Welcome to the Digi-verse!
I am old-school…but thankful for technology…
I am thankful for my cell phone. I remember the times before cell phones even existed. Things like being stranded on the roadside in pouring rain and walking a few miles to find a payphone to call for help. I remember actually pointing a camera to take pictures and having to get the film developed into a print to stuff into an envelope, which then had to go to the post-office and spend days (or weeks coming from Alaska) in the mail, just to share with family and friends. I remember the fold-out paper maps that always managed to tear right across the road I was looking for. (By now you should have a pretty good idea of how ancient I am.) To top it off, yes, I even remember when phones were attached to the wall and the length of the cord on it determined how far you could go from the wall while talking. (OMG…I’m as old as Methuselah!)
I am also thankful for the computer and internet. As an independent author, these tools have opened up doors for me that otherwise would not have existed. The time this technology saves me is invaluable, as it makes quick work of transmitting, copying, editing, and publishing. Now, instead of weeks, months, or even years, I can go from the idea stage to a published book for sale in less than a week (if I really put my mind and fingers to it).
I remember the days of the old typewriters, and changing the ink ribbons (which always managed to leave me with blackened fingertips, no matter how careful I was).
I also remember a teacher from my typing class in high school who removed the screws from the carriage returns on our typewriters before class on the day of our final test for the year. We began the test, pecking away as fast as we could on the keys, racing against the clock timer, eyes focused on the text we were copying, paying careful attention to avoid any mistakes. But suddenly, at the end of the first line, when the carriage returns were pushed (these were old manual typewriters, not electric), instead of stopping at the beginning margin as usual, the whole top of the typewriter fell off onto our desks. As we sat there rather dumbfounded, our teacher was laughing hysterically. As it turned out, our final test for the year was learning how to put our machines back together.
Even for the traditionally published author, the ability to instantly transmit a manuscript and receive correspondence from the publisher or agent is a worthy asset.
I must admit though, I rather miss the sound of the keys clacking on the old typewriters. However, I just recently discovered there is a keyboard that makes the same sound though, and I’m actually considering buying it. Oh, the irony…using modern technology to recreate the things of old.
Those were the days…
I also remember the time spent with family and friends, when we actually enjoyed our time together. There were real conversations, when you actually paid full attention to each other.
I remember the days of childhood, the revelry in jumping on a bike and taking off with your friends to explore, or chasing each other through the neighborhood playing tag. Sometimes we just sat on the porch steps, pondering the mysteries of life from a kid’s point of view.
Another favorite activity in the summer was simply playing in a creek, enjoying childish antics, but more importantly, enjoying the companionship of our friends.
There was no such thing as “constant contact”. If you wanted to talk to someone, you simply called them on the phone. If there was no answer, it meant they weren’t at home, and you either went looking for them in the favorite hangouts, or you called back later (we didn’t have answering machines back then).
On a side note…I was pretty excited when I got my first phone with an answering machine. It meant no more worrying about missed calls, and since I was looking for a job at the time, I was relieved to know that I wouldn’t miss an opportunity for an interview.
However, my German Shepherd apparently did not like the intrusion of a strange voice speaking from the little box (or perhaps she was just trying to rescue the person and free them from their tiny prison?). She destroyed the machine the first time someone left me a message.
In the wintertime, all it took was a fresh snowfall and every kid in the neighborhood joined together to build colossal snowmen and start the epic snowball battles. For the more adventurous (and graceful) folks, there was ice-skating and skiing. For the rest of us, there was sledding.
Year round, we spent our time in building relationships, through talking and doing things together. And we learned about each other’s character in personal ways, through the experiences. We even learned how to solve our own problems and get along with those few that we didn’t really like.
Even into adulthood, though the means and methods changed somewhat, the interactions were still real and of a personal nature with our friends. We still did things together and had meaningful face-to-face conversations. It is only through real life that real friends and relationships are built.
There always have, and always will be, people that come and go in our lives. But there are some, if only one or two, that no amount of time or distance can separate from us. Those are the friends that really make you feel like you are important to them. Those are the real connections, because they are of the heart.
