Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Victim of my Devices

The other day, I sat pecking on my laptop as my tablet streamed live TV.  My cell phone rang and as I answered it, I glanced over my stuff and felt all 21st century and a bit overwhelmed.

As one of those antiques who remembers 3 television stations, party lines, and shut downs at midnight, my travel through technology has been an adventure.

It was handy to be a teacher when computers invaded society. During my second year, I was housed, temporarily, in the new COMPUTER ROOM of the remodeled high school. It was an oversized classroom with floor-to-ceiling windows, many electrical outlets and lots of small, red, blinking lights. I believe we were expecting to automate the reading of ‘key punch’ cards that we filed manually at that time. At any rate, the school folks expected huge machines, walls of them, to bring the school up to date.

Those machines never appeared; the lights remained and my students liked the d├ęcor.

About 10 years later, I sat at my first word-processor, typed something on a keyboard that appeared on a screen. THEN, as directed, I hit the PRINT SCREEN button, heard a CLICK hooozze, and turned to the right as my typing started to print out on a separate device. I believe I sat transfixed until the document was complete. Amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing.

At that time, the school purchased whole rooms of word processing machines and started requiring all students to learn them. And then, that requirement became an amusement as students started owning their own devices at home.

As for me, I recovered from the thrill of the over-there printer but continued to learn and then purchased my own computer for our home. It sat on a large desk in the corner of our bedroom, tethered to a phone hook-up (‘land line’). I needed a crib sheet of basic DOS commands to make the computer work. I asked, looking for an answer I could understand, what DOS was. Yeah, Disk Operating System. But what IS that? Never got a satisfactory answer but I could follow my notes   C:/bitmax/run    (something like that)

My father-in-law, who was always in front of technology, could sit at my computer, punch in a few commands (didn’t need notes!) and the screen would fill with scrolling coded phrases of the contents of my computer. Whew!

Into the 90s and the Office Stuff: schools wanted kids to learn OFFICE. Logic: they will be able to get jobs. So, although I was not expected to train anyone, I WAS expected to be at least marginally familiar with WORD, EXCEL, and POWERPOINT. A bright someone created step-by-step instructions for use during training that could teach a 4th grader. Some began with:

“Sit down, adjust seat for comfort, locate power button and turn on computer.” And then pictures of what screens should look like at various stages of the program.

Although I could and still can maneuver through Office, as I use WORD regularly, that is my go-to program. I spent 10 years writing a weekly newspaper column using Microsoft Works and could navigate without checking the booklet. Then WORD replaced WORKS and I had to renew my education for a while.

Later, as I would supervise my students as they composed in writing labs, I saw them using different keys and commands to accomplish what I would do. I asked someone to show me a few….that right click on the mouse can get some things done faster than taking my arrow up to the banner at the top and dropping down…too technical for you?...and kids are all about fast. I find, that for now, I like the way I use the program.

Side note and one I’ve shared with my teenage students, this after asking, “Has anyone ever tried to teach Gramma how to use her computer?”  This always creates heavy sighs, nods, pained laughter from the kids. I tell them, then, that they have nibbled at the wafer of patience (English teacher, all about metaphors), and that the way to curb their frustrations is to remember to teach her ONE way to do something. Not three. Not the fun, fast way. Not the cool way. The SIMPLEST, the MOST VISUAL, and JUST ONE.

As a Gramma/student, when the teacher begins with, “You can do it this way, and that way and then…” I feel my eyelids curl. So, one way, ok?

Several times in the last 15 years, I have announced that I am DONE with Upgrades. I’ll just muddle through the rest of my life with my vintage computer with the floppy disk drive.

What? They don’t use them anymore? Flashdrive? Cloud? Huh?

At our house, we cleaved to our landline and figured we would not ‘do’ cell. I mean, why? And then we found out why. Mike could drive to Wabash while dictating AND communicating with the office. How many times had he driven 50 miles to Indianapolis, parked and entered the courthouse, only to find out that the case had been canceled, rescheduled, something? Now his assistants could alert him and he could save time and money and get on with the next case.

Me? I found the cell phone a convenience but never carried it with me. My kids would say, “Mom, I called you. Where is your cell phone?”

“In the car.”

Long, sighing pauses.

Eventually, that little, bright blue flip phone found its way into my purse but it was still an afterthought. Upgrade? Nah. Why?

Then, at one of Mike’s birthday parties, my pastor led me astray: I announced that I was going no farther with cell phones. He dipped his head (tall guy), smiled slyly, and said, “I think you will. Check this out.”

At which he fired up his phone, touched a few buttons, and up came a live link up with a most adorable grandson. His eyes were on his phone. “How you doin’, buddy?”

