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The computer ate my homework

Ironically, I am writing this for the second time. A few minutes ago, I lost my thoughts to this new computer system, which seems to be a regular occurrence with me these days. I really thought masharkybe I had conquered this computer, but it keeps letting me know who is in charge. At 85, I don’t seem to take to change too well, and I don’t really like being beaten by the computer. But I’m learning it’s part of today’s world. And it all sort of fits with the blog column I wrote because I was addressing the great changes in the world people my age have seen. Life at 85 can be a constant adventure.

For example, today my husband and I decided to venture out to find the local Dairy Queen.  If the two of us weren’t old and didn’t live in such a traffic-mess-of-a-city, I wouldn’t label this effort “adventure.” However, since my husband can no longer remember where he is going, and I am blind and can’t read road signs … you get the picture. We usually only go where I can give him instructions these days—go right at that corner, turn left here, keep on going straight.  But I’m afraid the places I am certain of in this area, which we’ve been residents of, for only half this decade, are few and far between. Also, I spent 74 years letting my husband drive while I basically daydreamed and didn’t pay attention; thus, we are now usually limited on where we can go. That’s why these outings are “adventures.”

Surprisingly, though, we had no trouble—we made only one wrong turn. However, the adventure this time occurred after we arrived. There we were standing in line to order a meal, and neither of us could read the menu on the board.  Bob insisted I tell him what he wanted to eat (something that happens a lot these days), and neither of us could understand the clerk who had a strong foreign accent.  We felt like idiots holding up the people waiting behind us.  Finally, we got that ordeal over, and I returned to our seat to wait while Bob got the order.

Suddenly, I felt like it was lunch hour for school and a lot of kids were skipping class.  The restaurant filled with a dozen young boys – all high school students, all almost six feet in height and none of them weighing more than 130 pounds! I never saw so many thin boys in my life.  They all looked like their pants were about to fall off.

Three high school girls came in next wearing short shorts on their also-slim bodies. They looked cute and quite nice but the fact they could go to school looking like that shocked me.  Now readers, I’m not so old I can remember when it was sinful for a girl to show her ankles, but I am of the generation when girls did not wear long pants in public.  Back in my youth teenage girls wore skirts (poodle skirts if you were cool) or dresses with sweaters and saddle shoes (which were, no matter what, NOT supposed to be clean).  When my daughters were teens, they wore short skirts or short dresses.  My own “modern” mother assured me those skirt lengths were all right, but to this day, I am not convinced. The short shorts those girls in the Dairy Queen were wearing were actually a lot better cover than the miniskirts of the late 1960s, early 1970s.

I know I sound old fashioned, but I don’t really think of myself that way. However, so much has changed in the last forty to fifty years.  In fact, so much has changed in the last ten!  I have enough trouble with my cell phone and have to go to my granddaughter for help with that.  And then you add the many new programs on the computer, the pop up ads I can barely see that the Internet produces, and you can understand how much I’m facing.

I do try hard, but days like today convince me that, despite the dictation program I use and the read-back program that helps, I am fighting a mighty hard battle. I am much more adept at losing copy than producing it.  Is there anyone else out there who feels the same?

Sharon Swope

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Finding Our Way

lostIt seems like I have spent most of my time in the last two weeks getting lost, which I guess at 85 isn’t that unusual. The reason for this recent misadventure, however, is a good one: I have been busy trying to find places to hold book signings. I have had phenomenal luck in securing places and have come away from this experience with affirmation, once again, that the world is full of very nice people. What I’ve discovered also, however, is that, above and beyond the difficulty of “selling” yourself at my age is the challenge of actually finding your way to new places you’ve never been. I am now completely blind when it comes to reading highway signs (and for the most part, any printed words). It used to be my job to hold the map and point out the way to whereever my husband Bob and I were headed. I can’t do that anymore so I am pretty useless in helping us to get there. Meanwhile, Bob, who is now 87, used to always know what direction he was driving, but that doesn’t happen so much anymore. I suppose this is just part of growing older—trying to find your way from here to there, but it is frustrating to say the least.

Somehow, though, we managed to finally arrive at our destinations through a series of back and forth and turning around. At one point, I told Bob: “Just follow the ambulance.” Since we were looking for apartment complexes for people over the age of 55, I figured it was worth a shot! Sadly, I was right—we came right to the door we were looking for!

This is all a big change from the days when I was growing up in Michigan and always knew about where I was. North was always Lake Michigan – and from that I could always find my way. Even in the very early days of our marriage, when we lived in giant Los Angeles, I knew my way because I knew the ocean was always to our west. I managed to maintain that sense of direction right up until the years when we moved to Ohio, and it all went out the window—lost to a world of flat fields of corn. Unfortunately, the sense of direction never developed on the east coast, despite the fact the Atlantic is not so far away.
Anyway, for the past few weeks, I’ve also been lost in another way: I’ve been trying to find my way around my own computer. Instead of writing new material, I have been rewriting and trying to update my story timeline for book three. That means inserting chapters and keeping everything in correct position, which is not easy when you are almost blind. Oh, I can do almost everything except read what I’ve written. And thankfully, my son Mark installed a program on my computer that reads back to me. Thank goodness for my little man with the British accent who tells me everything I have written. He can be annoying at times, but he’s needed. And I have a new computer coming soon that will even “write” as I dictate. Isn’t modern science wonderful? It used to be that when you reached my age and had my problem, there wasn’t much you could do. Not so today—you can dictate to a machine, which puts your words on paper. Then you can make corrections and even have your machine read it all back!
I guess when I look back at the last few weeks of getting lost and frustrations with my eyesight and computer, the lesson that has been reaffirmed is simply: “Never give up.” Somehow, in spite of the obstacles, there is a way if you just keep trying. Don’t let age keep you from your dreams.

F. Sharon Swope
p.s. from Genilee: My mom is one amazing woman! This is what she and dad have been doing:
Book signings:
Saturday, March 2, 10 a.m. River Run apartments, Minnieville and Prince William Parkway, Dale City, VA
Wednesday, March 6, 11 a.m. Potomac Woods apartments, 2001 Southampton St., Woodbridge, VA.
Thursday, March 14, 1:30 to 3:30 Stafford Gardens, Mountain View Rd., Stafford, VA
We’ve also applied to participate in the Second Annual Local Author’s Fair, Bull Run Regional Library, May 4 and are participating in the Third Thursday Thrillers book group meeting, Potomac Community Library May 16.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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