I got a new phone and an old phone

This was my phone – the LG Octane.  Notice that it has buttons – not virtual icons representing buttons.  It was designed for making phone calls.  I loved my phone.   Mostly because I don’t have to put in my password, swipe this and way and that, find the phone feature, then start tapping at a glass screen to punch in a phone number, then hold up what feels like a breadbox up to my ear… On my LG Octane, I just push the number buttons.  It responds with satisfying telephone number tones, then I push send, and I’m talking on a telephone.  Best of all, it was cheap.  At a time when friends were plunking down $300 for an iPhone, I got my flip phone for nearly nothing.

But, sometime in the last few months, it stopped retrieving my email.  I also love email.  Well, I don’t really love email, but sometimes being away from email makes me a little nervous, especially because we are a frequently vacationing family and there’s a lot of stuff at work that ALWAYS needs to be working.

So, a few weeks ago, I went into the Verizon store and asked if they had a phone with buttons that can also reliably retrieve email.  They had a button phone, but they didn’t know about the email.  It was in the back.  It was locked with a password.  The Verizon employee did not know the password.  He told me I could look at it, but since he didn’t know the password I couldn’t really try it out.  Then, he told me that I could probably get it cheaper at Best Buy.  It didn’t take long for it to dawn on me, that this guy doesn’t really want to sell me a flip phone with buttons.  Fine… so I took my business elsewhere.  I looked on Amazon.  I looked at Best Buy… At the end of the day, getting a flip phone that may or may not have email would cost me between $50-$150 with a 2 year contract.  The new Samsung Galaxy S5 would cost me $100.  As practical as a flip phone is, if given the choice between a flip phone and a powerful pocket computer that the modern smart phones are, who would pay the same amount and choose a flip phone?

So, as of today, I’ve caught up with the rest of the world and have become a smartphone toter.  But, with that said, I should probably ease into this brave new world of touchscreen future phones.

Luckily, I’ve been working on a side project that I also managed to finish up this evening.  It’s my own DIY Bluetooth “earpiece”.   Something to help me ease the transition into the modern world.

I had an old Motorola T505 Car Speakerphone from when I drove a car that didn’t have Bluetooth. 




20140625_005618_resizedI also have an old, beige rotary dial telephone circa 1970 that I snatched off of ebay.  It’s been sitting on my shelf for almost a year – just waiting for that perfect project.  When I first got it, it was interesting trying to explain how it works to the kids.  The rotary dial is not all that intuitive.    When aliens are sifting through our archaeological remains, I am very skeptical they’ll figure out how we used the rotary dial.


Using this relic from the past, I took apart the T505 and hooked up the microphone and speakers to the phone wires.  As sophisticated as today’s electronics are, when it comes down to it, at some point the signal turns into analog as it is hooked up to the speaker and microphone.    I did a little bit of surgery and replumbing, and now I have a rotary phone that I can use to take phone calls.

Now the big question is should I use my Bluetooth “earpiece” in my car?  Or at work?  I can also carry it around because the T505 has a pretty long battery life, but the phone itself is a little bit heavy.  I took out the bells which shaved off some weight, but there’s still a big heavy metal cube in there (which I have no idea what it’s for… maybe a transformer?)

It would be neat if I could actually dial out from the phone using the rotary dial mechanism.  I’ve seen some DIY projects that use the rotary dial as an input device, but it looks a lot more involved than a little bit of wire snipping and soldering…   A project for another day…


Red Cross Emergency Shelter Assignment

American Red CrossIn 2010, our church asked its members to get trained with the Red Cross.  There were about 10 of us that went and received the training.  After that, I was a put on a list and now and then I get emails whenever there’s a shelter that is set up in the puget sound area. 

A few weeks ago, I received an email where Red Cross volunteers could get free Seattle Storm tickets.  Sure!  Why not!  I’ve never been to a Storm game and my kids are starting to get into basketball.  I signed up for 4 tickets.  A week later, I get an email that they need volunteers for an emergency shelter because of an apartment fire in Federal Way

South King Fire and Rescue firefighters battled an early blaze Friday at a Federal Way apartment complex, where 91 people were displaced.  - Courtesy South King Fire and Rescue

If I’m willing to take basketball tickets, I’d better be willing to take a shelter shift… So tonight, I’m at the New Hope church (next to St. Luke’s) in Federal Way.  There was an apartment fire at the Crestview Apartments a few weeks ago where 91 people were displaced.  I’ve done one other shift in Kent about a year ago after another apartment fire.

These shelter shifts are 8 hours long, and probably not like what one might imagine when they think of a red cross shelter.  I’m not bandaging legs and carrying babies from one place to another.  I am sitting at the registration desk for about 80% of the time checking people in and out.  Occasionally, I’ll give directions or dig out a special snack for one of the kids from the snack closet.    The remainder of the time, I’m helping serve food, cleaning up the dishes, mopping the floor, and taking out the trash. 

However, I’m always impressed with the people and other volunteers that I meet.   They always make the experience worthwhile.  Today, Maggie greeted me.   She is the Shelter Lead for the entire region.  She comes every day from Bainbridge Island down to Federal Way to take care of these displaced people and help coordinate the volunteers.  When things were a bit quiet, I tried to figure out why she does it.  She’s a volunteer, so it’s certainly not for the money.  She basically needs to be on a moment’s notice to heed the call whenever there is a local emergency that happens.   She told me stories of how she was also deployed to Sandy and a couple other national disasters.   Apparently, when you are deployed for a national disaster, it is a 3 week commitment and you sleep in the cots at the shelters.  It’s a tough 3 weeks.

