Technologically Challenged

“Technology is my friend … technology is my friend…technology is my friend”.  This is the Mountain Farmgirl’s mantra today as she confronts internet issues, WiFi challenges, setting up a new laptop and is baffled by the latest version of her new operating system. But she is not going to let it get the better of her.  Join her for a fireside chat as things heat up in “Technologically Challenged”….
Brrrr … it’s cold out there! November is here and the fire is on, a little trick that usually warms my heart as well as my hands, making little problems seem not quite so insurmountable.  I sip my tea in a cup I made myself, while the fire crackles and roars. It’s all about the simple pleasures … and all is right with the world. Usually -- but not so today.  I’m frustrated by wireless things I don’t understand, and with setting up my new computer, which should be simple but which is not.  Both the ‘Sledge Hammer Solution’, and ‘Tossing it Out the Window’ technique are not options, although they are two very good ones I have, at various times, considered.

I freely admit it: technology is essentially a foreign country for me. But as old-fashioned  & back-to-the-land as I truly, essentially am, my laptop is my lifeblood, and like it or not, that’s a fact of life I have to accept. Get used to it, Mountain Farmgirl! As the owner of a medium-sized business, it is a no-brainer; we have to have computers and maintain an online presence. As a quick and easy way to stay in touch with long distance friends and family, the computer can be a great tool, although it will never replace the art of a hand written letter for me. But as a freelance writer, it is absolutely essential in this day and age.

In addition to writing the homeschool column for The Cluck and penning these Mountain Farmgirl blogs for MaryJane, I write for our local newspaper , the Conway Daily Sun, as well as essays and articles which I submit for other publications. I travel occasionally, and then  my laptop becomes my portable office from anywhere I may be at the moment. It is my ticket to self-sufficiency, independence and freedom. I adore my laptop, but understanding it is another thing entirely. It’s a love/hate kinds thing.

I won’t begin to go into the myriad details that went into the equation just to get my new computer delivered to my door.  Of course there are relatively easy things like brands, and MAC vs. PC to consider, but it’s all downhill from there. Things like AMD or Intel processors, how much RAM, decisions like gigabytes or terabytes, internal or external optical drive, how many ports I’ll need, what types of programs, not to mention the alphabet soup of wireless specs to be considered. But I accepted the challenge: I read, studied and considered all the options, and came up with a list of things I wanted.  I was pretty proud of myself when I ‘custom-built’ my dream machine online. With a final tweaking of advice and the ‘Good Mouse-keeping Seal of Approval’ from my two oldest tech-savvy sons, the order was placed and a huge weight of endless and confusing decisions was over. (How do YOU spell R-E-L-I-E-F?! This did it for me). But in reality, my problems were only just beginning.

My laptop was delivered by Chuck, my friendly UPS man, back in July. It was as exciting as a Christmas morning, well for at least 15 minutes. Pushing the power button is easy, but using a brand new computer is not a turn-key operation. When I realized how much work it was going to be, I promptly put it back in the box until I had enough time to cope. It had been but a fleeting moment of pleasure. As an innkeeper beginning her busiest season, it then sat on a shelf for four months collecting dust and becoming outdone by newer bells and whistles on later models, which explains why I am only just dealing with this now and why Windows 8.1 has superseded 8, which is now old hat.



A new laptop, fresh out of the box is almost like a brand new box of crayons at the beginning of the school year … it not only smells good, like a new car, but it is so full of exciting  possibilities! However, that is where the comparison ends; it’s all downhill from there.  Unfortunately, there is no magic wand in the box, commanding the technology fairy to transfer over information and programs  from the old machine and explain what you are to do once you plug  in the new one. Windows 8 is totally different than its predecessor but it is visually beautiful and I instinctively liked it. I am learning to navigate through it, but for the longest time I couldn’t even figure out how to turn the thing off! I guess we are mostly creatures of habit and the learning curve is a bit longer the older we get. Fortunately, the Dummy series of books has been written for people like me, and I always systematically, first page to last, go through the entire thing cover to cover. There is hope I see on the horizon!


But just when I was beginning to get the hang of things on my keyboard, internet demons intervened and disaster struck. First it was a short in a wire to the main router from our service provider which needed to be replaced, then a week later the router itself died. It took over two weeks to get the repairman back here, but while he was at it, he ran a new line for our wireless which had decided to join in the fun and was sporadic at best.  A couple more trips to the office store for new wireless routers and a couple of signal extenders, and almost a month later, I was in business.

During the down time, I was literally at my wit’s end. Does technology-gone-awry ever get to YOU? Frankly, there is very little that gets me down, but after a month of this nonsense, plus trying to navigate through the foreign territory of a new laptop and an operating system I didn’t have a clue how to use, I got to the point of wanting to (metaphorically) slit my wrists. Instead , I called the local ‘Emergency Hotline’ (my local computer guy). John was a lifesaver, and what he didn’t put to rights, my married son who lives in Virginia did long distance via the phone. Noah went waaaaaaay beyond the call of filial duty and I am forever indebted to him for taking care of me.

So, my friends … my computer is up and running, I’m back online and connected to the world at large, trying to stay on top of the learning curve. During this whole, painful process, I learned that as individuals and also as a society, we are SO dependent upon technology, and how impossibly frustrating it can be when we need to use it but can’t. Is there a lesson to take away from this, I wonder? I’ve learned that knowledge is power, and the more I know about all this stuff, the better it is for my mental health. On the other hand, there comes a point when you realize the experts are there as a resource and sometimes it is worth the time and money to get them there.  We don’t always have to know everything about EVERYTHING! I also learned during the month I was without internet, when I would go once a day to our local library to access their WiFi, that I have previously spent much too much time checking emails and Facebook posts. I need to be more disciplined in this area … I didn’t realize how much even I had been sucked into the social media world. Once a day is more than enough for me. And finally, as much as I sometimes complain about it, I have learned to appreciate technology as the amazing tool that it is. We never seem to appreciate the good things in life until they are gone!

So until next time, Farmgirl friends,
Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings from Cathi,
The tech-savvier-than-ever Mountain Farmgirl



By: Sally
On: 11/11/2013 09:35:45
I know the cost more but a apple computer is more user friendly.
By: Tina Hart
On: 11/11/2013 13:47:09
I suggest upgrading to windows 8.1 asap- it has been released already and will install right over the existing operating system. Your headaches will be gone almost instantly!

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir

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