Admitting to Not Being Technical

How many middle-aged women does it take to install Netflix?

On Christmas Day at my home, it took 3 women using 4 clickers and one iPad, and at midnight we shouted with glee at our accomplishment. Let “us” not be called the techno-idiot generation, thought I, who was the least helpful in the process.

I still laugh at the fact that twenty years ago I thought receiving faxes placed unnecessary stress on people,  and installing a fax machine at the office was not going to move me to respond to any message faster than the usual 5 day turn around time we experienced with Canada Post. Yet this month we welcome in a new era, absent Canada Post. Like the Government of Canada, March of Dimes has already almost entirely ceased mailing out cheques, but whatever will we do about soliciting donations from our 30,000 strong donor base, and honouring our commitment to sending out receipts and thank you letters?

Does any reader remember the beauty of a hand written letter? Not only were letter writers careful to choose their words, but also their stationery, and penmanship mattered. Cursive writing was an art form. Receiving letters was a gift, treasured, remembered, oft reread, stored, scrap-booked, sometimes read aloud and shared. I personally practiced writing small neat letters on blue aerograms, tissue paper thin, foldable forms that eliminated the need for an envelope, and kept the cost down for overseas letters. How else could I have sent home 115 letters over a one year period while teaching in Kenya? How else could I find among my mother’s treasured momentoes one shoebox holding 115 letters, recalling my adventuresome first year away from home?

Technology brings me movies at my finger tips, but electronic Christmas cards, text messages, Facebook photos, and online bills don’t elicit any emotion, no anticipation or desire to hold on to a moment. It’s delete, delete, delete. I have no electronic scrapbooks. Photo albums thus created are not hauled out to share, nor laboriously matched to stories of personal adventures. There are few unique photos; google holds more wonders than any personal photos of a trip can manifest. Technology does allow me to blog, edit, self correct, and a search engine like  google will even suggest words.

But letter writing for me represents not just a bygone past time, nor curious art, but style, grace in communication, with interludes of waiting, contemplating, imagining. I am reminded of the importance placed on such communication, especially by waiting loved ones. I have read letters my father wrote his parents during WWII when he served in the RCAF in London, letters my newly wed mother wrote her parents when she settled in the small backwater town of Trail BC, letters my love sent to me from Igloolik, NWT, as I waited patiently, and not so patiently, to be invited to join him.

Once upon a time I rushed home to get the mail, whether I lived in Calgary, Vancouver or Toronto, but now the poor letter carrier has only junk mail, donor solicitations,  notices from elected political folks, and unwanted magazines. So, to the Post people whom we’ll miss and to the institution of mail service, and the creativity of generations of letter communicators, I salute you. I will try harder to appreciate the intel chip, memory cards, electronic dashboards, and the wonders that greet me every day when I flash on my screen. And, I’ll be most pleased to receive personal letters, in any form, in which my loved ones wish to send them.

About modcpresident
I grew up in Calgary, where I completed a BA at the University of Calgary, then travelled and taught in Kenya and the Canadian Arctic during the heyday of Trudeaumania, hippie travel and social experimentation. I settled in Vancouver to complete a Master of Social Work degree at the University of British Columbia, and stayed another 8 years. After graduating I was a Social Planner and eventually became the Executive Director of the Social Planning and Research Council of BC. Ontario March of Dimes recruited me in 1981, the International Year of Disabled Persons and the 30th anniversary of the agency. It has grown from a budget of $5m in '81 to $100m in 2010. Services have expanded drafmatically. We incorporated a non profit housing corporation in 1992 and a national charity in 2001, and since 2006 the latter has operated as March of Dimes Canada. We own and operate several properties that provide accommodation and independent living services to 77 people in 4 municipalities and will add another property this year. Two other exciting non profit entities have been incorporated in my 30 years (yes, it has been 30 years!) and we expect to hold our first fundraiser in the US this year and to initiate our first service south of the border also. My role as President and CEO continues to be that of creating a vision, fulfilling the mission and developing strategic plans to meet an increasing demand for services from people with disabilities and their caregivers. This is achieved through direct service, advocacy and peer programs. On a personal note, I live with my 17 year old daughter and two cats, and enjoy their company a lot. My two adult sons are doing interesting exploration in their own lives and I am intrigued with how they are progressing. In my spare time, I have various volunteer roles on several non profit boards and committees, and enjoy creating programs for building awareness of diversity and disability. I think it has become true for me that youth is, while not "wasted on the young," something that I appreciate more with age. Adventures are physically more challenging for me now, so they have to occur in new dimensions.

5 Responses to Admitting to Not Being Technical

  1. Bev biderman says:

    Nice.

    Bev

    >

  2. L. D. Sword says:

    Dear Andria, I cherished reading every one of your 115 Kenyan letters and however many from Igloolik on the now-antiquated blue Aerogram. What you missed was our parents and me sitting in the kitchen struggling to decipher your handwriting. It took massive creativity and speculation to interpret what adventure you had shared with us. Compare that to the ease of reading this blog post. I know you needed three friends, four clickers and an iPad Christmas Day; no guessing if it were a tree of worms,flock of filchers, and ink. Technology rocks and so do you.
    love
    Your sister

  3. Deborah McPhedran says:

    Andria,
    We are not active in each other’s lives at this juncture. But I read all your blogs. Wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed this one in particular. Oh the handwritten word – and emphasis on style – I won the “penmenship prize in grade 8” but my writing is now as indecipherable as my doctor’s. This was a joy to read. So heartfelt, demonstrating the power of not “just dashing it off” with the short forms texting requires. This was a bridging of the Old way of letters with the new. Thank you for taking the time, yet again. Thinking of you. Wishing you happiness as we enter 2014. By the way, Richard would have loved this too.
    Love, Deb

  4. Jo-Ann Langley says:

    Hi Andria
    I still receive hand written letters on hand made cards from my cousin on special occasions. My grandkids are as anxious to open them as I am. Her cards are beautiful and handwriting amazing. Maybe future generations will continue this as an art form rather than a communication form and even better, they’ll have to hand deliver them. How special will that be!

  5. Joy Walker says:

    Andria,

    I still receive hand written letters from my relatives out west. They are all in their late 80’s and some in their 90’s. I am over joyed at the prospect of receiving regular mail from them. I will cherish their wonderful letters for the rest of my life. I want to let you know that I really enjoy your blogs. They are always so meaningful.

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