The Perfect App


Until a relatively short while ago, I had no idea what an app was. Whenever I would hear people discussing the amazing new app they got for their iPhones or Androids or whatever is out there these days, I would shake my head in wonderment and smile like I completely understood what they were so excited about.

After a family emergency, where it was necessary that I be in contact with family members at a moment’s notice, I caved in and exchanged my old flip phone for an iPhone.  And, once again, I found myself nodding mindlessly at the store representative, who was telling me about all the magnificent features my new phone had.  I didn’t ask many questions, so he must have thought I was an absolute genius!  After about 20 minutes, when he finishing enumerating the marvels of my phone, he asked if I had any questions. I thought it would be extremely impolite to tell him I was lost after he said, “OK, this is what your iPhone does…” So, I just kept smiling!

I was trying hard not to be totally engulfed in the enormous capacities of my new iPhone. Just getting along with the basics was how I approached it – using the Calendar to keep track of upcoming events and holidays, and the Notes that (to the utter chagrin of my children!) lets me keep massive size lists on everything in my life, from what I need at the grocery store, to my grandchildren’s clothes sizes, to ideas for future articles, etc…

Therefore, it took me by surprise how quickly my initiation and fascination became for the app icons on my phone. I was introduced to the app features when I was out with a friend at a restaurant, and I saw that she was able to say Birchat HaMazon (Grace After Meals) from her iPhone.  Now, that was something I was interested in knowing about!  And, so, for an hour she kept downloading all the Jewish apps she thought I would like to have accessible at my fingertips…Kosher GPS, JM in the AM (a popular radio show), Tehillim, shiurim, a siddur, believe me, it goes on and on.  Truth be told, I felt like a venerable Rebbetzin once we left the restaurant, and I knew all of this information was accessible to me, simply by touching my phone screen!

I found that with my new knowledge about apps, the sky was the limit! I am terrible with directions, so there is WAZE, which helps me get to any destination and (thankfully) back home again; math has never been a strong point, so I pop open the Calculator; and the Weather app lets me know what kind of forecast to expect all day long!

And, when I am traveling, that is when my apps really come in handy!  I know the time anywhere in the world, the exchange rate of any foreign currency, and even how to say a certain phrase in another language. Very nice additions to any trip!

Many of my friends’ and family members’ phones are filled with all kinds of apps.  Yet, I really tried to stick to the ones that I convinced myself would ‘benefit my life’.  Therefore, it was pretty much a no-brainer for me when I tried to find an app for a personal journal that would suit my needs.

At the app ‘store’—conveniently displayed right smack in the center screen of my iphone—there are so many different apps to choose from.  I spent an enormous amount of (wasted) time, just trying to figure out which app was the best for me.  I tried half a dozen, but, for some reason, none of the daily journal logs seemed right for me.

When I tried to explain my dilemma to some of my children who are app buckies (if there is such a term!), they were extremely patient with me and tried to be as helpful as possible. Yet, they were not able to find the elusive app I was searching for. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to find a daily journal app that would meet my high standards and approval!

And, then, without anyone’s guidance or help…I found the perfect item for my daily journal.  It was so obviously what I had needed all along, I wondered why I had not noticed it before. It was truly a relief to have this problem solved.

As I went shopping in our neighborhood Staples stores for more computer paper, I happened to pass a display of yearly personal calendars. I had not bought one this year, since I assumed it would be so easy to find the right app that would do the trick.  If I misplaced my calendar book in the past, I would truly be in a ‘controllable hysterical state’. (You can ask any of my children for confirmation about that!)

The calendars I always bought fit snugly in my purse, had a week and month-at-a glance, and places to write a personal account of what is going on in that time period…or what will be happening at a future date.  As I longingly held the new calendar in my hand, I wondered, is this the long-sought-after-non-existing app I have been searching for fruitlessly?

I purchased a calendar with a floral purple cover design.  That evening, I could not believe how eager I was to put pen to paper about what happened during my day. I was amazed to see the results.  Because there before my eyes, was not some usual typeface print, but it was my life written in my handwriting.  I cannot begin to express the comfort this gave me!  I truly felt that I was a little back in touch with reality, using the basic skill of writing the old-fashioned way!

Over the years, I have come across letters written from different acquaintances, or my mother’s inscription in different books she owned, and I can’t believe the warm feelings of happiness that truly flow over me when I see their handwriting. Even though my daily journal of events may be quite boring for future generations, at least they will see how I decided to spend my day, in my own handwriting, and, I hope somehow, they will feel a closer connection to me.

I have certainly learned my lesson.  I realize that there are just some things that technology cannot compete with.  There is, and there never will be, an app to replace one’s own unique handprint in G-d’s extraordinary world.

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Rebecca (Feldbaum) Steier is the author of two books, If There’s Anything I Can Do . . . (Feldheim, 2003) and What Should I Say, What Can I Do? (Simon & Schuster, 2009). She is a popular speaker who draws upon her personal experiences to teach others how to help those who are going through a medical crisis or who have suffered a loss. Contact her at