Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

I ended one of the longest relationships of my life on Monday. It had been a strain on me for the past few years, but I just couldn't see the writing on the wall. I felt like there was too much history between us, and if we could just stick it out, we would eventually be very happy again. But Monday, I was brave and I ended it. It's sad and it's going to take me some time to grieve, but in the end, I always knew we had outgrown each other.

Of course, I'm talking about my AOL account.

Back in the fall of 1994, when Meatloaf tried to return to the pop scene and dirty hair and flannel were in, I was a high school sophomore and the internet, while no longer in its infancy, was still relatively new. My dad had Prodigy, an internet service provider that turned out to be the gateway to my dependence on the computer. We had prodigy for a couple of years, and I'd never actually been on the World Wide Web, only Prodigy messageboards and games. (I'm somewhat ashamed to tell you that the first web site I actually saw was for Trojan condoms, and my best friend Janie showed me.)

But when AOL started to become popular, Dad decided that we needed to jump aboard. So we did, in that historic autumn. I chose my user name, a childhood nickname, and it was available. (I'd also like to tell you that it had no numbers in it. How many people can say that?!) For something like $25 a month, we could boot up America Online our our IBM with Windows 3 at a speed of 56k. We were on fire.

It was through my AOL account that I discovered lots of things, like Instant Messaging and chat rooms. This was before sexting and camera phones, and the most risque thing I ever encountered on either was someone asking me my a/s/l. (That's "age, sex, location" for those of you that don't remember.) It was all very innocent, or maybe it was innocent because I didn't know any better. I remember talking to my friends every Wednesday afternoon (when I was at my dad's house) on IM, and checking my email. This was back when email was a novelty, internet shopping was practically unheard of, and anything in your in-box was actually from someone you knew.

It was through my AOL account that the majority of my first relationship transpired. The rise and fall of one month of my senior year, all on IM and email. And, I was such a geek, that I printed out each one.

It was through my AOL account that my friend Mark, now a computer whiz and graphic artist, taught me about .wav files and how to use them. Though, my dad was not amused when the theme song to The Facts of Life came on every time he booted up his computer.

You were good to me, AOL, but it's time to move on.


When I went to college, I discovered I could log on and use the account at school, provided no one at home was using the account. It was 1997, and that was about as cool of a discovery as I could make. When I graduated and got married in 2001, I pirated brought my username with me, at the expense of my dad still. It wasn't until 2003 that I actually moved my email and started paying for it myself.

When I look back on my technological life, AOL was a big part of it. We got wifi and new computers in 2008, and that's when I moved to web-based...and free. But I kept it, and used it, as my main address. I got laughed out of hotels and Targets for providing my email address, to the point where when I would give it, I would make the clerk promise not to laugh. One hotel front desk person said to me quietly and full of shame, "You don't still pay for it, do you?"

It's the history I was clinging to. Every day was a little reminder of who I was and how I got there. My buddy list has 156 people on it. I can tell you who maybe 4 are. My address book has 1012 email addresses. In the end, I was averaging about 200 pieces of mail a day, 90% spam, 9% from retailers I had shopped with (1-800-Flowers dutifully emailed me every day at 11 p.m. So glad I bought my mom some roses from there in 2005.) and 1% were from people I actually wanted to talk to.

I got my iPhone 5 last week, only to realize that AOL isn't the best thing working on it. Monday, my emails were so late, a friend and I got lost in the circle of "did you get that?/Why didn't you write me back?/Oh, when did you REALLY send it?" and I knew it was time to rip off the band-aid.

I had always said that I held on to my AOL address so someday, I could be in the Guinness Book of World Records for longest continually used email account. (No such record, or category  exists currently.) But besides that, I held on to it for the biggest fear of all...missing out on something. I figured with as much history as I've had on AOL, someone or something from my past would pop up someday, and I would just kick myself if I missed it. (But Partylight Lady who did a show for me in 2001, I won't miss you.)

