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Original music: Blue Collar - by Fred Sadge
Spring - Summer 2018

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As a Baby Boomer with a late-in-life Millennial child, I am growing fearful...very.

FRACTURED AMERICA
The internet has forever changed our lives.
Here is one family's story.

- by Maggie H.

I was a mother for the first time ate age 29, and for the second (and last time) at age 39. My childen were, at the time, and still are, the greatest gifts God has ever given me.

But the difference between raising my first child, a son, and the second child, a girl, has been enormous. The first child was raised, until age 14, without social media or the internet available to him. Oh, not that we didn't want the internet (then referred to as the "world wide web") to come into our home. We did! We'd had three computers from Radio Shack (don't laugh) in 1990-91 when our son was still kindergarten. We bought these dinosaurs (a desktop and two laptops) for our business - my husband is self-employed as an entetainer. I spent hundreds of hours programming and "formatting" them and, even though they cost a combined $9000.00, financed, these "marvels" did next to nothing. And what they did do was s...l....o....w...!

And so, for most of the latter nineties, while paying for our mistakes - and the old computers - we returned to doing business the old fashioned way: via paper publications and the U.S. mail. Progress was made at a snail's pace, many false leads occurred, and a lot of money was spent on false starts, and out and out ripoffs, because research was limited. There were no online customer reviews!

After a few years, we finally paid off the "machines" and these things were tossed on the dust heap. But one day around 1996 our son, then about age 12, began asking for a new computer. He went to a private school, and "everyone has one, Mom." And they probably did. But we kept refusing, remembering how useless, and expensive, the first three had been.

Then, when our oldest was 14 and in junior high, we went to the public library so he could do some homework/research on their computer and print out some information. I was in the children's Reading Room with "the baby", now four and in nursery school, when my son came in and handed something interesting: a print-out of information on our main business rival, complete with his photo. It was upsetting to discover that the competitor had an online presence and we did not.

I went home that night and told my husband and business partner it was time to get back into computers. The nature of his business (entertainer) meant he was out working most nights until 3 or 4am. Getting known nationally meant he could travel to choicer and more lucrative bookings on the weekend, and be home during the week. That meant more time as a family, to attend school and sports events for our daughter - something he' missed out on for our son. Heaven! Or, at least, that was what I thought at the time.

Within days we were on our way to the nearest "big town" to make our (life-changing, as it turned out to be) purchase of a desktop at Circuit City. But first we stopped at McDonald's for supper. I remember sitting in a window booth with our "family of four", as my son like to call us, eating a hamburger and anticipating how exciting our world was about to become. Since the library epiphany, I'd done my fair share of research (through word of mouth). It didn't take long before we made our decision and headed home with three cartons (keyboard, motherboard and monitor) and high expectations. We were so excited.

What was the computer like? I found an old commercial for Circuit City Computer Expo '98. The computers were 300 MHz, or something like what is featured in this commercial:
Circuit City '98 Expo

And so it began.

Within months, I had learned how to network. I found a man online who offered, for a modest fee, to put together a website for our business. Months later, I learned our new webmaster worked for, and was loyal to, our main business rival. "Joe I" charged us over $200.00, then created a website which made my husband appear to be 5 foot zero and 300 pounds - not cool when you are in show business in any role except that of a comedien. Joe also used purple text on a blue background, making the page almost impossible to read. (Thanks, Joe.) More research led us to another webmaster, or I should say, webmistress, who worked hard for us at first, but later wanted to charge far too much for updates, which were necessary to remain competitive. It was clear to me that I had to learn how to create and maintain the website myself. Off to work I went, learning how to put together a starter page and how to get it "out there".

I discovered the top search engines at the time (1998): Excite! was big, as was Web Crawler, Lycos, Alta Vista, and Infoseek. I submitted our new, crude one page website to all of them. GOOGLE was just being launched.

My free time, between delivering newspapers and working on the other aspects of our business, were spent learning how to do HTML so I could build a competitive and attractive page. Meanwhile, our son quickly joined Myspace.com, and disappeared into our new office - a cubbyhole of a room where the desktop computer was kept - every day after school. He cruised Ebaum's World, updated his Myspace.com daily, and downloaded music. But, now being 14 and having lived without a computer for all of his formative years, he had other interests. After an hour or so, he'd disappear into his room to practice guiter, study, read or draw.

The next seven years were spent in a haze of learning and creating. I learned enough HTML to be equal with most self-taught webmasters. I continued to assist my husband in his business, both online and off. I created websites using domain names I'd purchased during the "domain name gold rush". Nippies.com was one of them. I continued to work part time delivering newspapers each and every morning. I worked hard at keeping the house clean and being the best wife I could - often going with little or no sleep. The internet soaked up a ton of my time an took a ton of time away from my family.

In hindsight, I don't think it was worth it.

I regret that too many nights my very young daughter fell asleep waiting for me to finish up my computer and other work. My heart breaks now to remember how often I found her asleep on the couch after she'd waited for hours to watch something on television with her. I cannot get those hours back. And, in the end, I realize I was on a hamster wheel: the rewards did not equal the effort put forth.

By 2005, after spending seven years largely enslaved to mastering html and computer navigation, along with other business related duties, I woke up one morning to find my daughter was a pre-teen who was hooked on social media and my son was heading toward his 21st birthday as a college drop-out after two years.

The dream of more family time - vanished. Our website got my husband playing at at Del Webb's Sun City near Phoenix. There he connected to two women, who had just met that day, who were in the audience. Woman A was large and agressive, and, we later found out, very unhappily married. Woman B was smaller, and her husband was dying. Woman A and Woman B forged a fast friendship that day.

The first batch came ten or so months after that first meeting in Phoenix. A large box filled with gifts for my husband arrived: expensive leather pants, cologne, etc. Also included were one gift each for myself and each of our children. Despite the fact that Woman A had signed Woman B's name along with her own, I knew, by know, who was the driving force behind this campaign: Woman A. My suspicions were validated when Woman A left her husband shortly after that Christmas, moved in with the now widowed Woman B (a naive woman who was more than willing to use her late husband's insurance money to payroll living expenses), and showed up thousands of miles from her AZ home to attend my husband's week long booking at an Oklahoma Holiday Inn.

I was no longer quiet about how inappropriate all this appeared to be. But my husband dismissed my discomfort as irrational jealousy. After all, he assured me, look at her (Woman A). She was large, very overweight, and most would judge her as very unattractive. But my intuition was flashing red, and it turned out I was right.

Eventually emails disappeared, and phone calls "to check in with each other became the norm. This meant there was more privacy between the two. Woman A was most concerned that his talent was being wasted in our neck of the woods. She began to plant the seed in his head that, until you played the West Coast, you were not a national act. And, unbeknownst to me, she and her new best friend began to look for regular work at a theater near their shared apartment in Phoeni.

It did not.

Instead, our busiess ended making far less because of flight costs to and from PHX (Sky Harbor International Airport), living expenses, transportation expenses (the groupie left her husband, moved close to the theater where my husband now worked two weeks a month, and drove him back and forth to work...and we paid for her expenses), etc. All this added up dollar wise, but the cost we as a family paid was far, far more expensive.


To be continued...

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