Tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine

My first computer was a Coleco® Adam.

You had to write the programs, type them into memory and save them on a tape drive that looked just like an audio cassette. I loved it. Mostly I used it as a word processor cuz I had a program for that, and I was in college so it was really handy for papers, etc. That was 1983. I LOVED it. I wrote other programs for it – games and other easy things – and I spent hours on it. I had it for a long time.

My next computer, after college, was an Apple IIc. I got a bank loan to buy it and an ImageWriter printer.

I had a 5 1/4″ and a 3.5″ floppy drive for it. No hard drive. No mouse. I LOVED it. I used it for years. I ordered software by mail from catalogs – Broderbund, mostly. The screen was all text, no images, of course, but it was awesome. I used it everyday to write stories and balance my checkbook and play games. I had it for a long time. At work, I used an Apple IIe:

Apple IIe

It had a modem and that was the first time I used email. I’m guessing that was about 1986 or ’87. I still have that computer and the modem. Up to that point we had used a Telex machine. Remember those? Yes, Virginia, there was a time when fax machines and email didn’t exist!

I got a modem for my IIc at home and learned how to connect to our local college’s BBS system and email, then later ftp. After that, things moved pretty quickly. I bought a Mac and joined eWorld, which was Apple’s online system, then AOL. Then finally, we had access to an reasonably inexpensive ISP here in my little town, and I had access to the WWW. Text at first, and then Netscape (1994) came along and the internet as we now know it started to take shape.

I had a series of Mac Performas, and then a Windows laptop and then a series of Windows towers and laptops. Early on I had a business designing websites (starting in 1995) and my own website for my business, which became a personal website after my business failed in 2000. In 2003 I started a blog on Journalspace, called Friday’s Child.

I LOVED blogging. I had always journaled on paper and loved writing, and now other people could read what I wrote! And comment! And I read what they wrote and we were a community! Sadly, Journalspace died, so I started a blog on my website using WordPress software. I don’t remember what it was called. Since then I’ve written 2 other “special project” blogs – not for public consumption – and I started this blog in 2008 after scuttling my website.

So, now, here we are. Why did I force you to go on that trip down Tech Memory Lane with me? Well, cuz I think it’s interesting, for one thing. A revolution in the way information is deciminated in a VERY short time historically. I was a part of it, in the way my mom can remember when there was no TV and my grandmother could remember when there was no radio.


My geeky brain recognized the importance and potential of computers when I was young, and I have always been excited to be a part of the evolution of computer use and the internet. For all its imagined evils, the internet is an amazingly empowering thing. The blogsphere, especially, represents a revolution in the world of communication and information transfer among human beings in the last 20 years, and I’ve loved being a part of it.

As a writer, I’ve benefited enormously. I can publish whatever I want online whenever I want. That was not true even when I was in college – in order for a writer’s  (or singer or movie maker or artist) work to be available to “the masses” he/she would have to pass through a publishing gatekeeper. Editors and movie producers and record producers held all the keys and could decide who “got in” and who didn’t.

For writers and photographers and artists, blogging has caused a dramatic shift in what it means to be successful. I won’t ever be published by a big house, or even a paper magazine, probably, but I’ve connected with 100s of people over the years through my writing, and that’s what matters to me.

Community is hard-wired into the human brain. The explosion of the internet – a network of networks – is remarkably like our brains in the way connections are formed and likeness is sought. We want to connect to others who are like us and the internet allows us to do that without physical presence. I can connect to the world sitting in my living room typing on my laptop.

As a young person, I didn’t know anyone who struggled with depression. Even though I knew a lot of people in high school and college, I didn’t know anyone who dealt with a mental illness in the way I did. I didn’t know I had a mental illness – something that was known and had a name. I just thought there was something really wrong with me and I found ways to manage life and stay alive in spite of it. On my own. I had friends, but I was really alone. I did everything I could to try to appear as normal as possible.

It was exhausting and lonely.