Don’t be a phony…
Is it just me? Or has anyone else noticed how the glorious world of cell phones and digital screens are robbing us of real-life interaction?
I really didn’t intend for this post to be a rant, or to bash technology.
But…in my disgruntled opinion…the all-consuming use of technology, especially cell phones, is hampering the ability to develop and maintain real relationships. I find this both rude and disrespectful.
It gets really irritating when during a conversation, the person you are talking to is continuously distracted with constant texts or calls. I understand the folks trying to contact them may not be aware that they are in the middle of a conversation. However, that does not negate the fact that in total disregard to the person speaking, the other person will immediately stop listening to read and respond to every text or call. Even more disturbing is the constant checking of social media. I mean, seriously? Is the picture of dinner someone just posted on Instagram really more important than the actual person sitting right in front of you? (And by the way, those pictures and posts will still be there later to drool over, but the person you’re with may not be.)
To me, that is the same as saying, “I am more interested in what anyone else might have to say, or pictures they may share, than having a real conversation with you”. It is for this very reason that when I go to visit someone, I usually leave my cell phone in the car, or put the ringer on silent and refuse to check for messages every 5 minutes. I want for my family and friends to know that they have my full attention when we are visiting, because they are important to me. I even went so far as to encourage folks that visit me to leave their phones off while they are visiting, although that hasn’t worked so far. (I guess having conversations with my critters isn’t a bad thing after all. At least they don’t have phones…yet.)
Being old(er) and remembering what life was like before being continuously plugged-in, I still like to enjoy some uninterrupted time to myself, like when I’m trying to sleep or work. I often think about a conversation years ago in which my younger sister was fussing at our Dad about turning the ringer off on his phone and not being able to reach him. He said he didn’t like being bothered when he was busy or napping, to which she replied, “But what if it’s an emergency?” He told her, “Well, if it’s an emergency you better call 911. They’ll get there a lot faster than I will”.
While I’m ranting about this digital age, one alarming attribute is how easy it makes it to be deceitful, even harmful, for those wishing to do so.
A while back, a well-meaning friend suggested that I try online dating as a way to meet folks. My reaction then (and now) was, “Hell no! I might start off with Sam Elliot online, and end up with Ted Bundy in person!
We can literally put whatever we want online and say it is true, while behind the screen it is actually the opposite. Scams are a-dime-a-dozen nowadays, and countless folks fall prey to them every day. We need to approach any kind of online relationship with caution, and keep in mind that even with the best verification methods available, deceit is still always a possibility. (This is true even in the real world, but the ability to manipulate and deceive is far easier online.)
One other gripe I have with the online world is the over-abundance of sharing everything. While I realize that everyone has an opinion, and they have the right to one, I have to ask, “Is it really necessary to share every one of them”? Some of us really don’t care what the Kardashians are doing, or why a confused 17-year-old high school kid thinks our moral convictions are wrong. And the amount of drama and hate that gets stirred up over stupid subjects that have absolutely no important meaning to life simply boggles the mind! I don’t want to waste the precious moments of my life debating stupid crap that serves no beneficial purpose. (Although I must admit, it has increased my finger reflex in speed-scrolling past the junk I don’t want to waste my time on.)
I personally choose to not share certain aspects of my life for global view at will, so the idea that someone could truly know me just from the digi-verse is absurd. While what I do share is honest (or just for entertainment or education purposes), there are personal sides of me that are reserved for my real-life family and friends only.
I think what it really comes down to is this: are you living a real life, or a phony life? Do you spend more time engaged in personal experiences in the real world, or the digital world? I’ve seen first-hand the similarity of screen use and drug use, especially in the younger generations. Most folks just can’t seem to stay away from their screens for very long before they become anxious and go into withdrawal symptoms.
There are now numerous studies showing some dangerous trends and addictive effects on people from the constant use of digital screens. Drugs that are found to be addictive and harmful are banned or heavily regulated. But it is up to us to determine how much and in what way we use technology.
