Computer Headache

Whereas yesterday and the day before I concentrated on canning and thoroughly enjoying the process, today I have been pulling my hair out all because of “computer problems.”

I hate computers.  I really do.  For all the wonderful things computers do for us, they can certainly bring on far more grief and stress.  Every year at least once but more often twice or three times, we have issues with our computers.  We have two desktop computers and two laptops.  One of the desktop computers is a fairly good one that is used for work; the other desktop is older and mainly a backup.  One of the laptops was purchased by me about four or five years ago and was used by Grace and me until my mother gave us one of her old laptops last summer which Grace claimed ownership of.

For several months Grace enjoyed the luxury of having a laptop all to herself and I enjoyed not having to fight for time on mine.  Then it happened.  Somehow, she has no idea how, no explanation, it must be an act of God — Grace’s computer started having issues until finally it wouldn’t work at all.  She tossed it aside and came right back to using mine.

I didn’t give this much thought, until the day after Christmas when I was journaling and decided that I wanted to add something to the prior days entry.  When I went to open my file, I found it was corrupt. In fact, all of my entries for December were corrupt.  Panic does not begin to express what I felt.  I went from file to file desperately trying to open them, but nothing.

Typing in the error I got, I learned that these files were corrupt and although the data was lost forever, I might be able to resolve the issue from happening further.  What!?  Lost Forever?  I sat in my room heartbroken.

What of all my other months of journaling?  You see, I am not very good at printing off my journaling as I go.  I typically print it off two or three times a year.  I know this sounds asinine now, but for the past five or six years there has never been an issue.

I began testing my November entries and discovered that about half of those were also corrupt.  Now the tears started.  So when was the last time I printed anything off?  I couldn’t even remember.  I went to my closet where I keep my printed journals and found that March was the last time.

Now the only silver lining here is that when I started blogging in March of last year, there was a period of time when I wasn’t journaling because the blogging was taking far too much of time.  So, printing off my blog posts (yep, haven’t done that since May) would help fill in some of the blanks, but not everything.

For an entire day I mourned the loss of my journaling.  Not that I’m not still mourning, but after the initial shock, I started researching how to possibly recover my writing.  After a few days I finally came across one website that offered a glimmer of hope.  Copying all my files onto a zip drive I moved them to my old desktop computer in the office.  Working slow but sure I managed to open one of the journal entries.  Unfortunately along with the journal entry, there was about 8 pages of code mixed in for every page I’d typed.  Fun!

For over an hour I worked at deleting the computer code and in the end was left with a page and a half of my writing.  Relief isn’t exactly what I felt — frustration, anger, hopelessness — those are getting closer but still not there.  How in the world was I going to find time to decipher through months and months of journal entries to recover my daily rants, recounts, and regaling?

By this time I was reaching yet another plateau of coping with this situation, I was now entering the “How could this have happened?” stage.  What caused my computer to suddenly corrupt my files and what other dangers were lurking among the files and folders on my hard drive?

Well, come to find out, Grace not only brought her lovely self back to my computer when she somehow ruined the one my mother gave us, but she also brought along a lovely little bug of some sort.  So although not to the stage of complete devastation that her computer was, it looked like my computer was heading for the same fate.  And…wait for it…guess what?  Do you have any idea what I did when I copied all those journal files onto my zip drive and then copied them onto my desktop?  This just keeps getting better and better.  Oh, and by the way, Zeb also used that same zip drive to copy some songs from my  laptop and put the zip drive into our good desktop that is used for work.

WOW!  Could things get any worse?  Before you answer that…

So Grace decided in the afterglow of my tirade when I discovered what had begun this snowball effect that she was going to buy herself a new computer.  She did this and according to Hubby is banned for life from our computers.  Too little too late, but the sentiment was certainly there.

After Grace got her computer though, Hubby decided to see if he could figure out what virus she had infected the first laptop with so we might not completely lose everything on the remaining three computers.  He spent an entire day working on it and finally at 11:30 at night he removed the virus, but all the files that it had corrupted — documents, pictures, video — were lost forever with no possible way to recover them.  Not even the trick I had found for my journaling files.

Knowing how to remove the virus is only half the battle.  The damage that the virus leaves behind is what is always the real problem.  Still, Hubby went from computer to computer and removed all possible files where this virus might lie in wait.

Content that we were safe from total annihilation for another day, I went back to journaling on my laptop. I did print off the pages I wrote for the first couple of days, but fell quickly back into a false sense of security.  Still, I left the journal files open on the computer so I could print them easily, just in case they became corrupt when I saved them.  Not good enough unfortunately.

Last night, right after I posted my blog post for the day I shut my computer and went out to the kitchen to work on some canning.  About 10 minutes later I returned to my computer, opened the screen, and nothing.  It was black.

Okay, I thought, this happens every once in a while.  All I need to do is turn the computer off and then turn it back on.  So, that’s what I did.  Um, nothing.  The computer screen was black, the fan started then stopped, and the caps lock light and power buttons blinked mockingly at me.

This couldn’t possibly be happening, could it?  I ran to one of the computers in the office and typed in the symptoms and followed the steps to diagnose the laptop.

FRIED!  Yep, for all intense purposes my laptop is fried.

So how many days of my journaling did I lose?  Six.  Hubby’s ever compassionate suggestion, “Can’t you just rewrite it?”  Well why not?  I’ll just plop down here on the couch and…oh wait, what is it again that I’m going to use to type my journaling on?

Hubby pulled out the supposedly fixed laptop that Grace had messed up and although it now turns on and will allow you to navigate between programs without a 30 minute delay between keystrokes, the internet does not work and there are some very suspicious things going on with the mouse and other functions.  Do I dare try to use it?  Plus, how am I supposed to make any blog posts?