I will always look back fondly on my first love, my first email address. Though I've had many over the years, it is that one that I will always consider my true love. But, it's time to let go. I am exclusively a Gmail girl now, but I admit I will still tear up when I watch Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in "You've Got Mail."

I'll miss you, AOL, but we are much better apart than we were together.




Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Just a Lazy Sunday

Every once-in-a-while I have a day where I think, "Will I look back on this day and remember it being a pretty good example of life?" I mean, I'm not going to be an unemployed stay-at-home writer and mother forever. Someday, my children will grow up and leave me and I will have nothing but my clean house, minuscule grocery bill, and memories of chaos to keep me company. (Well, all of that and Disgruntled Husband, if he outlives his term life insurance.)

This past Sunday may very well be one of those days. Did we rake leaves and carve pumpkins, and have hot apple cider? No. Not even close. All I can say about Sunday is that it is over, and we all made it sanely to Monday.

First was church. Actually, no, first was Sunday School for the kids. They go to a private Lutheran school now, and I got a notice in their backpacks that if they missed more than a quarter of Sunday School sessions and church, horrible things would happen. Great. In the words of the wonderful Amy Farrah Fowler, "I don't object to the concept of a deity, but I'm baffled by the notion of one that takes attendance." As you all know, this family is not a family of morning people. And to be at Sunday School at 8:30 on Sunday morning takes a whole lotta heart. At 7;45 I fall out of bed. By 8:00 Larry Potter and Mini Me are up and getting dressed. But Hoover, who has somehow migrated to the basement during the night, is a harder case. I get him up with the promise of breakfast, but when he hears Sunday School in the sentence, as well as church, he stares at me with his cold blue eyes and says, "Nope. No way. Not going to happen."

Now, I think back to all of my friends when I was a kid. I had friends who's parents forced religion on them, and friends who's parents merely suggested it. The forced kids now, as adults, don't want much to do with church. For all of my snarky statements and cynicism, I do consider myself a religious person...and I want my kids to grow up well-adjusted and spiritually correct. So, I make a deal with Hoover: you don't have to go to Sunday School, but you have to go to church, and you can't complain while you're there. Deal. (Although I did try and convince him that he'd probably have fun at Sunday School, doing crafts and such. He wasn't buying it.)

LP and MM go to Sunday School and Hoover and DH and I meet them at church an hour later (where MM announces to Hoover that 'we had DONUTS!" and I have to keep him from crying in the pew. I told him he should have gone.) Remember that promise about no complaining in church? Yeah, he totally finked out on that one. He was checking off the parts of the service like a grocery list. I've never seen someone cheer as loud as Hoover when the benediction is given. MM asks me twice if she can have a bath later.

We get home, and I have the bright idea to do a project I saw on Pinterest. Out go my soon-to-be-dead impatients, and in go two pool noodles from the summer, wrapped in Halloween tights with duct taped shoes on the top, stuffed in my planters. The message here is let your freak flag fly. My kids think I'm awesome and DH just laughs and shakes his head in modest shame. Remember, I'm a judge's wife.

That takes us to lunch. While DH makes the kids lunch, I referee the WWF match going on in my living room. The contenders? Mouthy Mouthy LP and his little sister The Instigator. I send them to their room for fighting. They come back down, and immediately start fighting again. Back up they go. At one point, I threaten to give Hoover his own room and make LP and MM share one instead. (Seriously, there are five years between then. What could they possibly fight about?) Again, MM inquires about a bath.

Is it my Pinterest craft or what I feel like at the end of the day? You be the judge!


While they eat lunch, I declare my exhaustion. I don't know what it is lately, but I am go-go-go until I hit a wall...and I hit it hard. I mutter the words "can't seem to shake this flu" as I head up the stairs. Immediately, this sends me into a Barbara Hershey-sized panic, as she's the one who said this in "Beaches." I go to look up what she died from, and convince myself I have Viral Cardiomyopathy. I lay down for 20 minutes hoping death doesn't take me before I can take a picture of my hands for my daughter. (If you get this reference, you need to come over and have chic flick night with me.)