Again, I’m not trying to say that digital technology is bad. We just have to ask ourselves, “Am I using this technology as a tool to enhance my life, or is it consuming my life”?
Well, it’s just my opinion and some food for thought. And I’m hungry for some of yours, so please share.
I’m going to go out and enjoy some sunshine, and play frisbee with my dog.
Happy Tuesday, and I’ll see you tomorrow. – Amber
Since I first began writing, the majority of my content has been in the non-fiction category. But there have also been moments of creativity when an idea sparked my imagination and a story began to unfold.
As I was cleaning out my office files, I found an old folder with several stories that I had started but never finished. One in particular caught my attention. It was only a basic one paragraph idea, not even to the outline stage, but it stuck in my head. So, over the weekend I took the idea and just let it loose.
This morning I decided to give a little preview of what I have so far. It is designed to be a short fictional story for kids and young teens.
This is the first chapter:
Once upon a time there was a beautiful fairy named Wisdom. She carried in her heart all the secrets and knowledge of life. But she lived in a world filled with darkness, pain, terror, and hate. Wisdom knew what was needed to bring light and goodness into the land of mankind, but every time she tried to help, she was rejected and ignored. Finally, with a heavy heart, she created a magical cloak that made her invisible and hid herself away from the world.
After many years of wandering, Wisdom found a new land. This new land had not been infected by the evil darkness, so Wisdom decided to make it her home. She spent centuries creating many beautiful and wondrous things, but she had no one to share them with.
From her loneliness, Wisdom gave birth to 4 children. To each child, she gave unique talents and abilities in order for them to survive the encroachment of the world of man, for she knew it was growing and would soon reach them.
To her firstborn son, Integrity, she gave the gift of honor and loyalty, to always do what was right and good, no matter what the cost.
To Courage, her second son, Wisdom gave the gift of a brave heart, always ready to face any danger or fear.
Wisdom gave her daughter, Hope, a huge heart filled with faith and dreams of glory. She also had a magical voice that sung straight into the heart.
And to her youngest daughter, Freedom, Wisdom gave the gift of unrestrained independence. Freedom did as she pleased, determined to fully enjoy all the goodness that life had to offer.
One day, when they were still young children, they stopped to rest by a stream after a long run through golden fields. As they sat quietly enjoying the cool breeze and listening to the sound of the water gently swirling over the smooth rocks, they heard a raspy voice behind them. As they turned to look, a large bear approached, hobbling on three legs.
He called to them, “Please, help me! My foot is broken, and it hurts so much”.
Integrity said, “We will help you. Lay down here beside us and let us see what we can do”.
Thankful for the offer, the great bear laid down his massive body with a thud and uttered a sigh of relief.
As Hope held the giant paw in her lap examining it, the bear said, “I was eating berries from the bushes over the mountain when a man appeared. I offered him some of the berries, for they were plentiful and very tasty. But he seemed angry, and instead began throwing long pointy sticks at me, so I ran away”.
After a long drink of water that Integrity brought in his hands, the bear continued. “The man chased me over the mountain and as I was running between the rocks, I stepped into a hole and my foot got caught. But the man was very close, and I was afraid. So, I pulled with all my strength to get free and as I did, I heard a loud crack and felt a sharp pain in my foot”.
The children had heard stories of man from their mother, but they had never seen one. Freedom asked the bear, “What does man look like”?
The bear replied, “I never saw one before today, but he looked much like you, except his eyes. His eyes were not kind and gentle like yours”.
Suddenly there was a strange noise, a high-pitched whirring sound. As they were turning to look, a long spear struck the ground right beside them. Then they saw the man. He was running toward them, yelling words they could not quite understand, but they knew he meant to harm the bear.
Without hesitation, Courage jumped to his feet, instinctively taking the spear in his hand. He stood in front of the bear and his sisters, as Integrity joined him.
The young boys were not sure what to do, but they knew they had to protect the bear. As the man came closer, still yelling, Courage raised the spear and shouted, “Stop” in a voice that came out like thunder. It surprised the man, and he did stop.
