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I have the love-hate relationship with technology that almost everyone seems to have nowadays. I kept my dumb phone for the longest time because I didn’t want to get sucked into the world of iPhone lovers, yet now I am one of their ranks. I didn’t want to internet bank, didn’t want to read ebooks, yet I no longer mail checks to pay bills, and not only do I own a few ebooks, but I’ve even e-published a short story.

This week, a friend mentioned a village that houses a radio telescope that is so sensitive that there aren’t any cell phones within a certain number of miles. Intrigued, I did a little research. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is located in Green Bank, West Virginia, and there is a 13,000-square mile area around this observatory in which technologies like cell phones, Wi-Fi, TV and radio broadcasts simply don’t work. I wonder how people can live in a place like this. Certainly there must be some technology, but I imagine it’s like stepping back in time, somewhat.

On a much less drastic scale, I remember my friend Amy’s blog post last year, regarding her struggle with turning off the TV. It was well and good for her, I thought at the time, but I was not willing to even consider giving up my TV. Of course, at the time, I had a new baby and counted on the TV to get me through the three A.M. feedings—and those many nights when Ian didn’t sleep at all. There were maybe three shows that I followed regularly (shows that I actually sat down and watched every time a new episode aired), but everything else was mindless viewing.

Fast forward to where I am now: I can’t remember the last time I followed a particular program. Downtown Abbey? Never seen an episode (didn’t even know how to pronounce it until someone corrected me). I don’t know when this phenomenon happened, maybe when I was in the middle of a good book and just chose not to watch. Also, as the baby got older, and then my elder son started going to school five days a week instead of two, my life got a whole lot busier. The few spare minutes I had to myself weren’t worth wasting by watching some other mom making a spectacle of herself on “reality” TV. I have enough of my own reality to deal with, thank you very much.

From time to time over the past year, I’ve thought of Amy’s post, often reflecting that, if it were just me, I could get by with the local news and Netflix. There is something strangely powerful about the TV; it is hypnotizing. One night after the kids went to bed, the TV was still on, and I suddenly realized that I was waiting until the commercial break before getting up to brush my teeth. It wasn’t even a show I care about. My husband and I laughed about how we got sucked into the program simply because it was on.

The technology is even more disruptive at work. As a bookkeeper for a small business, I am dependent on crappy accounting software that, unfortunately, is pretty universal, so it’s what our accountant requires us to use. At least once a week (and more often once a day), the software crashes, despite the fact that it’s the latest version, and I rail at the computer and how stupid it is. Then, while I’m waiting for it to restart, I pick up my iPhone and check my e-mail.

Yet I can’t be too mad at this technology, without which I couldn’t have this virtual monologue. But it does drive me nuts that we’re so dependent on it. When the power goes out, we forget how to function. God forbid a cash register goes down, and a clerk can’t count change without the register doing the math. A time traveler from the nineteenth century would most likely think us completely inept.

Speaking of time travel, I started a series of books last year, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, in which the protagonist travels from the 1940s to the 1700s and decides to stay, despite the lack of technology. I mean, we’re talking cold baths, here. Not only that, but after returning to the twentieth century, she still chooses to go back in time again. And all for love. Now, I’m not advocating giving up hot showers (please, no), but I do think that there are some things that are more important than super fast download speeds and whatnot.

My five-year-old is at the age now where he has several television shows that he likes, and if I weren’t paying attention, I could easily let him rot in front of the TV all day. When he asks why I won’t let him watch as much as he wants, I remind him that we have a house full of toys and a backyard where he can play now. I’m fortunate that he often remembers on his own, and tonight, he won my heart again. He was excited that we have a new table, where he can do his schoolwork and drawings. Right now, he’s finishing a poster about black bears, which he’ll share with his class on Monday. And he asked if I would sit with him at his new table and have a “conpersation” about his poster. “And then we can just talk about other things or play games and stuff,” he said. You can believe that his request did this mama’s heart good.

So can you do it? Can you turn the TV off for any evening? Or can you put your smart phone down for an hour, resist the temptation to check your e-mail or play another round of Words with Friends? Cutting my TV consumption down was the first step; now I try to use my iPhone less when the kids are up. What can you do to allow all the wonderful technologies of the twenty-first century to aid but not impede on your life?