I somehow cheat death and head to the grocery store. We were out of everything, and there I am with half a cart full of mostly refrigerated groceries when my phone rings. It's DH, saying he left his keys in my van, which normally wouldn't be a problem, but all three kids had appointments for haircuts. In ten minutes. That they've had since Friday. And it's picture day this week. I believe the words "Are you F-ing kidding me?" were muttered in the baking aisle. What's a girl to do? I could leave my cart and hope it's still there when I get back, or just scrap it and start over later, both of which do not appeal to me, as I'm dying from some sort of exhaustive heart condition that means I never have to take another aerobics class again (really, you need to come over and watch movies with me). So, I quickly count my groceries and head for the shortest express lane. Then, I burn minivan rubber getting home, throw DH his keys and take my few groceries inside.

An hour later, he returns with the children. LP's hair is very short, which isn't quite what I wanted (and when I asked LP what happened, he says, "What am I supposed to do, argue with the haircut lady?"), but it's Samson-esque compared to Hoover's new chemo-inspired 'do. I take a deep breath and hope his hair grows out before they throw him a benefit. MM is loving her haircut, and asks if she can have a bath later.

I decide, okay, maybe I'm not really dying, and hey, I should totally go and run at Snap Fitness. Which I haven't done in over a month because of a toenail injury. (I can forward you pictures if you really like.) I get on my workout garb and grab my iPod. Which, of course, is dead. I go to the basement to charge it a little, and my computer tells me it needs to essentially re-install everything music and Apple related. Fine. An hour later, I come up from the basement and DH asks how my workout was. ::Sigh:: (But, when I did finally make it there, I ran my mile in 5 seconds less than last time, which was in August. Go me.)

While I'm at the gym, DH makes the kids dinner. (I know, I know, he made lunch too. He also takes the garbage out every Thursday if you'd like to include this in his coronation speech.) When I get home, there are three plates of half-eaten macaroni and cheese, tuna and peas, on my table. Unfortunately, the table also had some groceries still on it, a couple of newspapers, half an autopsied fetal pig, and Jimmy Hoffa. But hey, why not just feed the kids right on top of all of that. I start clearing the table and look for the hidden cameras. MM comes over and asks if she can have a bath.

It occurs to me that Hoover still has some spelling homework to do, so I wrestle his iPod away from him, hand him a pencil and tell him to have it. And he listens. But, because I'm showing the least bit of attention to one child, the other have to come over and compete. The decibel level in my kitchen goes from happy quiet home to regional airport fly-in breakfast. LP tattles on MM. MM screams for a bath. I look at DH and laugh, because surely, John Quinones is hiding somewhere in our house watching all of this.

Hoover finishes his homework but then gets a wild idea that he needs to find his DS. Right now. He's looked upstairs, he's looked in the basement. So, the next logical step is it's in the living room. I turn around, and there's Bam Bam moving my leather sectional. You know, No Man's Land. I tell him if he moves the couch, he has to clean up what he finds. Thirty minutes later and no DS, he puts the couch back, claiming he's cleaned up the mess, but there seems to be random wrappers, legos, and change surrounding the perimeter of my sofa. MM demands her bath.

She finally gets her bath, but then has a diva-sized fit when it's determined I didn't read her rider carefully enough, and there are green M&Ms in with her red and blue ones, and there's no filtered mountain water there to cleanse her body of toxins. My bad. And to top it all off, her PJs are no where to be found, because she thinks her clothes are disposable, as is her father's income, and she goes to bed in a mad manic fit because of it.

I collapse in my bed, thankful the day is over, but as I drift off to sleep, I remember that I didn't finish my grocery shopping and I have to do it tomorrow.

But thankfully, the kids will be in school then.