Remembering Y2K

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I remember as a child doing the math to figure out how old I would be in the year 2000. That millennial milestone was such a far off phenomenon to my young self. But as it loomed closer, people around the world started losing their minds.

The reason for this anxiety stemmed from a so-called Y2K (i.e. Year 2000) bug in the systems of computers that it was thought would cause massive malfunctions when the year 2000 arrived. Back in the 70s when I was calculating what an old lady I would be in the Year 2K, we could scarcely dream of how many essential systems would be impacted by the computer revolution. Computers back then were giant, unwieldy machines held in university labs. My business school friends were always wandering around campus in a haze with computer programming punch cards spilling from their backpacks.

But the acceleration of technological progress meant that by the year 1999, computers were running utilities, telecommunications systems, military weaponry, and all manner of operations that affected day-to-day life. Therefore, when news of the Y2K bug appeared, people started planning for Armageddon. We stocked our basements with water, batteries, and nonperishable foods. Most people I knew made plans to stay close to home with their families rather than go to lavish New Years Eve parties out on the town. The widespread panic gave new meaning to the famous Prince lyrics, “Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1999.”

Y2K fears proved to be largely unfounded. Other than minor glitches, most systems sailed through the New Year without a problem. People woke up on New Years Day to the dried up Christmas trees and other remnants of holiday revelry that they had on previous New Years. Life went on.

It’s important to remember in tumultuous times that there were many events in the past which caused people anxiety and worry. In some ways, our country has always been on the brink of conflict or disaster of one kind or another. Our politics have always been fraught. Our young people have always been criticized for not being exactly like us old fogeys  seasoned veterans.

As 2019 approaches, let’s remember Y2K and, as my husband likes to say, “Don’t panic. There will be plenty of time to panic later.”

Happy New Year!

 

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New Year, Same Old Me

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I’m suffering from a New Years Eve hangover – not from drinking too much champagne but from having seven teenage girls shrieking in my basement into the wee hours of 2016.

Every year the world over, we haul out our dusty notebooks and pens and write down resolutions. This is the year we will quit smoking, eat healthier, get to the gym, be nicer to people. We even use the word resolution, which comes from the word resolve, meaning “a firm determination to do something.” Yet most of our willpower crumbles before the Valentine’s Day candy comes out on store shelves.

When I awoke this morning after sleeping in until the ungodly hour of 10 am, everything felt the same despite the rolling around of a new year. My Christmas decorations looked a bit like a socialite who overstayed her welcome at the New Years Eve gala. The meager layer of snow in the backyard has gotten crusty and gray. I still need coffee to jump start my day, and I have already succumbed to the siren song of fresh donuts in their bakery box on the counter in my kitchen.

At my age, I’ve learned to stay away from grand plans to overhaul my life at the stroke of midnight on January 1. I will settle for small improvements, such as my mostly successful determination to be unfailingly kind and friendly to store employees in the weeks before Christmas. I plan to read more, write more, and stay connected to friends. I will buy more fruit and veggies (and hopefully eat them) and be gentler with my teenage kids. I will kiss my husband more. I will pray more.

Most of all, I will try to banish worry and enjoy my life more. That’s my resolution for 2016. What’s yours?

Fear Itself

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As 2015 draws to a close, many of us have heavy hearts. We worry about terrorism, gun violence, disease, and our economic future. We look at the world and see renewed aggression on the part of Russia, disturbing settlements on islands off the coast of China, and a civil war in Syria that has given rise to the fanatical Islamic State as well as the turmoil and anguish of millions of refugees fleeing the chaos.

Here in the U.S., we are fearful of the next mass shooting, distrustful of our police, angry over the loss of skilled jobs, and worried about what destruction our children may inherit due to climate change. Not much of a “Happy New Year” feeling, is it?

Yet I am reminded that every generation has had its great plagues and challenges. My own parents lived through the Great Depression and The Second World War, when food scarcity and rationing of everyday goods was a way of life. Loved ones came home terribly damaged – or did not come home at all.

My sisters came of age during the turbulent 60s and lived through the fear of the Cuban missile crisis, the Civil Rights movement, and our devastating involvement in the Vietnam War. Their male friends waited with dread for their draft number to come up and prayed that it wouldn’t.

In my own lifetime, I have witnessed the Cold War, the assassination of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, Jr., the resignation of a president over the Watergate scandal, more than one economic recession, hostage crises, and bloody coups and scores of those “disappeared” as a result.

My own children witnessed the horrific attacks on September 11, 2001, which ushered in a protracted war on radical fundamentalism in the Middle East. They practice school lockdowns in an age of mass shootings on U.S. soil. They are growing up with their own worries and fears too.

Yet our world has endured through all of these terrible times, and men and women everywhere have bravely carried on in the face of hardship and even disaster.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously told the American people that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He went on to bring the country out of the Great Depression and through the horrors of World War II.

Fear paralyzes and creates anger and hate. What we need in difficult times is hope and resolve to make our world better and stronger. Here’s to a hopeful new year and a commitment not to let our fear get the better of us.

Auld Lang Syne

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The poet Robert Burns took an age-old Scottish ballad and transformed it into a song that has been sung for generations – one that is traditionally sung to bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new.

The connotation of the words “auld lang syne” is one of nostalgia for time gone by, for friends lost and found. The song recalls youthful days spent in nature and adventures of old, camaraderie and separation, good times and bad. It’s a fitting tribute to the end of a year and the start of a new one.

As I reflect back on my own life in 2014, I recall wonderful new beginnings, such as the start of this blog. I’ve attended family weddings, met a grandniece and grandnephew, caught up with college buddies, and watched my own children grow both physically and emotionally. I have also experienced the death of loved ones, the aging of parents, and the painful realization of my own shortcomings.

I have always loved beginnings: the first day of school with a new notebook and a sharpened pencil, the start of a movie in a darkened theater while I try to munch my popcorn quietly, Monday mornings when the kids are off at school and a new week unfolds. So I love the first day of a New Year. I set goals for myself and feel a renewed sense of purpose. Although every day is a chance at a new beginning, January 1 is a particularly special start to a whole new year.

At the same time, I contemplate with fondness the things that never change: my love for my family and friends, my faith in God, and my appreciation for the beautiful Earth, whether blanketed in snow or bursting with spring blooms.

To paraphrase a verse from Robert Burns’ “Auld Lang Syne,”

And there’s a hand, my trusty friend!
And give us a hand of yours!
And we’ll take a deep draught of good-will
For auld lang syne.

Happy New Year.