My on again off again love affair…

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Oh, Technology! What a strange and twisted path we’ve taken together. At times, you’ve wooed me, showed me a world of possibilities, and then you’ve spurned me, leaving me bitter and betrayed.

You are amazing. There’s no question about it — the way you morph into something newer and often better, at an ever-quickening pace. But you also distract, leaving us half-focused on the world around us, our eyes darting about like junkies for an available screen. You’re fickle too — one minute I’m digging through my mix tapes and you’ve already moved on to streaming online playlists.

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The Early Years

I guess you could say we got off on the wrong foot. Me, the naïve young thing, an eager inventer. You, refusing to make my second grade Valentine Mailbox pop open automatically though I’d painstakingly drawn a button labeled “PUSH HERE TO OPEN” on the pink and red wrapped coffee canister.

I was disappointed but it didn’t take long for you to win me back. My neighbor’s Atari 2600 soon had me hooked.

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I remember how I loved watching the little skier twist and turn in place as the mountain terrain raced behind him. Shooting At-Ats in an Empire Strikes Back game, saving poor little Frogger from a cruel Semi-induced demise, and helping that little dude jump over quicksand enabled me to wile away the hours when I should have been playing outside.

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The Home Front

At my own home, things were getting pretty crazy as well. Though the yellow rotary phone would remain in its kitchen perch making reassuring chaaaaaaaaaa-chaaaaaaaaaaaa sounds for many years to come, the hall phone had been updated with a sleek button-dial model. Soon thereafter came an answering machine: “Hello, you’ve reached the Rothaus residence…” announcing our arrival in the big time. We had places to go, things to do, people to see. Obviously, we needed someone to take a message. (But can you blame me for resenting it those times the tape would get stuck and all of the messages mangled?)

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Your VCR was life-changing too. We could now play back blurry videos of every community theater production we participated in since some other kid’s parent was always eager to show off his camcorder skills. And my parents could record every program that they thought we’d want to save and rewatch for all eternity — The Winter Olympics! The ’84 presidential debates! The Louis Rukeyser Wall Street show! These videos sat dust-covered in the newly installed drawers below the TV, until they’d be re-used to tape something even more memorable: the week’s Thursday night NBC line up, the special on the Kennedys, the ’88 vice presidential debates…

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Meanwhile Dad brought home an Apple 2C, relegating his trusty, grey electric typewriter to a little fold out table. (Oh, the shame!) But that Apple 2C really was something. Dad said he used it for work, but how could he ignore the starter disks — those big, square, floppy wonders that demonstrated the home computer’s amazing ability to play music — Mozart for God’s sake! — and all the cool graphics you could use to print 10-page long signs on perforated printer paper.

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Fast forward to New York

Time marched on and my Walkman which once blew my mind was replaced by a Discman and finally, reluctantly, an MP3 player. In the personal phone arena, I held out for as long as I could, proudly counting myself among a handful of New Yorkers in the late ’90s not to carry a cell phone, not reachable at all hours of the day. But in your typical “I told you so” fashion, you finally convinced me after I spent an hour waiting for a date to meet me at the FlatIron building. If only we’d had phones, we would have known that we were standing exactly 20 feet apart on opposite sides of the flattened façade.

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Long Distance Love: The Skype Years

In 2004, while living abroad, it was thanks to you that my cell phone could receive a sweet but bashful “texto” message inviting me on a date with a handsome Frenchman. And then it was you, Technology, who made it possible with your newest revelation, Skype, for me to talk and continue seeing this man who would become the love of my life. We lived on different continents, with an 8-hour time difference between us but for two years we spoke in this way for free every day in between actual visits.

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What a wonder! In the mid-20th century, my grandfather wrote long letters from America to his sisters in Eastern Europe, unable to see or speak to them for years at a time. My mother told me stories of the expense, excitement and difficulty entailed in placing a trans-Atlantic phone call even in the ’70s & ’80s,  Suddenly, I was doing something that I’d thought would only ever be possible in a James Bond movie.

And then, years later, again thanks to Skype, when I had to return to work in Charlotte and my husband was able to prolong his vacation in France for a few more weeks, we were still able to communicate as though we were in the same room. Though I was speechless, my husband took one look at my stunned reaction and instantly knew the results of the pregnancy test I’d just taken.

