February Goodness: Anything Not Connected to the Internet

Today I am celebrating all things that don’t require screens in order to be enjoyed. I am thankful for books, knitting and jigsaw puzzles, face to face conversations and walks outside, cat petting and sitting by the fireplace.

And just why did you stop petting me?

This morning I went over to Mom to get a particular TV series on her set so we could watch it together. An hour of utter frustration followed, as I tried one thing after another. I encountered freeze ups, dead batteries in remotes, rebooting, forgotten passwords, locked accounts and basically one fail after another. I can get the program on my TV at my house, but not at hers and that is the end conclusion (at least for today). I am too upset to continue.

I am more than a little frightened at how dependent I (we all) have become on the internet and all our devices. I can’t even bake a loaf of bread anymore without looking on the internet for a recipe. The trouble is, this has happened so quickly to our world. I remember a time, not that long ago, without pc’s, cell phones and smart watches. I am blessed to have always lived in a world with electricity and indoor plumbing but perhaps those things also scared people who came to depend on them. If it’s true that there’s no going back, then we had better hope we don’t have to because most of us won’t know how to keep ourselves alive. It won’t be pretty.

This trend to take a day off technology every now and then is probably a smart move in the right direction. But look at me, I had to sit down and vent here on my blog. And what if I didn’t have Fitbit telling me I was “crushing it” and Noom congratulating me for logging three meals in a row? If I didn’t have the internet, who would love me? Yeah, …

Maybe, this line of thought is a good reality check, a chance to be more aware of the stress of our cyber culture. Anyway, back to the world of available choices – I am thankful for a change of pace. I’m going to do something non-technological, like taking a nap or eating chocolate. I’ll feel better soon. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll google “technology frustration” and see what the remedy is, just sayin’…

Good choice. Real chocolate.

Internet Bondage

One small bar and that little shield with the exclamation point… sigh.

It’s hard to explain this title. Let me start by saying that I’m in an “internet challenged” environment for the past three days and am feeling more affected by that than I thought possible. If I had purposely gone into the wilderness and left all my devices behind, intending to drop out of communication, it would be entirely different. Reality is, I have my smart phone, my tablet, and my laptop 2-in-1 with me and had thought this time away would be a chance to write and pay attention to my blog and keep up with what’s happening at home as well. Not happening.

Frustration was birthed on the first day when I wanted to make arrangements for my trip home – an overnight motel in Minneapolis and a car from Tampa to my home in Bradenton. This took hours of re-establishing connection and watching the little spooling dots go round and round. Some pages took so long to load, I thought my computer had frozen, so I rebooted, several times.

Multiple pop-ups warned me to get off the unprotected network here at the assisted living apartment where I’m staying with Mom. I had already considered the risk of all the senior hackers that might be nearby, but there was no way to console my frantic security program.  I suppose it was because I was in a different location that all my usual web venues decided to ask for passwords that I did not have with me. Add to that the apps that ask for information leading down a 10-minute-long rabbit trail, only to tell me something at the end that was totally undecipherable. At that point there were no more drop down menus, no back buttons, no boxes for input, no hidden arrows or xs, no hope… Ah, well.

You would think that I would not want to spread this misery around, but I do like to share. I decided to get my mom a smart phone. You see,  I have an “80 something” year old mom who goes on Facebook, GroupMe, does email and daily solitaire challenges.  In spite of what she can do, she has resisted moving on from her old flip phone, claiming that she is afraid of touching the wrong button, accidentally signing up for something she doesn’t want or getting her identity stolen. These may be valid concerns but, more importantly, we want to send her pictures and texts, 24/7, whether she’s on her computer or not. She needs a smart phone.

I mentioned that I was in a somewhat remote area, remote enough that even the Walmart here does not have things other Walmarts have. There were no simple Jitterbug phones for seniors. There was however, a Verizon store in an old remodeled house. Once inside, it looked less like a bed and breakfast and more familiar, right down to the four geek people, nonchalantly waiting to sell and up-sell. An hour and a half later I left with an entry level Samsung phone and a clear promise that it could be returned within 14 days if it didn’t work out (and an Otter Box, a PureGear screen protector, an offer to join Hum which I resisted, an offer to upgrade my husband’s phone which I rejected, a suggestion that my daughter upgrade her plan which I will leave up to her,  a promise that mom could come back to the store anytime with questions, and a request for a favorable response to the survey about my “experience”). Whew!

We will keep this prehistoric device around for a couple more days, just in case.

A day later, we are enjoying (I think) our smart phone tutorials. I was able to get all my travel reservations accomplished. I am getting used to the limitations of connectivity here. I am resigned to the things that cannot be.

In retrospect, maybe I should have used the opportunity to distance myself from the frustrating world of the web. Yeah, probably, but I didn’t. It’s becoming harder and harder to do that, even though it is, at times, a frustrating place to hang out.  I have to wrap this up now – it’s been an hour since I checked my phone.

What has the world come to? Are you ever plagued with a dependency on your “devices”? Are you able to take a break from them and tell the internet to get lost? 