As he stood there looking at them, Integrity asked him, “Why are you trying to hurt this bear? What evil has he done to you”? The man replied, “It is a bear, it must be killed”.
Freedom stood and joined her brothers, saying, “It is not a crime to be a bear. He has done nothing wrong, and his life does not belong to you. Go away and live your life in your land”.
Courage pointed the spear at the man, and said, “I will not let you kill this bear, and if you do not leave, it is you that will die”.
There was something different about these children, though the man could not tell exactly what it was. But it frightened him. Knowing that he was outnumbered, he said angrily, “When you let down your guard, the bear will eat you. Then you’ll be sorry you didn’t let me kill it” and he turned to leave.
Then Hope spoke. It was the most beautiful and gentle voice the man had ever heard, almost like a sweet lullaby. She said, “The bear was trying to be your friend, even offering to share his breakfast of berries with you. I think you need to learn to love others”, to which Freedom interrupted with, “Even if they are different from you”.
And with that, the man left and the children took the bear home to Wisdom, so that she could heal him.
The man considered their words on the long journey home, and he could not shake the gnawing feeling in his heart. He could not understand why those children had helped the bear. But their words and actions were still in his head when he arrived at his village.
As he shared the story with his people, they listened in amazement, some believing, others laughing at his tale. It was a story that would be talked about for a long time to come. (End of chapter 1)
Well that’s it so far. What do you think? Any thoughts, or suggestions?
I always appreciate feedback (even the negative side…just be gentle), as it helps me to improve my writing skills. So I hope you’ll take a minute and leave a reply.
Thanks for reading! And have a Happy Monday. – Amber
I’ve been working hard all week, and now my brain is feeling a little weary and fried. So, I decided to change things up a bit and just have some fun.
I think I’ll start with a little insight into my personal life.
One of my top favorite things to do in life is laugh, and sharing that laughter with others. In my youth I discovered storytelling as a way to inspire such cheeriness, though being labeled a class clown in school earned me no favor with my teachers.
It was in fact, that very same type of storytelling that started me on the path to being a writer 20 years ago.
It all started in an online chat room with me sharing something that one of my kids had done that made me laugh. Several folks gave smiley faces and “liked” it, and then someone asked me a question about kids. That sparked another story which also included one of our pets. From there, the stories and conversations grew and I began receiving quite a few suggestions to consider writing as a career.
So, that’s how I got started. Now onto the good stuff…
Currently there are 5 cats and a German Shepherd living in my cabin. (Actually it would be more accurate to say they own the place and just allow me to live here because I feed them and buy them toys.)
Allow me to introduce the crazy critters:
I’ll start with the German Shepherd, since there’s one in the photo above.
His name is Frodo Buggins (and for Lord of the Rings fans, no, that is not a misspelling). It is “Buggins” because he “bugs” everyone.
Frodo is a gorgeous (though slightly chunky) 5 year old. He is totally OCD about playing fetch or catch. It’s what he lives for!
He has the longest tongue I’ve ever seen in a dog, and it doesn’t seem to really fit into his mouth. Quite often his tongue just hangs loosely out of his mouth and sort of jiggles while he pants, flinging spit everywhere, especially right after he’s had a big drink of water. (I know, it’s one of the gross things about dogs.)
Typical of the German Shepherd breed, Frodo is exceptionally intelligent though he often exhibits a stubborn mentality that earned him the nick-name of “Jackass”, which he also now answers to.
One of Frodo’s all-time favorite games to play is chasing the laser light. (The cats are pretty crazy about it as well, but not as zealously as Frodo!) It is absolutely hilarious watching an 80 pound ball of furry fury, bowling over anything in his path as he tries to catch the elusive little red dot. But because of his OCD nature and never wanting to quit, I had to set some boundaries, incorporated as part of the game.
First of all, I named the dot “Spot”. Frodo knows that Spot sleeps in the little pen in the drawer next to my chair, and he will stand there staring at the drawer, waiting for Spot to come out to play.