The Dark Side

But as you continued to amaze, I also started seeing your dark side. Sitting in meetings, I was shocked by the way certain people glued themselves to their Blackberrys. Sometimes they’d be totally disengaged from a meeting that they were supposed to be leading! I could never imagine this kind of detachment from the real world and the simultaneous compulsion to be constantly connected … until my husband got me an iPhone.

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Suddenly, I was tuning out the world and turning all of my focus online. An email just arrived? I-need-to-respond-immediately… my kid said something funny? I-need-to-facebook it…(and how did that become a verb?)

Where Do We Go From Here?

As the years zoom by, you seem to dole out your wonders faster and faster. Our house is filled with gadgets, thanks to my husband’s knack for being as much an early adaptor of technology as I am a reluctant one. iPad, Nook, Chromecast, AppleTV, smartphones, netflix, nespresso, amazon, youtube, Twitter… how could I live without you? But as much as I use and love you all, I can’t help hearing that little inner voice saying: “yes, it is absolutely amazing that my son just took his first steps and we could instantly share video all around the world. But isn’t there something a little sad about me wanting to rush back to the computer this afternoon to finish this blog?”

I guess our love story will continue, for better and for worse. Because when I look at all the evidence, Technology, it sounds like most of the time it’s me, not you. I just wish we could take things a little more slowly at times… and always stay friends.

It’s a New Year: Profitez-en bien! (“prah-fē-tay zahn bē-ehn”)

I know what you’re thinking. Oy – another blog about New Years?! And it’s already February… But the way I see it, I’m right on time for Chinese New Year and well ahead of the game for the Jewish New Year next September.

The truth is, my resolution this year is quite simple and enacting it is part of the reason I’ve been slow to write it down. I’m officially designating this the year of (drum roll, please)…. the present.

Not as in the kind you give, I mean actually being in the moment, every day…

from the little things (like paying attention to what I do so my deodorant doesn’t mysteriously end up in the kitchen and my car keys in the kids’ toy trunk) to the big – focusing on the people I love and the activities that make me happy.

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These days, my kids are constantly looking ahead – wanting to be big and able to do more. Meanwhile, my parents are looking back, reminiscing about “the way it used to be.”And here I am, just a few steps away from meeting the Queen Mother of mid-life Birthdays. Like it or not, that little lady has every intention of drop-kicking me from one side of the proverbial hill to the other.

But just because she’s sending me over doesn’t mean that I need to start sliding down the other side! Au contraire! I intend to stick around the summit for as long as I can. This is the time to do, to enjoy, to live every moment without looking too far ahead or behind. As the French say, it’s time to profitez-en bien (prah-fē-tay zahn bē-ehn): “enjoy and make the most of it!”

We get into a routine and sometimes forget to pay attention to the details of our daily lives. We naively go about our days, acting as if the world stands still – that the people we know and love will always be here, that opportunities will wait for us to act, that our children will always be giddy to play superhero and pretend to fly around the neighborhood with their Mama.

Alas, it isn’t so.

This is the time to do, to enjoy, to live every moment

without looking too far ahead or behind.

This time is precious and I don’t want to miss it by multi-tasking my way through life. I want to slow down and pay attention, do things in a meaningful way, and to the best of my ability. My hope is that by really trying to live in the present, I can make the most of every day – so that when tomorrow comes, I can enjoy it without regret.

Here are some personal goals for this year. Maybe some of them will speak to you too…

  • Spend more time playing with the kids and less time posting about them on Social Media. Life is meant to be experienced in actual size, not through the little screen on the back of my phone.
  • Work during work-time and play during play-time: when combined, neither the experience nor the results are satisfactory.
  • Try to do a little bit every day to organize my living space with the full realization that the house may not ever look exactly how I’d like until the kids are grown (in other words, don’t sweat it if I awake to find my child has “decorated” the house for Halloween 10 months early by affixing dozens of stickers to the wood floors, walls, kitchen table, and door knobs.)
  • Keep in touch with the people who are important. Call or write actual letters to friends and family.
  • Invest energy in the activities I want to pursue instead of putting them off for another day.
  • Read more.
  • Share more – ideas, books, laughter, music, food.
  • Exercise more, not to thwart some future health ailment, but because it makes me happy.

Feel free to check in and ask me how I’m doing on my resolution and my new goals. I’m sure I won’t always live up to my aspirations. That’s ok, too. I figure that accepting I’m still a work-in-progress may be the best 40th birthday gift of all.