She told me that she’s a house wife and her daughter went off to college, and she needed something to do.  She found the red cross.  She found a great mentor.  She eventually became a shelter manager.  Now, she oversees all the Shelters in the Western Washington region and has 5 shelter managers under her.  She’s probably got a few more years in her before she retires, so she needs to find someone else to take her place.  They are always looking for good volunteers and shelter managers with availability.    If helping people and meeting interesting people are up your alley, I recommend looking up the American Red Cross and signing up for some volunteer training.  You’ll be put on a list and get called up when you’re needed.  You might think that there are a ton of Red Cross volunteers, but there are not.  The other guy that is here with me is from North Seattle.

At the Kent Red Cross shelter a year ago, I met a man named Wayne from Forks, WA.  He drove all the way out to Kent and was taking a 16 hour shift.  He’s an EMT and told me all kinds of harrowing stories on his national deployments.  Seems like he’s a local legend among Puget Sound area Red Crossers.

These are a different breed of volunteers.  Ones that are driven to drive or fly for hours to help those in desperate need.  Not like me, that signed up out of guilt over basketball tickets…

I also met the Associate Pastor, Rick, at New Hope church.  He is a big man who looks like he just stomped out of an episode of American Chopper.  He talked about the outreach ministry at his church.  On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, they run a shelter and feed the homeless.  Many are addicts, alcoholics, or have other conditions where they can not find shelter in other organizations.  New Hope gives them a place to stay and a warm meal.  Lately, they have been working with families.    Apparently, there are a number of families with young children that sometimes live out of their car or in transient situations.  He said that he suspects that some may be undocumented immigrants and are afraid that the shelter is some kind of a trap.   Eventually, he gets to know the families and are able to give them help by turning them over to organizations that can help them get out of their transient situation.    He pointed to the facilities manager, who was introduced to the church on one of these outreach nights.  Now he is gainfully employed at the church and apparently doing a wonderful job.  He mentioned that several local churches and mosques including St. Luke’s (neighboring church) are helping out through donations, service hours, and funding.

He also talked about how he got a call a few nights after the Federal Way Apartment fire.  I always thought that the Red Cross had pre-arranged locations for emergency shelters.  Apparently not.  The emergency shelter was originally set up at the FW Community Center, but it just wasn’t working with the basketball games right next to the shelter area.  That’s when New Hope got the call.    Pastor Rick was eager to accommodate.  After a week and a half, he asked his congregation today if they can continue to support the shelter and they all agreed to support the Red Cross as long as it was required. 

Sometimes, we hear so much about the bad stuff going on, that it’s easy to forget about all the good people of the world.  For some reason, they never quite make the news.  Their deeds are usually done quietly.  Their help received humbly by the meek and voiceless.  That’s what I love about showing up at the Red Cross or most other service assignments.  I usually show up thinking that I’m going to help somebody out or do some good, but usually end up leaving inspired by the example of others or the perseverance of those facing adversity. 

Reminds me of a quote from Gordon B. Hinckley, late President of the LDS church:

The best antidote I know for worry is work.  The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired.  One of the great ironies of life is this:  He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.





I think he was talking about more than just basketball tickets…

The great people I met tonight – I’m sure they are amply receiving the blessings of serving those around them.    May God bless them for their hard work.  May more rise up to fill out the ranks in doing good.

Happy Father’s Day

This song is dedicated to my husband, who is the love of my life and the most amazing father to our boys.  I love him so!


from the Musical “Once” that Don and I recently saw


And I love him so
I wouldn’t trade him for gold
Walking on moonbeams
I was born with a silver spoon

Hey I’m gonna be me
Gonna be free
Walking on moonbeams
And staring out to sea

And if a door be closed
Then a row of homes start building
And tear your curtains down
For sunlight is like gold

Hey you better be you
Do what you can do
Walking on moonbeams
And staring out to sea

‘Cause if your skin was soil
How long do you think before they’d start digging
And if your life was gold
How long do you think you’d stay living

And I love him so
I wouldn’t trade him for gold



Federal Way to Bellevue (Work while you commute!)

Anyone interested in vanpooling?

Currently, I waste about 2 hours on the road every day.  I was looking at the King County Vanpool program to see if there is an alternative.

My big thing is that I want to hire a fulltime driver and I want wifi in the van so that I can work while I commute.    That right there would add 2 hours to my life every day.  2 hours x 20 days = 40 hours/month ==> 480 hours/year.

If anyone else out there feels this pain, please ping me  (Just comment on the post).  We’re work out pickup/drop location and times.

I did some investigation and this is what it would take.  I just need 5 more people to join me.

Current costs:

Currently I’m travelling about 60 miles per day.
$4 x 60miles/20mpg = $12/day x 20 days = $240/month in gas
+ 2 hours of commute time/day + wear and tear on car

“Drive me while I work” program costs:

If we can get 6 people, we could get a 7 passenger van from the King County Vanpool program.

  Low Estimate High Estimate
Revenue $250 per person x 6 = $1500/month $280 per person x 6 = $1680/month
Van + Gas $536 $536
Driver $800 $960
2 12GB Hotspots (Sprint) @ $80/each $160 $160
Total $1496/month $1656/month

Essentially, for the money I spend on gas, I might be able to have a custom shuttle service to my work.

For the driver, I figure we can find a contractor for $10/hour and pay them 4 hours/day. 

$40/day x 20 days = $800/month

It’s possible we may need to pay more for a quality, reliable driver.  If we pay up to $12/hour, then the total driver cost would be:

$48/day x 20 days = $960/month

We might even get lucky and one of the interested commuters might want to be a driver.  We could just pay them $800/month.  That’s not a bad deal for driving a few other people to/from work…