Posted in #Confessions, Boo, technology

The High Cost of Low-Tech Living

            About ten years ago we accidentally let it slip that we were paying for AOL service.

It just came out in conversation when one of our daughters asked, “Why don’t you have a Gmail account?”

            “I do.”

            “Why don’t you use it?”

            “We’re happy with AOL.  We pay them every month, so why change?”

            “WHAT?  MOM!!  You can get AOL for free, Mom.  You didn’t know that?  How long have you been paying?

            “Since dial-up?”  I sheepishly answered.

            “M O T H E R!!!”

            “Are you sure it’s free?”  Boo asked.  “Cause I don’t think so.” 

            That was just the beginning of our walk of shame through life. 

            “What else are you paying for that’s free?”

            “How should we know?”  I said.

            When we have guests or our grandkids come over, there is always the dreaded question:

“Nannie, what’s your Wi-Fi password?  Is it still in the..”

“It’s in the drawer of the little…”

“We know.”

“Bring it here and I’ll read it to you.  Ready?  X?2php54%7*79Ux3Pr8!2xG.”

“Nannie, why don’t you change this so you can remember it?”

“I don’t know how, and besides, this way no one can steal the password.”

“Who wants to?” they asked.

I admit, I don’t know who would want to steal our Wi-Fi password, but you never know.

Boo and I are intelligent people.  We have master’s degrees and we both worked at large high schools, so we like to think that we still have a certain amount of street cred.  Or at least we used to.  But it’s one thing to know gang signs and another to deposit a check from your phone.  It’s one thing to catch kids smoking in the bathrooms, and another to connect a phone to your car.  We have slipped into the uncool category.

Not long ago we had a business transaction with one of our daughters.

“I’ll VENMO you the money, Dad.”

“I don’t VEN-MAIL.” Boo answered.

“VENMO.  OK, how about ZELLE?”


“Never mind, I’ll VENMO Mom and she can write you a check.”

“That’s better,” he said.

Is it even bragging if I say I am more high-tech than Boo just because I have a VENMO account?  It sort of feels lowish on the tech scale.  For heaven’s sake, I just now ordered my groceries online.  I know I’m late to the party, but I love it.  However, I have no idea what Instacart is or how it works, but if TARGET can come to my house, then it might be worth exploring.

When I told one of our other daughters how much I had to pay for my XM Radio, she said, “I never pay full price.”

“What do you mean?  I get an annual renewal fee,” I said.

“I just call and tell them I can’t pay that amount and I want to cancel.  Then we haggle back and forth for a minute, and they end up telling me I qualify for a special deal.  It usually saves me $100.  I do it every year.”

How do our kids know all of these ins and outs?  And when did EVERYTHING become technical?  Our doctors are on ‘my chart,’ which means we can make appointments and see our test results online, at least some of us.  Boo still does not know how to access his chart.  He always ends up somewhere on the site he doesn’t want to be or with an appointment in some obscure clinic across town.  I usually schedule his doctor’s appointments, but when he asks me to send them a message or question, I take the liberty to ask what I want to and then sign his name.

By the way, is it considered low-tech if you still print out driving instructions from map-quest?  I’m asking for a friend.

I recently bought a new car.   I thought I was all Bluetoothed and ready to go.

“I can’t hear you,” my callers say.

I have disconnected, reconnected, sync’d, read the manual, googled, and asked a friend.  I cannot for the life of me get my phone properly connected through my car.  I can hear callers, but they can’t hear me, and to make matters worse, I now have an obnoxious buzzer ringtone that plays when someone calls, and I cannot change it.

My blood pressure is going up just mentioning our technical difficulties.  I wish I could brag about some other things we are really great at in spite of our low-tech ways, but nothing is coming to mind.  We do have a Keurig coffeemaker, does that count?

Even saying that makes me cringe.  Perhaps we’re ‘cutting edge’ in ways the world does not promote.  We could use words like digital, cyber, and state-of-the-art, but being flashy is just not our style.  We prefer to fly under the radar and keep our techie-ness to ourselves.

Let’s face it, Boo and I will never be truly high-tech.  The best we can hope for is somewhere in the middle and not paying for internet mail services.  It’s the high cost of our low-tech living. 

Posted in Family, Fears and Worries, Mothers

TOO NICE by Ginger Keller Gannaway

When someone tells me, “You’re so nice,” I suppress the urge to scream in his/her face or step on my cat’s tail. I see “nice” as a smear of margarine on a slice of stale white bread posing as a breakfast sandwich. “Nice” is a word that hangs out with “weak” and “bland.”

