Sunday, February 28, 2010

Am I losing it?

I'm blaming it on brain overload.

Lately I am mid-thought and I can't remember the name of someone--an author, a political figure, an actor. I watched an episode of Modern Family the other night and had to wait until the credits rolled to get Minnie Driver's name. I kept thinking Mimi, knowing that wasn't it but close. Then the other morning I couldn't think of John McCain's name. I did every trick I knew but couldn't pull it out of the frontal lobe. Finally I Googled: 'Republican presidential nominee John' and thankfully Mr. Google filled in the rest for me. Good thing he has a bigger memory chip.

Sadly, my mother has a few close friends who are deep in the throes of Alzheimer's. It's frightening for her to be around women who, once engaging and delightful, are now forgetting how to hold a spoon. "Promise me," Mom said. "If I get that way, you'll put me somewhere and not let anyone come to see me like that." Better yet, she proposed to come up with a cluster of pills she could take if she ever felt herself slipping away.

But when would you know? Is it when you can't find your keys? We'd all be reaching for that special stash. No, it's when you hold the keys in your hands and can't remember what they're used for.

It reminds me of the '70s public service announcement for The United Negro College Fund: A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Indeed, a mind is even more tragic when lost.

I'm trying not to make my forgetfulness a bigger deal than it is and chalking it up to a lack of sleep and mind-overload. How many telephone numbers do I know by heart? Too many. Birthdays and upcoming events on my calendar? Perhaps I need to write more things down.

It just might be contagious. My daughter stood in the foyer the other day, trying to tell me about a song and said, "You know...that girl who sings it...she's married to JayZ..."


"Yes, that's it," she said.

And she's only six.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tech Support? It's all relative

My mom sent me an email the other day with a link to an item she was interested in on eBay. I thought she could find a better deal, so I started to email her back and then figured, calling her would be easier.

Over the phone we navigated her options: bid, wait and bid later, buy it now. I urged her to find a buy-it-now item and save the hassle of waiting to bid. It took about 10 minutes for her to find the item I was looking at since our pages were loading differently, but she finally found it and bought it. Now.

Then I walked her through the PayPal process. She has an account and even has her own store on Etsy, so she's not a computer newbie. But for some reason, helping her pay for her item caused me to do some deep breathing and to thank the Lord above that I don't work a job as tech support. That's wisely left for those who can fall back on the fact that English isn't usually their mother-tongue and therefore, even when they mutter an obscenity, we're likely to mistake it for computer-lingo.

She was about to check out and then hit a snag. "What?" she asked. "I'm not going to donate $18 to the Red Cross. I guess I just click off this, but I don't think I paid for it."

"No, don't click off!" I said. "The item you bought is $18. They just want to know if you want to give an extra dollar to Haiti relief. Just keep going through the checkout." Finally she clicked the right button and up popped a receipt for her payment. She apologized several times for wasting my time but I assured her it was fine. I'm always glad to help.

Then the ball landed in my court.

I have a bad habit of leaving multiple Word documents open. I know if a kid clicks one or more closed or if my computer restarts itself to update my system, Word will recover my last versions and I'm good to go. The other morning I discovered my computer had run an update overnight, and I recovered one document and began working, clicking on some command that, like my pile of dirty laundry, would allow me to get to it later. Then later came around and I couldn't find the file because I hadn't named it. It was still an orphan, unclaimed and floundering in cyber-city.

I called my sister.

"Help," I said. "Do you have Vista?"

"Yes," she said.

"What do you do when you can't find an unsaved document?" She told me to search my history. I'd already tried that and it wasn't there but I suck at history, so that was no surprise. Then she told me to search for it by a word that might have been in the document. That didn't work either because I couldn't figure out how to do the search. She proceeded to send me a text message with a photo attached of her computer screen, her helpful finger pointing to the window where you input the word you're searching for. Her screen was different than mine, so...not much help.

"Just close out Word and it should come back up as recovering your unsaved work when you restart Word," she said. Actually, I think she presented this option earlier. I just ignored her, thinking that was too easy. She was right; it worked.

And like my mother said to me, I apologized for her having to walk me through kindergarten keyboarding.

Then a few days later, I was uncharacteristically out shopping in a real store (not eBay or Amazon) and my phone buzzed. This time it wasn't my son asking if I'd seen any shoes for him (it's his vice) or his asking when was I coming home. It was my sister. The message read: How do you insert text over a photo and have the photo fade out? I'm trying to make an invitation.

Ah, this I knew how to do, so I called her back and walked her through it while I shopped for shoes.

We might not be the most tech-savvy family, but we know enough to help each other out of a bind once in a while. And I know how to hit 'mute' before I utter any profanities. I don't want to be mistaken for knowing more computer jargon than necessary. I'm not that supportive.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Randomness of School Drug Testing

Oldest child comes home from school on Friday and blasts into my office. “Guess what happened at school today,” he says. Oh, no. “I got drug tested.” As a senior, he’s been practically holding his breath for this moment.

Here’s his version of what transpired:

“They called me out of first period, so I go down there and sit next to this other kid who's a junior and he’s all weird about it and he’s like, ‘There are what, 300 kids in your class, right?’ and I say, more like 700, but he doesn’t say anything but to tell me that the whole senior class should walk out of school to protest drug testing, and then the school would stop doing them because the school wouldn’t want the publicity.

“And I think, whatever, but he goes on and on with his conspiracy theories until The Woman calls us up. So you know how they put blue water in the toilets so you don’t take your cup and scoop some up? I go up to the table to fill out my form, and I tell The Woman, ‘I think I should inform you that I have a rare medical condition that causes my urine to be blue.’”

I laugh at this and he says, “I know. Funny, right? And she doesn’t even crack a smile. So this other kid and I go into the bathroom, and The Woman follows us to make sure we don’t do anything weird, and she waits outside the stalls. And I just went to the bathroom and don’t even have to go, so I stand there for a minute. Then I hear the kid next to me start to fill his cup and I say, ‘Oh! You want a urine sample.’ And again, The Woman doesn’t even laugh.”

Against my better parenting judgment, I find this funny too.

He continues: “So finally I step out and there’s barely anything in my cup and I tell her that I didn’t have to go and she says it’s fine. But the guy next to me has filled his cup, and it’s like sloshing over the edge and onto his hands, spilling everywhere. You have to pour it into these separate vials and The Woman is trying to help him, and it’s getting all over her hands and it’s like totally disgusting.”

On the way home from soccer that night I’m telling his brother his story and younger brother recalls last year, as a freshman, when he got drug tested. “I’ve only had to pee in a cup twice: once at Dr. Aimee’s and once at school. I’m never sure if I should hold the cup really far away and aim for a three-pointer, hold it up to me for a slam dunk, or pee straight up in the air and go for a lay-up.”

I’m pretty sure urine testing was designed to be taken seriously. Not with my kids.