“Hi Gandar.”

“Gotta go. See you soon. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Then, he turned his smile at me and said, “Huh?”

So, with grandsons 1100 miles away, my tempter swayed me to a smart phone and now it’s invaluable.

I think some of us, the 3 channel folks, struggle with trying to UNDERSTAND how it all works. As that is beyond most of us, we use but we are wary. Then, we keep hearing all warnings about how others can get to our stuff and all.

My stuff is pretty boring but I don’t want strangers into it. I’m betting that if ‘someone’ ventured ‘in’ he would quickly see that there’s nothing ‘there.’

I HAVE had a few interesting adventures while strolling through the internet. Once, when a student asked me how to find a graphic for his poem about Little Red Riding Hood, I sat down among my students and typed LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD into the search line. (This was JUST before I learned about Google Image.) When I hit ENTER, I observed my screen filing with pornographic images, in strips of pictures. I tried to stop it….hitting random keys…as my crowd of freshmen gathered and giggled.

When the computer was done belching the images, I called to computer people to report this as we had been warned that anything we viewed on school computers was public property and could be linked to us. The computer guy laughed also and then told me about Google Image. Day saved.

I’ve also endured e-mails that contain ‘tone,’ amazed at how words on a screen can convey emotion. One time, I opened a message from a parent. It was in ALL CAPS and BOLD RED. She was unhappy with me. I remember leaning away from the screen like I had been punched.

Email, by its nature, is abrupt and to-the-point. When the reader has context, it doesn’t matter but many writers don’t establish that context. Personally, after the RED CAP caper, I started always beginning emails with a salutation.  Hi.  Dear…  Something. It softens the blow if a blow is, in fact, to be delivered. Also, on those occasions, rare now, that might ramp up the emotion, I always save and think before I send. Sometimes, a cooler head should run the SEND button.

My newest device is a SURFACE, a tablet which I bought as a lighter writing device. It’s pretty neat and does travel well. But it’s a curiosity to me. The salesman demonstrated all sorts of touch, move, enlarge, swipe things that I don’t use and don’t understand. But sometimes, I touch something and then what I’m working on goes somewhere. I’m learning how to find my stuff but I end up swiping through all sorts of things I don’t use.

There are some lovely perks that I, again, don’t understand. If I close the tablet onto the Velcro-snapped keyboard, it shuts down. Usually. But yesterday, I discovered something new.

I had searched for “All the Poor and Powerful” on YouTube. Up came the most delightful video of All the Sons and Daughters AND several small children performing this wonderful, worshipful song. I believe…but am not sure…that the site is WorshipMob. Or WorshipMob Channel. Or WorshipMob something.

Anyway, I sat through the 5 minute video, enchanted. So I fired it up again. About half way through the second time, I had to move on, so I closed the tablet. The song continued. On to the finish, 3 minutes later. Huh. THAT has never happened before. My Surface salesman might offer an explanation…he’s my go-to guy… but I chalked it up to a blessing. This is better for me on many levels. I wouldn’t understand what I ‘did’ to keep the music going.

Then, this morning, as I ventured into the internet to research something important but tedious, the site reactivated and played the song again. Ok THAT’s a major blessing.

I can abide victimization of devices and the muddle of my understanding: I don’t want to know ‘how’ it happens. I will smile and feel hugged, once again.



Monday, June 16, 2014

....and Lynne

Mike and I had separate circles of acquaintances. Mike’s was the legal community, in Kokomo and in the many other counties where he represented clients. Some were friends. Most were adversarial colleagues. But they were HIS: I met a few from time to time but I’d bet most wouldn’t recognize me just walking down the street.

My circle was at school: I was a fixture at Kokomo High School for 40 years. I cherish the friendships between teachers, and custodians, and administrative assistants, and even some administrators. Some had seen photos of the hub: few would recognize him just walking down the halls.

Then, there were those who knew us both professionally: students’ parents would hire Mike; former students would hire Mike. And, at home I would talk about students, problems I had with them, funny things that had happened in class. Mike never named his clients: clients need to be free to tell their lawyer anything; I certainly did not need to know backstories on my students unless they came to me through school channels.

All too often, some student would say that his mom or dad or uncle had hired my husband and I could be honestly surprised. If comment seemed required, I would say, “I hope he was pleased.” And then I would get either a nod or some version of what an overpaid SOB that lawyer was. I think my favorite was, “It must be nice, just sitting at a desk, with people throwing money at you.”

Rarely did these worlds meet. Rarely but not never: I had one rather dramatic episode where, in a parent conference, an angry father lunged over the desk at me and had to be restrained. (Thank you, large-chested principal who was in attendance.) No, I’m not kidding. Dad claimed that I had lost his son’s project, just like I had lost an older son’s project AND his wife’s project 20 years before.