When I pull the laser pen out, Frodo becomes so tense and focused that at times I worry he will pop-a-gasket in his head and explode! In order to teach him some patience, I make him wait as I release Spot from the pen into my hand (and yes, I talk to it and say, “Hi Spot. Are you ready to play with Frodo?”) Then I “toss” Spot out onto the floor and the chaos and laughter begins.
Though Frodo is quite agile, it is still amazing to watch him try to make a full 90 degree angle turn at full speed. Such attempts have wrecked furniture (or anything else he plows into), and left a few bumps and bruises I’m sure, on his backside from the wipeouts. I’ve also had a few bruises from some of his less-than-graceful attempts at victory.
Once he has created or sustained enough damage, usually in about 10 – 15 minutes, I tell Frodo, “Okay, it’s time for Spot to go night-night”. He immediately stops and watches, as I put my hand down to the floor and Spot returns, and disappears back into his little pen. Frodo gives it a sniff and then rolls his eyes at me in discontent as I put the pen back in the drawer.
In addition to his intelligence and agility, Frodo has achieved mastery over the art of eye-rolling, head-tilts, and facial expressions. While he may not have the power of the human language, he still speaks to me. Sometimes it’s in the way of slinging insults or half-hearted threats at me, such as he is right now, sitting at the door of my office with a toy in his mouth and glaring at me. He is clearly telling me that it is time for our morning romp, and if I don’t go play with him, he will inflict some punishment on me, such as knocking over his water bowl or using one of the cats for a squeaky toy.
Since one of my many masters has spoken, I guess that will be it for today.
I hope the peek into my private world brought a little smile, and didn’t scare you off. Next week I’ll introduce the feline members of the clan. Perhaps I will dedicate Fridays to some light hearted humor if that would be okay. Let me know what you think in the comments, and please feel free to share your own stories too. I’d love to hear from you!
Have a happy, fun-filled, and blessed weekend! – Amber
P.S. To give credit where credit is due…the photo at the beginning of the post was shared by I Love German Shepherds page on Facebook.
A few months before I was born, my dad met a stranger who was new to our small Tennessee town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer, and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around to welcome me into the world a few months later.
As I grew up I never questioned his place in our family. Mom taught me to love the Word of God. Dad taught me to obey it. But the stranger was our storyteller. He could weave the most fascinating tales. Adventures, mysteries and comedies were daily conversations. He could hold our whole family spellbound for hours each evening. He was like a friend to the whole family. He took Dad, Bill and me to our first major league baseball game. He was always encouraging us to see the movies and he even made arrangements to introduce us to several movie stars.
The stranger was an incessant talker. Dad didn’t seem to mind, but sometimes Mom would quietly get up – while the rest of us were enthralled with one of his stories of faraway places – and go to her room read her Bible and pray. I wonder now if she ever prayed that the stranger would leave.
You see, my dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions. But this stranger never felt an obligation to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our house – not from us, from our friends, or adults. Our longtime visitor, however, used occasional four-letter words that burned my ears and made Dad squirm. To my knowledge the stranger was never confronted.
My dad was a teetotaler who didn’t permit alcohol in his home – not even for cooking. But the stranger felt he needed exposure and enlightened us to other ways of life. He offered us beer and other alcoholic beverages often. He made cigarettes look tasty, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished. He talked freely (too much too freely) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing. I know now that my early concepts of the man/woman relationship were influenced by the stranger.
As I look back, I believe it was the grace of God that the stranger did not influence us more. Time after time he opposed the values of my parents. Yet he was seldom rebuked and never asked to leave.
More than thirty years have passed since the stranger moved in with the young family on Morningside Drive. But if I were to walk into my parents’ den today, you would still see him sitting over in a corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.
His name? We always called him “TV”.
He has a sister now. Her name is “computer”, and a cousin named “cell phone”.
(Author Unknown, but seems to have appeared in circulation on the internet around 2007)
Just something to think about: What we allow to consume our minds also consumes our hearts. And from our hearts, our life flows. What’s flowing from you?