It’s not like I sit down and write a post from beginning to end in one sitting.  No, my days are such that I write a little in between loads of laundry while standing at the kitchen counter, or type a few lines between vacuuming up Bell’s dog hair for the tenth time this week and sweeping the cobwebs out of the bathroom corners.  I keep my laptop handy so that I can just pop it open for a few minutes whenever I find the time or inspiration.

Still, living without a laptop isn’t the worst thing in the world, but if my laptop is now toast, how long before our other two remaining computers follow suit?

What is very frustrating in this whole situation is that we do have antivirus programs on our computers, the best being on our work computer. Unfortunately these are not foolproof.

Well, Hubby worked all day today to try to get the other laptop up and running but so far has not had any luck.  We did get the internet to actually open, but it will not allow me to sign in to WordPress or my email accounts.

Right about now I am ready to just run away and leave the technological world of computers far behind me, never to return.  I am crabby, frustrated, sick about my journaling, terribly bad company, and have a headache that will not go away.  The family has decided to leave me alone though.  Here I sit in the office, alone, with no fear that anyone will approach me — not if they want dinner tomorrow at least!

So rather than end this rant with my usual Simply Grateful line, the best I can muster is I’m Simply Here!

Maybe I should go make some jam or something — anything would be better than staring at this computer screen and the constant reminder of things lost!

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Prelude To Christmas Decorating – Why I Do This

Tradition does not mean that the living are dead, it means that the dead are living. ~ Harold MacMillan

What is it about Christmas decorating that causes me to become consumed with joy from the moment I turn on the lights in my Christmas storage room until that fateful day sometime in late January when I finally turn that light off for another year?

Growing up with a grandmother who transformed her home with animated figures, rotating trees, flashing lights, and glitter on everything from ornaments to poinsettias into a Christmas wonderland, it was hard not to have some of the magic rub off on me.  Walking into her home Thanksgiving afternoon when all the lights were finally turned on for the first time, marking the beginning of the holiday season, made Thanksgiving my absolute favorite holiday.  I could hardly wait for her front door to open when we’d arrive for Thanksgiving dinner and be showered by the holiday spirit that began with the wreath on the front door and continued throughout every room.

From the tinsel curtains hung over every window to the rotating aluminum tree full of family ornaments to the light switch covers made by my grandmother, not a single detail was forgotten.  Banisters were covered with garland, windows were outlined with lights, and tables were transformed into scenes full of wonder and excitement.  Santa’s, angels, elves, stars, candy canes, carolers, and all the symbols of love and tradition that make Christmas special and irresistible could be found in every corner, in every room.  Everywhere you looked there was yet another reminder of why it was truly the most wonderful time of year.

In July 1999 we lost my grandmother, the matriarch of our family, the spirit that made Christmas more than presents, shopping, and hustle and bustle.  It was a devastating blow to our family, as is the loss of anyone, but the full extent of this loss was not to be felt until that November.  As I pulled the light cord in the Christmas storage area, a rush of memories flooded the room.  Standing there faced with boxes of decorations, frozen with grief, I cried.  Unable to bear the sorrow, I closed my eyes, pulled the cord, and shut the door.  How could there possibly be Christmas without my grandmother?  She was the reason I began decorating.  She was my inspiration.  She was Christmas.

The emptiness I felt from the loss of my grandmother was horrible but the loss of my Christmas spirit as well made it unbearable.  Days passed and I could find no joy…no reason to turn on that light in the storage room.  I pushed myself to get through each day, getting done what had to be done, but my heart ached and my will faltered.  Finding no solace in mourning, I began wondering what my grandmother was doing.  Was she watching me?  Was she anywhere other than in my broken heart?

It is my belief that no one truly dies as long as they are remembered in our hearts, yet the question remains, are they here with us, do they visit or is there reason for them to?  As I struggled to come to terms with the loss of my grandmother, I asked myself how my grandmother would feel if she knew the holiday traditions she had spent so many years establishing had died with her.

In the months after my grandmother’s death, I never felt her presence, only the emptiness. When I began remembering all the wonderful holidays I had with my grandmother, reminiscing about lighting plum pudding, decorating trees, singing carols, visiting her home and listening to the stories of every decoration–every ornament, suddenly I felt a warmth surround me.  I felt my grandmother’s presence as real as if she were standing right there.  Tears welling in my eyes, a lump hard in my throat, I realized I had to turn on that light.

Pulling out boxes of decorations and doing my best to carry on the tradition my grandmother has gifted me with, I know she is here with me, guiding my hands, holding the ladder, giving me inspiration.  I’ve even caught myself talking to her/asking for advise as I try to hide every wire or fix yet another set of lights.

My grandmother may not be here in the way that people readily accept, but there is no doubt in my mind that she is here. She is in every Christmas light, every mince pie, every strand of tinsel, every holiday greeting.  I know she will be forever in my heart and during the holidays her presence is strongest.

This year a new Christmas movie came out starring Harry Connick Jr. called When Angels Sing.  At the end of the movie, Michael, played by Harry Connick Jr., has a conversation with his son,

Michael:  Do you remember when you were in the hospital and you asked me ‘Do you think people can still see us after they die?’

His son:  Yes.

Michael:  I think they do, so let’s make it worth their while.

Every year I do my best to make my home look better than the year before and every year when I finally light the whole house on Thanksgiving day, I ask my grandmother, “So Gram, what do you think?”  As I stand there, looking at the memories filling every corner of the house I know my grandmother is with me loving every little detail.

I miss my grandmother every day, but know in order to keep her spirit alive I have to keep turning the light on, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.