A Letter to an Absentee Father

Let me be perfectly clear. This is NOT about my own father nor about my immediate family. Anybody who knows me knows that I damn-near idolize my father (most of the time, heh!). This is a collection of observations and thoughts regarding a general problem that I’ve been in close proximity to with some notable frequency and duration.

This shouldn’t be all depressing, though. June is, after all, the month of Father’s Day. So if you’re reading this and you think, “Hmm, I haven’t talked to my Dad in a while. Maybe I should try to talk it out, try to forgive him a little, and see if we can still make things work.” — DO IT. Life’s too short.

Or, if you’re like me and you love your dad, TELL HIM. Tell him why; why you admire him and respect him, why you wanted to be like him when you grew up. He loves to hear that sort of thing; it makes his heart swell with pride and joy.

Love and peace, friends.

N.

I can’t do this anymore. I can’t continue to be the peace-maker, the bridge-repairer, the message-passer. You need to make an effort. A true, unabashed effort. Make it personal. You say you’ve called? Call more. You say you’ve left messages? Leave more. Leave them until their voice-mail is full. And then text. EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK. Hell, maybe more. Don’t just say “Hey it’s Dad, call me.” You’re gonna need to apologize. You’re gonna need to grovel, even. You’re not going to like it. It’s going to be hard work, difficult and painful. And I can’t say the words for you. But try starting with something like this.

“I love you, son/daughter. I’m so sorry for everything. I want to try to be a part of your life again. And your kids’ lives — my grandkids. It hurts me to know that they’re growing up without knowing who I am. I know that I messed up. I know that you don’t want to give me another chance. I know that it’s not my right to ask you to. But I’m begging you. Please let me try to repair things. Let us try. Please.”

Do you understand why it’s come to this? Do you really get it? You weren’t there. You ignored them in their times of greatest need, and would not celebrate with them in their achievements. You abandoned your family because you could not work out your relationship with your wife. You refused to believe that she had their best interests at heart, or that you still could try, despite your newfound contempt for their mother. Which, by the way, was largely baseless. Sure, nobody’s perfect, but you made no effort to be the bigger person, to apologize with grace and to carry on with dignity. To remain the best father you could be to your kids, even when you were no longer a husband.

And now you want to make amends. NOW you want to set things right. Most of them have written you off. Most of them call you a lost cause. I’ve seen both sides. I’ve heard your hurt, and I’ve seen their struggles. But I’m not them. I’m merely an outside observer, a desperately-attempting-to-be-neutral party. I’m not the one who needs to hear your side. THEY are. HE is. SHE is.

That’s why this is going to be so difficult. That’s why this is going to be so painful. They’re not going to build you half a bridge as you build yours. You need to build THE ENTIRE THING. The whole bridge, down to the very last stone if you must. Maybe you’ll get lucky. Maybe once they see how far you’re willing to go, how much toil and sweat and tears you’re willing to expend, they’ll be ready to lay down a few bricks too. MAYBE.

But if they don’t? You better keep going. You better not give up. You better wipe that sweat off your crackled brow, dry those tears from your tired eyes, hoist that depressingly heavy hammer, and keep on layin’ that brick. Because if they see you give up now, they truly WILL be done with you. You WILL be that lost cause. And you won’t see those grandkids. And you won’t have anywhere to go, or anyone to come and see you, when you’re old and gray, and needing that little sparkle of joy once in a while just to keep you from collapsing in your retirement-home rocking chair and never getting up again.

And I’m sorry it’s come to this. I really am. I wish that I could help you more. I wish that I could build that bridge for you, even just a little. I wish that I could be that peace-maker, that man who stands in the middle of the great divide and says “Come, let us sit and take fellowship together, and let our past transgressions be forgiven, as difficult as that may be. Let us break bread and drink, and become family once more as we were, while we — while you, specifically — have what little time may yet be given us.”

But I can’t. I’m not. And I won’t. This is on you. As awful and terrifying and cosmic as that may sound. It’s ALL on you.

The choice is yours. Make it right.

To The Mom Who Didn’t Have to Wait

Another piece from K. This is a letter to all her fellow women, but specifically to those who are either ignorant or insensitive to the issue of infertility. It’s often not purposeful, but it still hurts, and this is one voice willing to stand up and make known something that is difficult to talk about and difficult to hear.

N.

I don’t understand what it’s like. I never will. It’s a foreign concept to me. I don’t understand having a conversation with your husband or significant other regarding the timeline of when you want to have kids, and having it actually go according to plan. I once thought that is how my story would be, but nearly 5 years later and I can tell you, it’s not that way for everyone. 

