year ‘aims’—my list for the year, look more like this:
~ Seek God more.  Learn to still my flurried heart in His presence until I have my cup filled.
~ Make time in the Word priority, work more of it in every chance I get, any way I can.
~ Then obey it!
~ Make my first response worship and praise.
~ Be more loving. Be more patient.
~ Be a better listener. 
~ Be quicker to act in obedience to the Holy Spirit and His promptings.  Be available.
~ Be more flexible. In fact, it would probably be good to go out on a limb and say ‘have no agenda’ and ‘have no expectations’—other than expecting to see “the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
~ Just do my best, every day.
~ Leave the rest to Jesus.
There’s probably more. Oh, yeah…one big one:  simplicity. With apologies to Martha, I think “One-Thing” Mary really embodies my heart desire this year. I am certain that the complexities and needs of her life were just as ‘met’ as Martha’s were, for all her planning and fussing—only in peace and simplicity.

That’s my aim for 2013!


1.02.2013

Changes

I’ve had an unintended break from blogging the past few weeks, brought about by that thing called Life.  You’ve had those times too, I’m sure--you just have to walk it out and wait until things settle back to normal.  To be honest, I just haven’t felt very social, haven’t felt like blogging.  But now with the holidays accomplished, I’m wanting to have a fresh start with the new year.

I was back and forth to Arizona several times this fall, helping out as I could with my family.  My mom had a stroke in August, was in rehab for several weeks, then the day before she was to go home, had another stroke.  She passed away in mid-November from the effects of that second one.  It was a gift of God that we could all be with her during her last days.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACan I share a miracle with you?  Normally, our drive to their town takes 15 1/2 hours.  The day we drove, we were slowed down by icy roads through the mountains and it should have taken us fully that amount of time.  In the middle of the day, we received a call that my mom was failing fast, so we were all praying that we’d get there in time.  We made the drive—door-to-door—in 14 hours…and had an hour and a half with my mom before she passed.  Isn’t God good?!  He knows how hard that would have been for me not to have been there to say my goodbyes and be with my family.

In the midst of the heartache of losing her, though, we’ve had the utter assurance of the incredible place she moved to—heaven—and the joy of knowing that we’ll be with her one day there—forever.  Mom was a woman of great faith, a student of God’s Word, and I just bet she wishes she could tell us about what she’s seeing and knowing!  I miss her like crazy, wish I could pick up the phone and have one of our long, wonderful talks.  I still had so many things I wanted to ask her, share with her; hard to think that the time for that is gone.  She was one of my dearest, truest friends, and I can never thank the Lord enough for the privilege of knowing her and calling her my Mom.

We came home to face the holidays, hardly having time to catch our breath from the previous emotional weeks.  I tried to keep things as simple as possible and was grateful to have some time for rest and reflection. 

And…we start the new year with yet another change before us—after nearly 32 years with his company, my husband took a retirement offer just before Christmas and is discovering the joys of a more leisurely lifestyle.  (I have had to remind SweetPea that she and I are not retired!)  That doesn’t mean he’s sitting in his easy-chair all day; he’s busy putting in a long-awaited new kitchen, and it’s lookin’ good! 

So in the midst of this topsy-turvy time, I’m asking the Lord to breathe fresh vision and clarity into my soul as I begin a new year.  What I want most is to hear His voice, follow His plan, and face each day with His life permeating every aspect of it. 

May your 2013 be filled with blessing and a new sense of God’s love for you!