Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Incoming Call...Rejected!

On Friday, Nick and I were in the car when my mother called. Since my iPhone connects automatically to my car, the car's sound system automatically stops the music or radio, and talks to me when calls come through (like I can't hear the ringing through the speakers...duh).

"Incoming call! Incoming call!" the Voice of Mazda shouts.

Ordinarily, I simply ignore the calls and let them ring through to voicemail because I dislike driving and talking on the phone at the same time. I rarely look at the screen on my car when calls come through, but Nick, sitting in the front seat, read the caller ID and told me it was my mother. He noticed that two buttons appear on the touch screen when calls come through the car, and he wanted to touch one since, well, it's a screen, and teenagers must touch screens or they lose valuable life points.

Or something like that.

Anyway, he touched the "hang up" button, and the Voice of Mazda loudly and disapprovingly announced, "Incoming call...REJECTED! Incoming call...REJECTED!"

Oh, my gosh. I rejected my mother's call. How could I do such a thing!?!?

Nick and I giggled helplessly at the absurdity of automotive technology. When I told my mother about it, she laughed, too, and assured me she didn't feel rejected at all.

This got me thinking about how many calls we reject because of caller identification. Even though our home phone number is listed on the national do-not-call registry, we still get telemarketing calls regularly. I sometimes answer and immediately say, "We are on the do-not-call registry, Take us off your list and don't call again." This usually works, but you might remember my experience with "You People" at a magazine subscriber service.

Some calls come from organizations we actually do support. Wichita State University is particularly persistent, calling every single blessed night during dinner for two months until I accepted the call and promised my annual donation.

Any call that comes through when we're eating a meal gets ignored. The kids used to protest, but now, they know. No call is so important that it can't wait until we're finished eating our family meal.

Needless to say, I'm perfectly comfortable letting the phone ring, but many people find that strange or perhaps even deviant. "Are you crazy? The phone is MUST pick it up!"

No. No, I mustn't.

Technology has turned us into Pavlov's dogs. We start salivating every time our ringtone sounds. And the programming doesn't stop with ringtones. Our phones and computers allow us to set different noises for all the other ways people have of contacting us...texts, emails, private messages, FaceTime, Skype, and such. Each sound tells us we must, must, must respond, or the universe will end in a fiery maelstrom of lost opportunity.


One day, George complained that I didn't answer a text promptly, and I ranted: "Texts are the perfect form of communication because you can wait to answer them when it's convenient for you. When I text you, here's what I'm saying: I want you to know this, but I don't want to interrupt whatever you're doing or inconvenience you in any way. If I have a question for you and text it, that means it's low priority. Get to it when you can. The universe will not collapse on itself if I don't get an answer in thirty seconds. If it's an emergency, I'll CALL you and interrupt you."

He saw the sense it that, and hasn't complained about my not texting back immediately since. In fact, we have quite a lot of fun with texting sometimes, although when I "sexted" him, he was disappointed that it was just a shot of my fully-clothed chest as I sat in the cafe at Barnes and Noble.

Sexting request...REJECTED!

George was, by the way, not at all surprised.

Do you feel like a slave to ringtones and texts? While technology is no doubt helpful and useful, how have you learned to keep it from invading your life in unhealthy ways? 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Of Dreams and Snapped Fingers

When my sister and I were little, we watched our mom struggle to support us...and she succeeded. That was a powerful early lesson in having very little, working hard, and moving up. My sister applied it to her dream of being a professional ballerina. I applied it early in life to academic success. As adults, she and I have internalized that lesson and benefited from it enormously.

My own children, however, haven't seen their parents struggle much. About the closest they've come is watching their dad train for Ironman triathlons, which has taught them that their dad is, well, sort of crazy. They've also never scrimped and saved to buy clothes or searched for lunch money in the sofa.

One night, we were watching The Big Bang Theory, an episode that showed Sheldon's apartment in the early years. As with many young adult's apartments, the furniture had been purchased in the lawn-and-garden section of the home improvement store. Nick said, "I'm never going to live in a crappy place like that!"

George and I laughed out loud and assured him he most certainly would live in a place like that--if he was lucky--because we had lived in a place much worse when we were in college and in the immediate years after. Sheldon's place was palatial compared to our first apartment. We explained to him that's how most people start off.

He doesn't believe us yet. But he will.

Oh, yes. He will.

It's hard for parents to teach kids the importance of starting with nothing and working hard when the parents have already achieved a modicum of success. George and I had been married for thirteen years before we had Nick. Both boys have always had a comfortable home, well furnished and spacious, with ample food on the table. Abundance is taken for granted.

Nick is slowly learning that hard work pays off. The thrill of being in a musical last spring taught him that working hard to learn his songs, dances, and single line of dialog was worth it. He even admitted that he shouldn't have complained about hours of tedium in was all necessary for the end thrill. Now, he's got lines and two parts in the high-school musical and is joyfully applying himself. Academically, he's made the same commitment to hard work that I made. His last report card came up all A's.

Recently, Jack's band teacher told me that Jack wasn't playing at the same level as the other trumpet players. He didn't feel that Jack would be successful in the junior high school band, not without significant progress. This didn't surprise me because I've listened to the kid practice and it's, well, uncomfortable.

When I shared the band teacher's opinion with Jack, he said, "It's my dream to be in the 7th grade band." I explained he would have to make serious progress and work very, very hard if he wanted to make that dream come true. The next class with his private trumpet teacher went very well. "I think Jack has had a breakthrough," Jay said.

Surprisingly, Jack approached his school band teacher and told him about the dream. The teacher told him the same thing I told him: he has to work harder to achieve it.

A few nights ago, George and I listened to Jack practice and could actually identify most of the songs he played. That's a first! At dinner last night, Jack asked how he was doing, and we told him that he was playing better but needed to keep working hard.

George said, "You can't snap your fingers and be a great trumpet player."

Jack replied, "I can't snap my fingers at all." And he proceeded to demonstrate.

Idiom and autism rarely understand each other. Nevertheless, I hope Jack will stick with this dream and make it happen. Righteously practicing trumpet for 20 minutes a day is not exactly the same struggle as eating ramen noodles seven days a week or building end tables from cinder blocks, but it can't hurt. 

After all, he has a dream and literally can't snap his fingers to make it happen.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Gratitude Journal #264

Today, I am grateful for sunshine and temps in the high 20s!

Today, I am grateful for handmade cards sent to me by friends.

Today, I am grateful for THIS ARTICLE in The Atlantic. I'm grateful people are starting to become aware of just how the Common Core has forgotten and neglected students with special needs.

Today, I am grateful for George's photography skills. He took all the following photos.

Jack at the Special Olympics Bowling

Nick and Snowman

Zen Puppy loves the snow. Ohmmmm.

Attack Puppy strikes!

"Aha! I got you!"

Revenge of the Boy

"No, no. Bad boy!"

Check out the ears.

It's all in good fun...

until someone gets hurt! (Just kidding.)

A Boy and His Dog

Don't you just love the look Daisy is shooting at Nick?
"I may be down, but I'm not out, Human!"

These pictures somehow make the long, cold winter of my discontent more tolerable. Thanks, sweetie!

What are YOU grateful for today?