Actually, I’m writing today about my mom-in-law and my dad-in-law, but “Fairy Godfather” just has a wrong ring on several levels… I’m getting ahead of myself, though. This is a story about the tool of my trade–the laptop–and a miraculous magical rescue.
Since I took to writing full-time, I’ve spent anywhere from ten to twenty hours a day with my fingers on the keyboard of an ancient PC laptop. It’s a cheap one I bought years ago, just basic functions even when it was new, and if computer-years run like dog-years, this thing is older than I am for all practical purposes. And it was beginning to show its age. Some of the keys would take a few taps before I’d get the corresponding letter to show up on the screen, the “click” button on the tracking pad only worked about three quarters of the time, a virus had wiped out all the .exe functions and made it almost impossible to open new documents or the internet browser, it regularly overheated and ate the files I was working on, the battery was shot (so it had to be plugged in to function) and the electric cord was getting too loose to hold. I’d have to wiggle it around to find the “sweet spot” and then jam it against my leg while I worked to keep it in place. We tried duct tape, but the machine was clearly limping along on its last legs.
So I’d been nursing it along and praying it would hold out until we could afford a replacement. My hubby Keoni is back to work after his December knee replacement, but he has the second knee scheduled for April, so we’ll have another couple months of living on just what I make at the laptop–no room in the budget for a computer until after that. And Keoni was very insistent that we’d be choosing a good computer when the time came. “This IS your office,” he reminded me. I’d been thinking of making the switch to Mac–knowing there would be a steep learning curve, but also knowing the Mac would be great for website creation and editing my photography, and not susceptible to wipe-out by virus… And compatible with my iPad, which I “live in” when I’m not on the computer. So we’d been doing a little “window shopping” on Amazon, picking out the computer we’d get… later.
Out of the blue a few weeks ago, Keoni’s parents called us from Hawai’i to say they wanted to buy me a new computer, and which one would I like? I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so stunned. My in-laws aren’t Christmas-and-birthday people, but they occasionally step in–generously!–when they perceive a need.
Did I mention I was stunned? I stammered out the specs of the Macbook Pro I’d been looking at, and they called back that afternoon with the tracking number for shipping. I instantly became the impatient kid who can’t wait for Christmas! I knew I’d have my face pressed to the front window on delivery-day, waiting eagerly for the UPS truck to show up.
God has a sense of humor and timing–have you noticed that? Two days before the new computer was due to arrive, the old one breathed its last breath. No amount of computer-CPR could revive it again. I’ve used the iPad for back-up before (like the day that virus hit, when I had 8,000 words due before I could take the time to resuscitate the thing)–and I’ve been grateful to HAVE it as a back-up–but the iPad really isn’t designed for flipping between research websites and word-processing, and I can’t work nearly as efficiently… and I had another ten thousand words due that day. I don’t mind admitting I was pretty stressed.
Less than two hours later, the UPS truck pulled up. Thank you, God–and thank you, Mom & Dad in Hawai’i! As my mom-in-law said to me on the phone when I was stuttering my stunned and sincere thanks: “God works in mysterious ways, Kana. Today, this is how God is working.”
Wow. So I’ve been happily “moving in” to my new Mac–and relishing the fact that for the first time, all of my music library and photo library and software and apps and documents and calendar and to-do list and everything else are actually compatible across all my devices, synced up and available whether I’m on the laptop or the iPad or even my phone. Too slick for words–I’m loving it! My OCD-organizing-impulses are intensely satisfied by this tidiness.
I have to say (despite my familiarity with the iPad, which turns out not to afford much advantage in “learning” the laptop) that Mac was a Mystery to me! It was time to bust out the climbing-gear, because this was a STEEP learning curve. Even the most basic of functions–like scrolling or right-clicking–take a different action on the Mac. As I figured out how to do each individual thing, I was thinking–without exception–that the Mac approach makes better sense. Mac was definitely designed with usability in mind. At this point, it’s still just a matter of learning how to do everything. Everything. I consider myself pretty “techie” (I used to teach online and design online curriculum, I design websites on the side, and when we owned a restaurant, I handled all of our internet marketing myself) but I have zero formal education in technology. I’m simply stubborn enough to keep “playing” until I figure out how to make a computer do what I want it to do. So that’s what I’ve been up to–gleefully getting familiar with an all-new environment.
That’s a partial explanation for my absence from this space over the last few weeks (and I’d like to thank all of you who pinged me to say you missed the posts, and hoped everything was okay). There has actually been a lot going on–including a lot of writing work. (Last weekend: thirty thousand words in two days–and this from the girl who didn’t even manage to finish NaNWriMo…) I’ve been thinking the last few days of the “complaint” I often have when traveling: When you have the most stuff to write about, THAT’s exactly when you don’t have enough time to write any of it! True in regular life as well, as the last few weeks go to show..