Time, That Fickle Fiend

Time flies–unless it stands still. Time is kind to some, cruel to others. Time supposedly heals all wounds (although that’s a theory I don’t want to test). And even the staunchest of pacifists kill time.

My grandmother used to have a saying, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper; the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.” Well, if that’s true, then there are times when I am sure that my demise is near. But, to temper that, I have some days that feel like they last for months.

Do you ever remember, when you were a kid, how long everything took? Summer break or my birthday or Christmas were always forever away. Or, my personal favorite, I was convinced that it was a four-hour drive from Jacksonville to Disney World until I was a teenager and realized it was much closer to two. Excitement and anticipation made the waiting both painful and delicious.

There were other times when my own dread of something stretched time until I couldn’t see past the obstacle of the moment. Piano recitals were the worst. The day of was terrible, but usually that whole week, there was nothing for me to do but dread my performance. There might be birthday parties to attend that weekend, family coming from out of town, a trip the following week—none of it existed as long as that piano recital was in the way. Then, the recital itself was almost an out-of-body experience, during which someone else’s hands flew over the keys, and at the end I stood and bowed, wondering what had happened. After a few minutes of disbelief, I realized that it was over and my life could continue.

How interesting it is that time fluctuates like this, yet it’s a static thing, in as much as a minute equals sixty seconds and an hour equals sixty minutes and so on. Even when we tamper with time by either falling back or springing forward, we don’t actually gain or lose time. It’s not as if a vacuum swallows that precious hour in the spring and spits it out again in the fall. Rather, we re-label the hours that already exist, and during the adjustment period, we often feel like we’re running late when it’s suddenly sunny at seven in the morning.

Adults are very protective of their time. It is a precious commodity of which I, at least, am very protective. I know that I never seem to have enough. Few things will set me on edge or make me lose my temper like running late. Or what about working on the computer for hours, only for it to crash? That’s time that I’ll never get back, not to mention that I can never exactly replicate what I lost.

And I have to split my time between all those things that I want or feel I need to do and my children. I have to remind myself that they are only little once, to enjoy every moment. I look forward to each new stage and achievement, but I will never get back those moments already past. They grow so quickly, and they’ll be in college before I know it, or so I’ve heard. On the other hand, when I was pregnant, I thought they would never get here. Why is nine months so long on that end of the pregnancy, yet after the baby is born, nine months fly by (except for those moments that drag when the baby doesn’t sleep, nor does anyone else in the house)? It was bizarre during my second pregnancy to both watch my first son grow and develop at a lightning pace, but to also feel like I was mired down, barely changing. I was convinced that baby was never going to come. Like the piano recital, I couldn’t see past his birth, which seemed to be years away. (Yikes, can you imagine how an elephant feels?)

My fascination with time extends into books I read and shows or movies that I watch. Right now I’m rereading Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox. I just got through the big reveal, where all the time pieces fall into place, and I am still amazed/flummoxed at how author Eoin Colfer pulls it off. And how can I forget my first awe-filled readings of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban or A Wrinkle in Time? I think it’s in my blood be attracted to stories like this, even when they make my head spin. Although I hesitate to call myself a Trekkie (we never went to Star Trek conventions dressed in unflattering, duo-toned bodysuits, although I did buy my dad Hamlet translated into Klingon one year), I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and later Deep Space Nine. Despite their corniness, the episodes or movies that I remember with fondness all, in some way or other, deal with time travel or getting caught in a time loop. Other favorite movies are Click (I cry every time), MementoDéjà Vu, Meet the Robinsons, and of course the Back to the Future trilogy. And even though I’m not into romance, per se, I love the two Outlander books that I’ve read so far. The writing and story are good, but the time travel quandary itself is what attracted me to the series.

As for my own writing, I haven’t tackled time travel yet. It’s so mind-boggling that I’m afraid I wouldn’t be up to the task. Of course, I never thought that I would write young adult fiction, either, until I began reading so much of it that a young adult story began to blossom within me. I guess that means I’m just going to have to sacrifice and read some more time-related literature if I want to pursue the precarious time continuum in my own writing. What a shame.