For the record, when a student fails to turn in an important assignment, the go-to explanation is THE TEACHER LOST IT. As I never took big-point projects out of my room, not ever, and when accused I would scour every corner, I knew I had not done this; I still remain flummoxed that the mom had been doing a slow burn for so many years and had been serving me up at the dinner table. “We warned our kids about you.”  Sigh.

That particular, rather nasty encounter had shaken me... overt threats of physical violence will do that...and I took it home. Because the names didn’t match, it took a few minutes for Mike to give me a possible explanation: he had represented a relative who ran out of money and so had paid his fee with his custom, tricked out, very nice motorcycle. He and his attorney had signed an agreement that the fee would be paid within the year. The client had some expectation of finding money to pay the fee and planned to pay but after 2 years and several contacts, Mike sold the bike. His former client and his extended family were not pleased. Somehow, they figured I had something to do with this: those Bolingers just sit at home plotting how to ruin our lives.

And, in our small town, there may have been other classroom problems that connected with Mike’s practice but none come to mind. So, the point is that we had a circle of friends who knew one of us.

But, of course, there were the Mike and Lynne’s friends. Family, of course. Friends at church. Friends in the neighborhoods. And during the last 4 years of our marriage, that group grew. And grew close to us.

And, here’s what’s hard right now, hard for me but something with which I must deal: when I come upon friends who loved Mike as part of Mike and Lynne…..I sense a sadness, perhaps a renewal of grief on their part. I am the reminder of what is now lost.

Among strangers, I’m just that tall lady. But even among school friends who did not know Mike, I’m his widow….

This may be one reason that I’m sad when I revisit the places we shared and see it in the eyes of those who loved him. It’s part of the process, difficult for all of us.

My move to the lake and San Antonio, I have opportunities to make new friends and find new avenues. But I will miss the dear friends of Mike and Lynne as we navigate a new relationship.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Felt like Mary and Joseph

I am a blend of World Traveler/Small Town Gal

This year, I have been able to visit with about 20 people who came to us through our blog. I wanted to meet with them, match faces with names, and take them (and family) out to dinner to thank them. I know that this plan, from several Internet savvy friends, sounds a bit odd or even scary. In actuality, it has been glorious.

But all this travel presents different challenges for me. I guess I had lost track of how many miles I've covered. For our recent sisters/nieces trip, I had purchased a portable clothes steamer as my sister gave me a blouse that wrinkles when you look at it. My niece Sarah, who travels for business, liked the steamer. I said, "When this trip is over, you can have this. I don't travel much."

At which, she stared at me like I had giant asparagus growing out of my ears. "What?" she said. "You travel a lot, Aunt Lynne."

Oh. I guess she's right. The family has been keeping tabs. She can still have the steamer. But, this year has been unusual for me in many ways: traveling is just one part of my adventure.

I remain, still and probably always, a bit of a small-town gal. I can remember when it was routine that you could return merchandise without a receipt in my town. The first time Target got all receipt-requirement on me, I swore I'd never shop there again. Got over it, by the way. You can still shop, in Kokomo and Warsaw, without fretting over receipts. I like that. Simplifies my life.

Mike and I traveled a bit but our trips were habitual and simple. We learned that if we could flash a credit card and some ID, the airline and hotel could locate our reservations. But, this week, I needed some big city skills and I crashed and burned.

My week began with a flight from Anchorage to Los Angeles. I spent a long weekend with Gwen, a friend I met on the Dennis Miller Zone message board; our friendship grew through her following our blog. She had taken me visiting her beloved Alaska, showing me sights and sites that she knew Mike would have loved. She was so right.

I had booked a non-stop flight to LAX and when I checked in, I found that I could upgrade to the last 1st class seat for $50. That meant a much nicer seat, a meal, and a really fun video player. I savored that God hug and enjoyed the flight.

At the big airport, my next task was to get to the LAX Marriott where I had a reservation. This meant that I sat under a red sign, "Hotel Shuttles," waiting for my ride. We loaded up in a crowd. We rode to the hotel. We disembarked, We filed to the line to check in.

By now, whatever time zone I'm on, I envisioned a hot cut of tea and a soft bed.

It took about 30 minutes to get to the agent. She asked me the golden question, "Do you have your confirmation number?"

I had several numbers. I had several cryptic codes for...I'm not sure... airlines? I had no reservation number. And apparently, I had no reservation. And, as it is always the case, there were no vacancies here. Nor anywhere in the LAX area. Something about a convention. A nice lady named Misty was oh so sorry but could only direct me to a hotel 20 miles away. Sigh. I was not alone. Several other people had missed connecting flights.