But. I’m re-evaluating my writing-priorities, and what comes to light today is my previous insistence that writing in THIS space on a regular basis is what keeps writing FUN. I don’t want to get so “ground down” with writing-on-demand that I lose the joy-in-writing that made me want to do it full-time in the first place. So my pledge to myself is not to treat my own writing (here) as “lower priority” than the writing that comes with deadlines. To borrow from Hamlet‘s Polonius: “This above all: to thine own self be true.” I don’t think Polonius was referring to blogging, but that’s how his advice applies in my life today.
And I recognize on a daily basis how blessed I’ve been in the support of the people around me. I chat on IM daily with writers from our team, and a regular theme of those chats (including with our editor, and my boss) is spousal resistance to time-spent-writing. I’m thinking, in contrast, of Keoni nudging me to take the leap into writing full-time, even before we knew if I’d be able to make any money with it. “You’ve wanted to do this for years–you need to do it.” Period, end of discussion. It probably helps that I’m not away from him when I’m writing–my “office” is our bed, which we treat like a couch in the daytime, and he’ll stretch out beside me and read, or we stream Netflix movies while I write. I’m grateful every day for the supportiveness–and that extends also to his parents and the vote of confidence represented by the generous gift of this computer.
My writing-mascot is the owl–I have a little guy (named Pue’o, the Hawai’ian word for owl) who perched on the old laptop’s screen while I wrote… In Hawai’ian culture, the ‘aumakua, or guardian spirit, is represented by an animal of the islands. My husband’s family is guarded by Mano, the shark, and he remembers learning about the ‘aumakua from his Tutu Pa (grandfather), Hawai’ian musician Kamuela Ka’anapu, who also taught him traditional cooking, and to combine his love of music with his love of cooking. (When Keoni is singing in our kitchen, I know that all’s well in my world!) Tutu Pa told him that whenever he saw a shark, “either something good or something bad will happen.” Kid-Keoni’s irreverent response (which earned him a cuff across the back of the head) was, “Well, Tutu Pa, that depends wheddah you IN da watah or OUT!”
Our son Kapena, who turned sixteen on Valentine’s Day, has been wanting a tattoo for a couple years, and we told him we’d sign for one when he reached legal age (sixteen with parental consent in Idaho), provided he went to our artist (whose art we love and whose judgment we trust), and that the tattoo itself be something meaningful to him. So this week he got his tattoo: the family ‘aumakua with our last name printed in the curve of its body. Our second daughter Anelahikialani and her wife Sarah were visiting from California this last week, and she and Kapena went in together to get matching ‘aumakua tattoos.
Hawai’ian families have ‘aumakua, and an individual can also have a personal ‘aumakua. You don’t choose one–it chooses you, and a person who pays attention might recognize the relationship. Last summer when I began writing for an Idaho travel magazine, I was seeing owls every time I was out on the road on assignment. Daytime, night time, it didn’t matter–owls were crossing my path every time I hit the road to write. I can take a hint–the owl is my ‘aumakua. And if I reach back to my own Irish roots, the owl is a common personal totem in Celtic culture as well, so that seems suitable. This is why my Twitter handle is @KanaOwl, and why the literary magazine I’m launching (more about that in an upcoming post) will be at ThirteenOwls.com, and why the protective cover Keoni ordered for the new laptop is adorned with an owl (in “my” colors, no less)..
Our ten-year-old Christian just registered for junior high, and as we watched Harry Potter the other night, he was lamenting the fact that “speaking Owl” isn’t among the available electives. He’s quite enamored of Harry’s owl, Hedwig, and whenever he’s in the house, you can guarantee that Pue’o will be somewhere on his person. (He doesn’t know it yet, but his birthday present in 10 days will be a full-size Hedwig look-alike made by the same company that created Pue’o…) He also points out that the owl on my Mac is an appropriate symbol for what I do, since owls in Harry Potter’s world carry written correspondence.
Christian and I agree that the UPS man was really a brown owl in disguise. And as for his delivery… well, even Harry Potter getting his Firebolt broom by owl-post was not more excited than I was when this Owl-Mac arrived.
To Mom & Dad in Hawai’i: THANK YOU for enabling this writer to keep writing so happily! And I hope you know that this isn’t the first time God has worked through you to provide a blessing in my life… I thank him every day for my biggest blessing: the man who married me. Thank you for “authoring” that gift as well… And my thanks again for providing me with such an awesome new “office!” If I haven’t needed a fairy godmother, it’s because God’s always got my back. And yes–as Mom says–he works through other people.