That changed when I got on the internet. I found information and found out I was not alone and that yes, there was something wrong with me, but it wasn’t my fault. It isn’t a character flaw,  There are other people who feel like I do. 

What a revelation! When I started writing my blog and started really being myself online, I connected with people who were more like me than anyone I had ever known, and who supported me as I supported them. Through my blog and blogging friends I found other resources online that were helpful – groups and forums. It changed my life in that it changed who I believed I was. 

Online I was a writer and people liked me as I really am, not as I pretend to be to fit in in daily life. Anonymity is a two-edged sword online, though, and that’s where social media runs into trouble. People misrepresent themselves all the time, and that’s too bad, even if their intent isn’t criminal.  Because the real power in the internet, and especially in blogging, is in really being able to be yourself and to connect to others like you – as we really are. Mask off, warts and all. Here I am, world! Anybody out there?

Yes, we’re out here. Ready to reassure you, ready to know you as you really are. No need to hide. Not here. Be yourself, tell us about yourself and we will welcome you. Tell your story. Post your photos, your art, tell us about your dreams and your failures. Make us laugh, make us cry, make us feel who you are and what you’ve been through. What has the experience of life on this planet been like for you? Tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine and we’ll discover that we’re not so different after all, and that we are not alone. 

And that will make all the difference.

Thanks, Jenny, for the reminder.

Just one thing


Yep. I would add my cats and books, but essentially this is it for me, especially lately. Not even the beer that much anymore, and I’d say I’m down to 2 people…but the riding

Bicycles. Bike stuff.

It’s what makes me happy. Always. Starting as a little kid on a sparkly green Schwinn Stingray, through the years and many bikes, cycling has literally kept me moving through life. Doesn’t matter what’s going on in my life or my head, if I can get out on my bike, hear the wind in my ears, feel the burn in my legs, and the sun on my face, I’m good.

This has been a fairly crappy week at work, but I’ve come in early and left early the past two days so I can get a ride in after work before dinner, and that has made all the difference. It doesn’t change what’s going on at work, or with my mother, but it changes me – my head – and that’s what matters.

I’ve been following the Tour de France online in the mornings at my desk, and listening to Lance Armstrong’s podcasts in the afternoons. On my breaks I look at bikes and bike kits online, dreaming about something new and shiny. At 4:30 I go home and get changed, fill a water bottle, strap on my helmet, climb on my pretty purple bike and go.


That moment when I roll out of the driveway and turn onto the street is golden. Whatever is bugging me floats away and for at least an hour I don’t have to think about anything but keeping my legs moving, my eyes on the road, and how fast and how far I want to go. When I come back I stretch for a while, change out of my sweaty kit and into something comfortable for the evening, and I feel like a different person.

I can breathe. The endorphins are coursing through my brain, telling me that everything’s okay, life is beautiful, and it is.

When I’m riding I’m totally in the moment, totally in my body, not worried about the future or the past. There is just the moment and the road and my legs and turning the pedals. I think about things, but it all seems so far away, and my attention turns quickly  to the trees, the water, and the rabbits, deer, geese and ducks I see all along the way.

What’s here now.

That’s all that matters. That’s true all the time, but it’s easier for me to remember when I’m on my bike. It’s fun and it’s only me doing what I want – what I love – like when I was a little girl flying down the sidewalk on that Stingray.

So, yeah, riding, cats, books, friends, and beer. Simple really. Why does it seem so hard sometimes, so impossible? Life is hard and I get all caught up in what I don’t have and all the crap that drives me nuts. As long as I have those 5 things, though, it’s mostly okay.

Especially that one thing.



What a ride


My 97 year-old neighbor died last summer, and her memorial was this weekend. Her family had been our neighbors for 50+ years; almost all of my life. Her daughters were like older sisters to me. Our houses were 20 feet apart; our families were close in proximity and close in feeling. Now the house and Jean are gone. Her daughters sold the house soon after she died, and after Christmas this year an excavator came and knocked the whole thing down.