5 years. Can you imagine waiting that long? The truth is, I don’t want you to imagine. It’s painful and it’s hard. I’m writing because I want you to know how many women all over the world would do anything to be in your shoes, including me. Anything? Yes, anything. Spend tens of thousands of dollars. Inject medications in their bodies daily. Fly across country to see a better doctor. It’s not uncommon for their marriage to be on the line because of the turmoil that infertility brings. 

Or maybe they are like me, and are trying to follow God’s direction, to be still and trust Him for a miracle. Yet it’s been almost 60 months and there is still no miracle. Finances, dreams, hopes and desires are surrendered. And after all that? Still waiting. So many women are still waiting. The reality is that 1 in 8 experience infertility. And even after enduring the emotional, physical, spiritual and mental pain, many women still don’t see that positive test; or if they do, they miscarry, which leads to more pain, and more waiting. 

We are heartbroken. We are crushed. Our bodies are tired. Our minds are tired. Tired of it all. 

To have this dream, that you’ve had since childhood, take so long to fulfill, as you wonder if it ever will be, is really very hard. Especially knowing that same dream comes so easy to so many. Add not being able to leave the house without seeing that one thing desired, dreamed of, and hoped for — seemingly everywhere — that is even harder. 

I am writing you to remind you to consider it a gift and a blessing that your story is not like mine. I am writing you to remind you that, even on the hard days, there are millions of women who would trade places with you in a second. I am writing you to remind you to please be thoughtful of your words. And maybe, instead of complaining that it took you 3 months to conceive, consider it a blessing. Or instead of grumbling that you have 3 children of the same gender, consider it a joy. 

Maybe, instead of complaining of how sick/nauseous/big/uncomfortable/miserable you are, think of those women, myself included, who would gladly feel all that and more, if it meant that, at the end of the journey, we could hold our precious child in our arms.  

Just like I will never understand what it’s like to get pregnant when I want, much less “on accident”, you will never understand what it’s like to wait, painfully and longingly. Our stories are very different, and I find peace in that. But whatever stage of motherhood you are in, please remember the ones who are waiting — the moms in-the-making. 

There are women are all over the world who, month after month, even year after year, are told “not yet”. And just like every month before, we have to pick up the pieces, and hope that next month will be different. Hope against hope, for a month that will end with joy, instead of heartache. A month that will end with celebration, instead of tears. A month that will end with a positive pregnancy test, instead of another period. 

Finally, please remember, this is not directed ‘at‘ anybody, so don’t take it that way. This subject is supremely hard to talk about. It’s not that I want to talk about it; it’s a very private matter, for the most part. I don’t ask for your sympathy or condolences or anything like that. I merely ask that you take a moment, before you post yet again, to consider those women, like me, who silently hurt, as they read and hear the constant pregnancy/baby-centric buzz around them, from their friends and loved ones. And who cry out against the unyielding night, “Why, God? Why not me?”

infertility awareness stock photo
Frustration often leads to depression and resentment.

Help! Outlook Keeps Asking for Password!

Yes, my friends, occasionally the world of tech will spill into this blog as well. But this is not related to my career at all; this is something I experienced while helping out a family member. And I thought I would share the frustration — and the solution.

The Problem

He has a Microsoft account, based on a Hotmail address. There are 3 devices: his phone, an old laptop running Office 2013, and a new laptop running Office 365. He has some work email accounts, which all remained working fine, plus the personal email — that being the Hotmail account in question.

One day, he does.. something. Let’s say he forgot the password, or perhaps typed it incorrectly too many times. This leads to a slight spiral of confusing actions, involving a password reset and a recovery code, which he faithfully, per instruction, prints on a physical piece of paper (not that we ever needed it). However, something is still amiss.

downward spiral staircase
down, down, down we go!

Outlook 2013 is now continually prompting him for his password, for the Hotmail account. Strangely, also, this old machine still lets him log on to Windows with the old password, even though it’s running Windows 10 under the MS account (not a local user account).

His phone still receives and sends emails just fine — he didn’t even have to re-enter the password there, as far as I know. Also strange. Or perhaps he did re-enter it at some point shortly after he re-set it, but forgot to mention it. Who knows. The point is, he can’t get his personal emails in Outlook anymore, on the old laptop.

Nor the new one, as it turns out. He just hadn’t tried it until I got there. So during my troubleshooting efforts, we turned on the Surface and discovered it, too, in Outlook 365, continually begged for his password, which we of course entered correctly, to no avail.