Necklace created by Mark Garcie

Yesterday my youngest son told me, “Mom, you’re too nice.” I stared at at the floor and counted to ten while my cat sensed danger and ran under my bed. Evan was referring to how I don’t know how to say “no” when he or his brothers ask for help.

People confuse my awkward attempts to fix my loved ones’ problems as kindness. But I’m really thinking more about myself than them. Seeing my grown children wrestle with hardships fills my head with zombies craving human flesh and my stomach with rotting raw oysters. I want to get a lobotomy and puke my guts out! So when a son’s troubles make me sick, I try solving their problems so that my own head calms down and my stomach stops churning. Like the momma pelican on the Louisiana state flag who feeds her babies with her own flesh, I give parts of myself to those who were once part of me. It’s not “niceness”; it’s self-preservation.

Back in the 1980s and 90s my number one job was to feed, love, and protect my kids. For twenty years I enjoyed the unconditional love and respect of at least one of my sons at a time. Baking  poppyseed bundt birthday cakes or taking them to see the latest Pokemon movie made me a momma bear they could count on, and in return my head and tummy relaxed. Back then all I needed was a quick hug from a sweaty five-year-old to make me believe I deserved all the gold foil stars life could give me. 

Casey, Shane, & Evan -1996

Crystal, my mom-guide/ consultant/ therapist, told me, “Living and caring so much about our kids is the yen and yang of our lives.” Preach! My own momma taught me to feed my kids rich, spicy foods, to make them laugh, to sing them songs as soon as I first made eye contact with their infant eyes, and to crave their company as much as their approval.

These days I pray to Mother Mary, “Please evict these hornets from my brain and settle the marching soldiers in my stomach – or at least make them trade their combat boots for Dearfoam slippers.” Is “Let go and let God” even possible?  When a grown son sobs or has no appetite for his favorite food, I’m pulled into an underworld ruled by a satanic kind of Worry.  I obsess and ask, “How can I help him smile again?” 

I’ll drive the streets to help Evan put up fliers about his lost dog. I’ll make Casey a turkey sandwich and drop it off at his work when he’s too busy to take a lunch break. I’ll drive Shane to an urgent care clinic when he’s on crutches and worried about a swollen foot, and I’ll try not to take offense when he criticizes my clinic choice.

Last week Evan told me,”You worry too much, Mom.”  He didn’t know that as soon as each son took his first breath of life I became his caregiver, protector, cook, teacher, nurse, dictator, confidante, and judge. And then Worry (a huge belching, farting, frowning dictator) plopped down in my head – forcing Common Sense (a tidy secretary) and Optimism (a grandma who crochets as beautifully as she cooks) into the back room of my brain. Worry claimed a throne right next to Love (a wise, patient librarian) where they both have ruled my life from that day forward. 

When I told Evan I was writing about my tendency to be “too nice,” he gave me a side hug and said, “You’re not really too nice, Momma.” 

I nodded at him and winked at my cat. “Right!”

Then my boy with the dark beard that hides his half-smiles and the keen brown eyes that reveal his artist’s soul turned up one corner of his mouth and said, “Everybody else is just not nice enough.” 

Posted in Aging, Death and Dying


When people ask me, “What are you doing with yourself these days?” They never expect me to say that I volunteer for hospice.  The response is predictable:  “Oh, I could never do that.” Truthfully, I wasn’t sure I could either, but I wanted to, and in the last twelve years I have not looked back. 

            Ever since my father passed away thirteen years ago, I have been drawn to hospice care.  My dad did not want to go on hospice, thinking that it would be like giving in.  Giving in to death.  But, as time went on, he prayed to die and yet, according to him, that didn’t work either. “Why won’t God let me die and get out of this mess?”  The praying for death went on for months, but it was not until he gave in and decided to go on hospice care that a change occurred. He gave in to the inevitable, yet as we all know, our timing is not necessarily God’s timing.  I happen to believe that we all have a beginning and ending date that we are not privy to knowing ahead of time.

            What brought my dad to the praying for death was his inability to accept reality.  The nursing home and all that it entails was not what he had in mind for his end of life.  He wanted to be at home, his home, and not among the forgotten.  My stepmother was unable to care for him, and daddy did not want to pay for nursing care around the clock at home.  He did not want to live with my brother or me, he wanted to live and die at home without any hassle or extra expense.  He had a plan, but it simply could not be executed.  He was too sick and a little too stubborn.