Pardon My Meltdown

After the second day of trying to make something predictable happen on my computer, I finally lost it.  It’s partly the fault of Windows 8, which rhymes with “hate” for some ironic reason. And, of course, it’s undoubtedly my fault too because I am an idiot who now needs a vacation in a computer-less world for at least a month. Help me.

It started with our voice over internet (VOIP) home phone having no dial tone.  It progressed to my email account being unable to send messages.  From there it warped into hours long conversations with the internet provider who was supposed to give more information about the problem. That didn’t happen. At one point I actually asked John (not his real name I’m thinking) if he was in India.

“Yes, how did you know?” he queried.

” I’m not deaf, and everyone in the background is speaking something other than English.  I can hear them.”

After multiple times on  hold, John could not solve my problem but he said I would get a call from someone who could within 24 hours.  He ended by asking me if I was happy with their service.  Really?  Deep breath…

” I will be happy when the problem is solved and I have my home phone service back again. But I realize that you did the best you could and I’m not unhappy with you personally.”

The next morning I was trying to live chat with my email provider support team.  Janet (not her real name I’m thinking) was careful to authenticate my account.  In fact, they all were very careful to do this, maybe at the beginning of the conversation but also maybe near the end. Oooops.  It gave me a good chance to review the husband’s father’s middle name and the last four digits of every credit card I own.  Unfortunately, Janet just disappeared after asking me if I wanted to give her remote access to my computer.

It was then that the 24 hour expert called back about my VOIP problem.  His name was James and I think he was telling the truth.  He sounded like a James.  We talked until he determined I needed a new piece of equipment, which he was going to program to my number and have me call it to test.  Meanwhile he wanted to solve my email problem as well.  How nice.

His solution was for me to download another email program which he personally liked and assured me was the best and only one to have.  Let’s see… I have Windows Mail (yuk), Earthlink webmail, and Outlook Mail and he thinks I need to have Mozilla Thunderbird.  As I said, I am at idiot stage and I thought nothing of putting on a fourth email handler. Like, why not? An hour later he called and said the piece of equipment he was programming for me was just not solving the problem because of some “backroom” issues.  What is a backroom issue?  The people who were going to handle this problem would get back to me whenever they got to it.  I was not first on their list.  Okay.

This was how my two and a half “days off” were consumed.  John, Janet and James, my new friends.  I went to work with a real bad headache.

This morning I needed to email someone.  I went to my new mail account with the fabulous Thunderbird, and of course the first thing I needed was the address, for the To: box.  Only I had no addresses in Thunderbird.  Seriously, there should just be a button called Address Book that I could click on and drag where I wanted it, right? I worked, I googled, I cried.  I think the husband was getting a little worried.  He finally told me to call Eddie.

Eddie is my new BEST friend.  He runs a computing business and is a very compassionate person who doesn’t mind a bit of sobbing and whining.  He has a link on the first page of his website that people like me can click to give him remote access and then sit back and watch our problems go away.  It was beautiful.  Strangely, Eddie thinks I am computer literate, ha ha ha ha,

This is the first thing I’ve tried to do on the computer since it was cleaned, defragged and had it’s “foundation”, as Eddie calls it, shored up.  All the nasty viruses and cookies and temp files have been evicted.  I have a desktop with words not pictures, nothing rhymes with wait, bait or gate, although I’m told it’s still under there somewhere.  Now, I’m hopefully going to go send an email, or check into a mental institution. One or the other, just sayin’…


A to Z Challenge: L, Letters


Dear _____,

Please write me a letter. I know email is faster and easier and cheaper but sometimes I like the way “snail mail” slows things down.  I like seeing that fat envelope in the mailbox, taking it out and reading it while I walk back to the house.  Then I read it again with a cup of tea and think about what it said.  And I can wait for a day or two before I answer because there is no pressure or expectation – we know mail takes days.  I can take my time thinking and writing back.

I love to see your handwriting and don’t want to forget what it looks like, and if you draw a funny picture I like that too.  Sometimes you spill something on your paper or maybe it smells like your hand lotion and it makes me feel more like I’m right there with you.  And I know how much time you invested in the writing and that speaks of love and care.

I know when I sit to write a handwritten note these days it almost feels like I’m rebelling against technology – makes me feel retro on purpose.  And seeing the rounded letters flowing from my pen is artistically pleasing to me.  As I think and write the long way, my thoughts come a little clearer and suddenly I am more sure of what I’m thinking.  It is a special joy to me when you save my letters and return them to me, giving me a record of my times as good as any journal.  I know I’ve forgotten details of events that come right back to me when I pick up an old letter and re-read it.  That old box I keep letters in doesn’t really take up that much room and it’s kind of nice not to have to hunt in cyberspace for hours on end.  You have a box like that too, don’t you? No? How sad.  You should start one.

Someday I want to read to you the letters my great-great-grandmother wrote.  Wow, what a window on her world!  Things were so different and yet so the same.  It does me good to see that thread of sameness in our lives and I think you would like seeing it too.  How much I would have missed if I had not been able to know her through her letters.  Want to know where I got my stubborn streak or quirky sense of humor? I think I know…

Well, all for now.  I know you’re busy but don’t be afraid to sit a spell and write me a page or two.  The world won’t come to an end (probably not) if you do.  I’ll be watching for the mail.

Yours truly,

A Lover of Letters

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