Saturday, July 26, 2014

Living In a Technology World

I am on the hunt for a new laptop.   I love the one I have but after being used for hours and hours every single day of the last three years, she is tired and has begun to complain.  Last week my display driver failed, leaving me with the blue screen of death.  Talk about fear...all of my writing and all of our family photos are stored on my laptop.  Yes, most of it is backed up elsewhere but not all of it.  Working on that now...just in case that blue screen reappears.

What I have learned in my search?  There are way too many to choose from.  Brands, processors, displays, memory, hard drives, PC or Mac...I am overwhelmed by all the choices. 

I remember the days when no one had computers.  Only big businesses and probably the government invested the thousands of dollars in automation.  Now, every home seems to be wired with desktops, laptops, tablets, smart phones and music players that we as a nation, can not seem to live without.

It may be cliche' but I remember a day when kids made their fun outside.  We didn't carry around $500 electronics in our pockets or spend our days texting and face-timing.  We rode our bikes to our friend's house and played a board game or went for a walk or toted a fishing pole to the nearest fishing hole.  Yes, I grew up in the country but we weren't "backwoods", we just didn't know the joys- or tribulations- of technology. 

Don't get me wrong, I love the convenience of my cell phone when I am separated from my children and husband. I know that I am only a call a way with no phone tag necessary to reach me.  I do not, however, believe my eleven year old needs an iPhone or even a Trac phone for that matter.  If he wants to call a friend or even- gasp- a young lady, he can do it from the house phone in the kitchen like I had to.  There is no need for secret text chats at two in the morning. 

I read an article once about how teenagers lose hours and hours of precious sleep that they need for their bodies to grow and develop by answering phone calls and text messages in the wee hours of the night.  Why on earth would any sixteen year old NEED to communicate with anyone at two thirty in the morning?

Technology has opened the world for me.  I publish books and blogs online, keep in touch with my friends, cousins and even my editor who are in distant places through email and social networking and even indulge in the occasional game of Candy Crush.  I wouldn't give all that back for anything.  On the flip side, I would give almost anything for the simplicity of life before online predators, identity theft and the easy accessibility to pornography became a regular part of daily life.

A while back I posted a blog titled Are You Tactically Sound? about ways we have found to help keep our family safe. Please add monitoring technology use to your list of daily activities of protecting your family.  We have rules in our house about technology and internet use and I suggest that all parents take the time to check out what their kids are up to in the world of the internet.  You might be horribly surprised.  Young people are surprisingly adept at figuring out technology and since it is such an integral part of their childhood- computers and smartboards and ipads are used regularly in the classroom now- it's almost like they are born with the natural ability so many of us have had to learn and adapt to.  With knowledge comes power and young people don't often have the skill set to use power appropriately.  Help your child learn and understand that even though the entire world is open to them, they don't have to explore it all now.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ramblings of A Night Without Sleep

    Last night I watched, or rather listened to, an end of watch video online.  To say the very least, this was a huge mistake an hour after my husband began his eleven hour night shift.  Instead of sleeping I spent the many wee hours of the night obsessing over the various scenarios in which a police officer receives an end of watch call.

    May God bless and be with the family of that fallen officer and the others that went before him. There are no words of appreciation for the sacrifice those families have made.

    Nine years ago, when he accepted the call to duty, I spent night after night worrying for his safety...waiting for that call and praying it never came.  We have always been on the midnight shift so I spend a lot of nights home alone. With my writer's mind I used to lay in bed concocting situations and events that would result in a middle of the night phone call. 

   I don't tend to do that anymore.  In fact, most nights I sleep pretty well when he is gone.  Unless I do something like I did last night.  Those are the moments that keep me humble.  They remind me that life is precious and I need to value and appreciate the time we have together and as a family because you never know when it might come to a screeching halt.

  My dad passed away four years ago.  It seemed like one minute he was fine and the next a hungry tumor devastated his brain.  He lived a little over five weeks following his diagnosis.  We talked a lot in that time.  He  shared story after story of his youth with me.  Sometimes I would dial the phone to ask mom a question and an hour and a half later I would hang up the phone without ever hearing my mother's voice.  I learned a lot about my dad in those conversations- about him as a person and not just as my father.  In the months and years that have followed his passing I have reviewed those stories in my mind and compiled them in a book for my mom.  I wanted her to hang on to those memories. 

   If I learned anything from my father's passing, I learned that the people we love are the most important thing in life.  I also learned that I can spend night after night fearing the worst or I can seize each day we have together and make memories that will last long into the dark hours of the night and beyond. 