I tried a lot of troubleshooting, including repairing the account in Outlook’s account properties, removing it and re-registering it, and even removing it from Windows entirely, followed by setting it up again. None of that worked of course.

The Solution

The actual solution is rather boring, as it turns out. It just took us forever to arrive at it, because MS in no way made it at all obvious, nor provided any direction toward it, until I actually asked for help with Outlook’s support-chat snap-in. The agent replied next-day, which meant I had to tell my uncle to literally let his Surface sit out, open, on, logged-in, all night. Thank God for TeamViewer, is all I can say.

What we found out, thanks to the agent, is that he (the user, not the agent) had somehow enabled Two-Step Verification. This was NOT OBVIOUS anywhere. What it means, apparently, is that after you enter your password, you’ll need a security code that either gets texted to you or uses the MS Authenticator apon your smartphone. This is very similar to Two-Factor Auth, but not exactly the same.

red apple and green apple
Apple-to-apple…ish

So where do you go to check on this? Again, not obvious. Go to your MS account page in a browser — https://account.microsoft.com/. Then click on ‘Security’, of course. Then.. uhh.. wait, there are only 3 big buttons here. “Change password”, “Update your security Info”, and “Review recent activity”. Well those don’t sound like what I want. Maybe the 2nd one, kinda? Nope.

Read the fine-print. I mean it’s not “fine print” like super-dinky legal jargon, but small enough compared to those big 3 buttons that most people would overlook it. Right underneath it says this:

Done with the basics? Explore more security options to help keep your account secure.

MS Clippy

Yep, there you go. Once you click that link, ‘Two-step verification’ is the 2nd option on the list. So, once we disabled that, he was back in business — his current (recently changed) password was now the only thing needed to configure/re-connect all Outlook apps to his Hotmail account.

But Why?

More specifically, why is this a thing? Well, 2-factor authentication is actually a very good practice, security-wise. For example, when you log in to your bank’s website from a computer that you don’t normally use to do so, they generally want to text/call/email you with a “security code” to make sure it’s really you. Awesome! That means if someone guessed your password, they still couldn’t get in, because if you got that text/call/email while you yourself weren’t logging in to do some banking, you’d say “Not today, Satan!” and deny that sucker.

Now, let’s take the Microsoft account. Sure, it probably has some pretty important stuff — billing info, for one thing, if you’ve ever bought anything from them, like Office 365, or a game on the Xbox. But even if not, there’s still a lot of your personal info there. Plus, your email itself can be used for nefarious purposes, such as.. oh right, that banking example! If you hadn’t set up your phone as a “2-factor auth” contact-point, they might be using your email to send you those security-codes. And if you’re no longer the only pair of eyeballs on your inbox.. Ruh-roh.

scooby-doo ruh-roh
Jinkies!

So is this “Two-step verification” thing with your MS account all bad? No, of course not. Like anything, consider it holistically with the rest of your online presence and identity management. If you’re particularly worried about hackers, and you understand the trade-offs, go ahead and use it. If you’re fairly confident in your password strength, and you don’t have a ton of ‘risky’ information/connections involved in the account, maybe it’s overkill.

I personally use the MS Authenticator app, because I work in IT and it’s something I’m accustomed to. I have a lot of devices, and I know that the risk of me losing one is higher than most. But this family member’s situation is much more limited and much simpler. Therefore, we decided, he can live just fine without it; all he needs to remember is his password.

Intro

Some of you have made your way over here from my other blog, and I very much appreciate it. Some of you may be just discovering this from your ‘Reader’ feed, or from Facebook or Twitter or wherever, and I appreciate that too! I love all forms of readership. That’s why we write, is it not? Well, partially.

I also write to understand myself, my head. I write because I often have trouble expressing verbally the complex swirling emotions and thoughts in this superlatively complex symbiosis of science and spirit we call the mind and soul.

What can you expect from this blog? Well! All kinds of things. Fiction. Nonfiction. Flash-fiction (I never claimed to be good at it, but it does appeal to me for some reason). Grief. Joy. Trials and tribulations. Possibly a rant or two. (Or several dozen.) Memories. Memoirs. Movie reviews. (Yes, I’ll migrate the content over, hopefully!)

So pull up a chair, grab you favorite cozy beverage, and see what resonates with you. If you enjoy it, maybe share with a friend! Thanks for reading. ❤

Keira laying down
What? I’m tired! Don’t look at me like I’ve done absolutely nothing but lay here all day!