Almost 100 years old.  An orphan in England, she joined the RAF as a young woman, met and married an American serviceman, and immigrated to the US after WWII. She had six children, countless grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She worked hard, raised her kids, loved cooking and gardening. She had a picture of Queen Elizabeth in her living room.

And now she’s gone. There’s a big hole in our neighborhood. Something that has always been there is gone. Such a long and full life, and now it’s over. Life keeps moving on.

So on Saturday I attended a Catholic mass for the second time in my life. It was dedicated to Jean and her husband Clem, and following there was a buffet and family get-together in another part of the church. Four of her daughters and their kids and grandkids were there, and also another 50+ year neighbor couple, who I hadn’t seen in person for a number of years even though they still come back for the summer every year.

I was raised in the Episcopal church, so the Catholic Eucharist was familiar, though I didn’t really participate. I just don’t believe anymore, so I found it hard to say the prayers and sing the hymns. I sat in the pew and focused on being present and respectful, and I thought about Jean and Clem and the memories I had of life next door to their family, and about how much has changed.

In his homily, the priest mentioned that he would be performing a baptism following the mass. It struck me that in one part of the building we would be celebrating a very long life completed, and in another part a new life was being welcomed to the world.

There it was – the whole thing – start to finish – in one small church on a Saturday afternoon in May. Life keeps moving on. What will that baby see and experience in her life? What will life on this planet be like in 97 years? I wonder what the world was like when Jean was baptized in 1920? Could anyone then have imagined the way her life unfolded?

And the house that had always been there – what will fill that space? In another 10 years, who will remember the big yellow house and the big family who lived in it? Most likely there will be another house, another family. That’s the nature of life – it’s fleeting, and so are we. Nothing lasts forever, not even memories once there’s no one around to carry them anymore.

So I guess that’s what’s so appealing about religion, right? It reassures us that we will go on beyond the physical, beyond memory, even. Presumably God knows who we are and will remember us forever. In the mass Saturday, the priest proclaimed the “victory over death!” and everybody said, “Amen!” That “victory” is comforting when you fear death, fear loss of those you love.

So the mystery of life is less of a mystery to the believers, I guess. I’m not one of them, so I guess that means for me the mystery is unsolved. Lately I’m content to leave those questions unanswered. In each moment is the opportunity to experience life directly and appreciate what’s present and that’s where I want to be. In this moment. I have fond memories of the past, and I love to ponder the possibilities of the future sometimes, but mostly, I like being right here, right now.

Someday maybe, someone will be looking back over my life at the end and remembering me, and that would be nice. Maybe someone will even celebrate that I was here. There will be a point, however, where I am completely erased from memory, and that’s okay, too. I will have enjoyed my ride, but when it’s over it’ll be time for someone else to take my seat and have their turn. That is as it should be. Like a roller coaster, life blows by in a flash. The only way to get your money’s worth is to experience and appreciate it moment by moment. It’ll be over before you know it.

RIP Jean. I hope you got your money’s worth.

Wasting Away

“To do the useful thing, to say the courageous thing, to contemplate the beautiful thing: that is enough for one man’s life.”
T.S. Eliot, The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism

I caught up with a childhood friend yesterday on Facebook. She and I were best friends and neighbors until she moved away when we were both 14. I’ve seen her once since then – 30 years or so ago when she came back to town to visit her mother – but then we lost touch. It was nice to see pictures of her now and to hear about her life, but it made me sad, too.

When asked to superficially describe my life I find the only thing I’m comfortable talking about is my work. I don’t want to admit that much of my life was determined by the severity and duration of the chronic depression I’ve struggled with since high school, and the rest by my obligation to my parents. I feel good about myself and the fact that I’ve survived the depression and done right by my family, until I’m talking to someone else, especially someone I grew up with. Then I find that I feel that – compared to them – I’ve wasted my life. Or, at least, that I have nothing to show for it.