Then a nice young man announced, "No problem, folks. There are rooms at the Courtyard. Get in the shuttle and go there." We who were without rooms smiled, and boarded the bus. On to the next hotel, out and into the line. The couple in front of me were checking in when THAT agent said, "I'm glad I was able to give you our last room."

"NO!" I expressed my displeasure. "They told us you had rooms."

"We did. These people got the last one."

By the way, having bonded, that couple offered, as sincerely as they could to a stranger, that I could grab a cot in their room. I deferred.

Now, I'm trying to remember that all things happen for a reason. For some reason, I was not at my final stop.  Tick Tick: 2 hours since I landed.

I was tired. I was stressed. I wanted to sink to the floor and just cry. I looked down at the floor tile. I knew that would not be a solution.  So, I asked this agent to call a cab. He said it would take about 30 minutes.

Numb now. But the cab came right away, driven by Si, a very nice young man, who loaded up my suitcase and set his GPS for the hotel in Long Beach. $70 later, we turned into its parking lot.

I was dragging that purple wheeled suitcase by now. A smiling man greet with, "Are you checking in, Miss?" I nodded.

I did NOT say out loud: I hope I am. If you have no rooms, I will be parking one of those couches over there. Or their stable out back.

They DID have a room, a very nice room I bet. So, after negotiating past the drunk guy who wanted to buy me a drink (I'm a doctor! I have a Porche!"), I found my way to the 5th floor and my room.

Joseph and Mary had to settle for the stable and, face it, they had that 'baby is coming' thing. I made a cup of tea and crashed.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Anniversary: Celebration

The passing of time fades memories:  I wonder when.

Long, long ago, Mike and I suffered the loss of a still born son. Tragic on so many levels. He was full term, really gorgeous and, I hope, would have been raised in a good home. It was our first disappointment as grown-ups. We navigated blind, letting the pain, sorrow, fear, relief, acceptance, wash over us in whatever waves broke.

At one point, Mike had asked someone close, “When are we going to get back to normal?” when such an event changes ‘normal’ forever. It takes time to discover the New Normal and settle in.

I’m not even sure we ever did that completely. For about 20 years, I always put Nathan’s birthday/death date on our wall calendar. There were silent trips out to the family plot to visit that tiny marker. And, even today, almost 40 years later, I still tear up when I talk about it.

I have since buried other loved ones: I believe that the death of one’s child…whether young or old…is the greatest, deepest pain to pierce a heart.

When the 1 year mark was upon us, we were settling back into routine, at least. I brought a veggie tray and some Asti Spumonti to the office for lunch. We sat in Mike’s office and toasted our child, our survival, and God’s goodness.

It was a good way to cross off that first year.

Now I face the first anniversary of Mike’s passing.  June 14, 2014.

Quite a while ago, one of my favorite nieces and her very nice fella chose this date for their wedding. I don’t think they gave any mind to the date, other than it’s perfect for them. Nor should they.

So, on that sunny afternoon…I’ve put in an order for sunny…so much of the family will gather in a park near Santa Barbara, to witness the vows of David and Katherine. And they we will celebrate their (and our) happy day.

As I await reunion, my heart will be singing.

Monday, June 2, 2014

What an Adventure!

It's something my Facebook friends already know: two sisters, two nieces and me: off to Rome and then onto the NCL Epic for a whirlwind trip around the Mediterranean.

It had been in the planning phase since last summer. I've posted some highlights, thanks to niece Sarah who took most of the photos AND has an international phone plan.

This is a trip that many retired teachers would love to take. My advice: spend about 6 months getting into shape. I THOUGHT I was in shape. I mean, I walk the dog every day. Well, not even close. In Rome and Florence, our first stops, there are stairs, stairs, steps, more steps, and much much walking, always uphill.

We popped a lot of Advil in our stateroom. The Coliseum, yeah THAT one, looks like every photo you've ever seen. Except, wow. There we were, in 3D. Niece Sarah is a fan of Russell Crowe and Gladiator. She was in heaven.

The 'fake' David is right there behind us.
In Florence, of course, we walked around Michelangelo's David. You can't take photos there, but out in the square, there's the 'fake David,' suitable for photos. That's US in front of HIM. Oh, you can't see HIM?
Dinner in Rome. We shared 2 entrees, 2 salads and 4 desserts.
Sangria in Barcelona.

Outside the Vatican. This was Tuesday; the Pope holds his audience on Wednesday. We saw they setting this up.
Sunrise over Mount Vesuvius
And Pompeii: Amazing. Check out facebook.
And now, home.