   I could go on and on about the challenges of being married to a police officer and how our life is so different but so could a military spouse or the spouse of an emergency room physician.  There are challenges in every relationship- marriage or otherwise.  Two of my siblings live almost a thousand miles away.  We maybe see each other once a year and we definitely miss out on the day to day changes of each other's children.  So, we send pictures and videos and emails and FB status updates and work hard to maintain contact.  We don't stop being family because we are not in proximity.

    The video I listened to last night was beautiful.  The dispatcher paid homage to a man who sounded pretty amazing. He was obviously loved and respected by many.  Such a legacy to leave behind in the wake of so much tragedy.  He will forever be remembered not only as a hero but as a great man who influenced the lives of many.  I could hear it in the dispatcher's voice.  Material possessions are fine to have and they may bring us joy in the short term- I personally can not make it through a day without my laptop and I really adore my little red car with its sunroof- however possessions are finite.  They do not comfort our loved ones in our absence and no one will really care about my car or my laptop when I am gone.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Be It Ever So Humble...There's No Place Like Home

I apologize for the long absence but it was not without good reason...

My "baby" brother is now a married man!

Last week we made the twelve hour pilgrimage to Upstate New York via rented minivan and followed by my sister and her family.  Driving through the night, we stopped periodically to switch drivers, down a little caffeine and stretch our legs.  Five adults, one teenager, three kids and a toddler- we sure owned those rest stops! (Don't worry, my LEOW friends and readers, we were tactically sound during the entire trip!)

Although I live by the beach now, I grew up in a place where they really, really know how to make good food.  We showed up at my other sister's house with a list of must eat food and must visit restaurants.  Let me tell you something....did we ever eat... and eat....

True to her word, the New York sister had a fridge stocked with delightful treats and a bag of NY bagels on the counter.   We wasted no time at all fulfilling our must eat needs.   By the time we checked into our hotel, we had crossed several important foods off the list.  By the way, we stayed at a Hampton Inn.  If ever you must travel, especially with children, stay at a Hampton Inn.  They had a pool and hot tub, a continental breakfast that was amazing and everything was clean.  It made the hotel we stayed at during a previous trip look like a brothel.

Not that we spent all that much time at the hotel.  There was a wedding going on!

My brother is now someone's husband...pretty amazing stuff...

Seeing aunts, uncles and cousins that I hadn't seen in four years was great.  My boys finally met some of the huge clan that I come from and I even met a few new cousins myself.  The highlight of the day (aside from the "I do's" of course) was the huge bear hug from a cousin I hadn't seen in at least two decades, probably longer.  (I've missed you Charlie!)  Thanks to the beauty of social networking, I have kept in touch with my many, many cousins in recent years but it was amazing to see such a large representation of our clan in one place. We are a handsome group, I must say.  There is not one ugly gene in our gene pool.  I am proud to come from such good looking stock. 

Watching my brother watch his bride walk the aisle made me cry.  As did watching a little girl ask my eleven year old son to dance.  It was an emotional, exciting, busy day.  The only downside was the absence of my dad.  The physical absence anyway.  There is no doubt he was there spiritually.  I felt him everywhere and knew he was proud of his only son for the man he had grown into.
On the way home,  we detoured to Massachusetts to visit my husband's family.  His dad threw a great family BBQ with all the aunts, uncles and cousins.  It was wonderful to have everyone in the same place for an afternoon.  I had the privilege of meeting my first great-nephew.  An adorable, squirmy little two month old who definitely won my heart.  It was a great detour before the ten hour drive back to the beach.

We made it home in record time, without speeding and without a speck of traffic in NYC.  If you have ever passed over the George Washington Bridge you understand the magnitude of this declaration.  It was the icing on the cake...the cherry on the our amazing week of family and celebration.

Excuse me for a moment while I get nostalgic.  When I was very young, my best friend was my cousin Jason.  We spent our toddler hood together and there are some adorable photos floating around out there as evidence.  As adults, Jason and I lived less than three hours away from each other.  We talked often through email about getting together, introducing our families only to never have the never make the opportunity.... Jason passed away three years ago and to this day I regret not making the time to take a road trip and say hello. 

Our large family is missing three uncles and one cousin...their absences were duly felt this weekend.  Especially that of the uncle I call Dad.  The drive was long and the trip has left me exhausted but I am so thankful for the opportunity to see so many loved ones and make some new memories.   I can't lie- I am very happy to be home however it was a vacation well spent in many, many ways.

Congratulations to my brother and new sister in law.  I wish you many, many years of joy and happiness.  Your southern family loves you dearly.