On the face of it, anyway. In the condensed Facebook version you can’t see how much I’ve grown as a human, or what I went through just to be alive now. On the surface, it seems like maybe I took the “easy way out” by staying in my hometown and living a “small” life by myself. Maybe I was lazy or scared and couldn’t manage anything more important or exciting. Or more normal. 

What’s not clear is that my life has been the hardest way out, for me, anyway, because none of it is what I wanted or dreamed of. I’ve had to deal with the worst things I could imagine as a child – never getting away from my family and being alone all my life. I didn’t ask for depression; it just took over. I didn’t ask to have the parents I got or to feel obligated to them. I didn’t choose any of the things that made other choices impossible as my life went on. I have always just made the best of what I was given, which in terms of freedom to choose, was not a lot.

In the vast realm of human suffering, my life doesn’t even register on the scale, but it was hard for me. It’s been a struggle. I don’t have anything to show for it except that I AM STILL HERE. Still getting out of bed every morning and facing the days as they come. Going through a very difficult time right now and hoping that things will get better, but knowing they may not for a while, and still getting out of bed.

Every. Single. Day.

That’s worth something, isn’t it? Not giving up? Still trying to be a good person, and trying to do the right thing. Isn’t that valuable? I think so. But it doesn’t condense well, and that will always be a problem for me, as much of what goes on between people never goes below the surface.

I know, though. I know the whole story and I know I’m alright. My life has been worthwhile. I haven’t wasted anything. Most importantly, the ending hasn’t been written yet. There is more to come and I will keep showing up for whatever it is with the best that I have to offer.




A friend died recently. He wasn’t a close friend, just someone I had known since we were in school together starting at age 6. Later on in our lives, we worked at the same company for a while, and even later, we were neighbors in a duplex quite by chance. He wasn’t a great neighbor (he was loud and always had people over at all hours), but he was a good guy and I enjoyed his company. He was one of the funniest people I’ve ever known. Always friendly, and oh, so funny!

So he’s gone now, and I find that I feel disproportionately bad about that. I have no idea how he died – he was only 55, and as far as I know he hadn’t been ill; I find myself just hoping it wasn’t suicide. I would hate to think of him so unhappy. I suppose I feel bad partly because he was my age and I hate to think of my own mortality this soon, but that’s not all of it. I feel sort of bad that we lost touch, but we were never that close, so it’s not that surprising. I’ve lost touch with people I was much closer to – that’s just the way it seems to go as people get older and lives and personalities age/change.

I think mostly I feel bad cuz he was one of the good ones, and now he’s gone. It doesn’t seem there are so many left that we can afford to lose any. He was a gentle and kind soul, with a little bit of a drinking problem and a great sense of humor. He was probably never going to make a mark on the world at large, but he made an impression on everyone he met, and the world is a little emptier without him. He had close friends and family, and he was here in a big way to those who knew him, and now he’s not here. Just that fast.

I suppose it will be that way for all of us, and it makes you think about what it’s all about and what you’re all about. Will I leave a mark? Will people not in my daily life mourn my passing? What kind of an impression will most people I’ve known be left with? I have a feeling it won’t be as good as the feeling Mike always left people with, and that makes me sad. I haven’t always been a particularly nice or friendly person, nor am I always now. Depression was responsible for some of that, but still, I probably could have been better.

I don’t want to live my life for other people, and mostly I don’t care what they think of me, except that I think I would like them to feel that I was at least kind. I would like them to be left with that memory. They can think whatever they want about the way I live my life, or the way I look, or anything about me, except that. If I drop dead tomorrow, I want someone to say about me the kinds of things I’ve been reading on Facebook about Mike.

So I realize I’ve just set myself a pretty good goal: Be Kind. Just that. I don’t know if I can achieve it, but now that I’ve identified its importance, I will try to be more mindful of it.

RIP Michael. Thanks for the memories, and thanks for the nudge.