            “They’ll park me in the hallway with the rest of the wheelchair people and forget about me.  I’ll just be lost with all the others, drooling in our bibs.”  His attitude and gloomy description of how it would be did not help him acclimate to his elder-care facility.  And so, for a long while he refused to leave his private room, preferring his own company to anyone else’s.  He would prop up in bed and pretend to read the newspaper for hours.  He would religiously watch Wheel of Fortune and reluctantly participate in physical therapy.  When my brother or I visited we would bring him a Blizzard from Dairy Queen, as per his request.  “Nothing tastes good except ice cream,” he would say, but after a few bites, he would tell me to put it in the freezer in the nurse’s station for later.  “Be sure to put my name on it so no one will eat it,” he’d say.  And I would walk down the hall to the freezer knowing that when I opened it, there would be at least five uneaten Blizzards with his name on them, waiting in line to be thrown away.

            When I have had hospice patients in the nursing home, my visits become routine.  My last patient, Eunice, I visited every Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.  After her breakfast, which she liked to sleep through, I would arrive and we would ‘get to doing,’ as she would say.  I painted her nails, we talked about her husband and daughters, and when she was feeling feisty, we would join the group for bingo in the recreation room.  Sometimes we would sit on the patio and just feel the breeze on our faces and hear the faint sounds of traffic or children playing down the street.  And sometimes, when she was feeling brave, I would record her inner thoughts about life and love in a spiral notebook her girls would read one day after she was gone.

            But Daddy had a point about being forgotten.  Even though I was there for Eunice, and my brother and I were there for my dad, there are a number of people who have no visitors.  There are forgotten mothers, fathers, aunts, and uncles.  The forgotten who are parked in a wheelchair by the big screen T.V. playing old black and white movies all day long or lined up in the hallway waiting for lunch.  The forgotten who slowly morph into the invisible.


            When I would visit Eunice every Tuesday, there were other residents that looked forward to my smile and cheerful banter.   I could feel the stares and see the usual neighbors wheeling by us, just to say hello.  “Is this your daughter, Eunice?”  They would ask every week.  They watched me, hoping I would come over to where they were, and oftentimes, Eunice would tell them to go away because we were trying to visit.  She was jealous of our time and wanted it all to herself.  I could see the rejection in their faces and the deep longing to be remembered.

            Being invisible doesn’t happen overnight, it is a slow process of being over-looked, being put on a shelf, or being sat down, both metaphorically and physically.  There are mirrors over the sink in nursing homes, but if you’re in a wheelchair you might not be able to fully see yourself.  Sometimes our invisible ones have not looked into their own eyes in a very long time.  To see yourself as you once were and as you are now, is a reminder that you are still here.  Still the same on the inside, even though the outer shell is changing.

  We are who we are, until the end. 

There are still mean girls and want-to-be jocks in the nursing home.  Another of my former hospice patients, Marilyn, was scorned at the ‘popular girls’ lunch table.  “We already have four sitting here.  This is our table,” they said, so Marilyn was going to wheel herself back to her room for lunch alone.  On the way to the door, she passed a table of three men who stopped her and said, “Don’t let those old biddies get to you, sit with us!  We’re much more fun and twice as nice.”  And so, she did.  Marilyn became the darling of the men’s table and gave ‘the old biddies’ something to talk about.

There are still women with daddy issues and men who are suffering from PTSD. There are still grateful and happy people and there are plenty of people preferring to be bitter and resentful, angry at life.  Even the invisible have issues like my dad did, but if you’re lucky, one day it will change.

            I guess we may never know what the true catalyst of change was for Daddy, and truthfully it doesn’t matter.  One morning he told my stepmother and brother that he would sign up for hospice, that he wanted to look into getting a motorized wheelchair, and that he put his name on the list to play Bridge.  “I guess if I’m not going to die, I better get busy living,” he said. And we all celebrated the victory with a big sigh of relief. 

            Twenty-four hours later, my daddy died.

            Daddy was never forgotten, but it was something he feared.  He had been an officer in the Navy, and an electrical engineer by trade, strong and capable all of his life.  He did not want to be invisible. No one does.

Why do I volunteer for hospice?  If you had met my little friend Eunice, or Ms. Marilyn, you would need no further explanation.  You would have raised your hand high and said, “Pick me!  Pick me!”  As much as I know my visits brightened their days, those visits taught me to ‘get to doing,’ be grateful, and love life until the end.                                           

  It truly is a blessing to walk beside someone whose end of life is near.  It is an honor to share the sacred space of spirit and to be able to provide comfort and companionship.  It is a privilege to help grieving families or simply to listen.

Not everyone who is on hospice care is elderly, but everyone who has lived long enough will face a certain truth, death.  The road traveled will be different for all, yet with the same outcome.  We all have to go sometime, but how we live out our years depends on attitudes, beliefs, family, circumstances, and how we are treated as well as how we treat others. 

Keep your eyes open this week and look for someone who needs to be seen, who needs a hug or even a smile.  Watch out for those mean girls and invite someone to sit at your table, and above all else, ‘get to doing!’