Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cyber Moping/Musing

There are several nasty ways to wake up each morning. As a diabetic, periodically I dream that I'm chasing candy, and wake up in insulin shock. And when a storm front is moving into our realm, there are times when my arthritis flares and I wake up feeling like I'm 90 years old. Last week I decided that I would much prefer waking up compliments of those incentives, as opposed to what took place a few days ago.

So, there I was, still half-asleep, starting up my computer. It was around 5:30 a.m. and I woke up feeling like I should work on a manuscript I've been tweaking lately. But first, of course, I felt the need to check my e-mail. This proved to be a big mistake!

With my new laptop, it doesn't take long to get things started. I stared, bleary-eyed at my screen as it worked its magic and pulled up the internet first thing. I clicked on my e-mail account and ta-da (as my tiny granddaughter says over great accomplishments), instant gratification . . . and mortification. Sitting in my in-box was a message to me . . . from me. I didn't recall sending anything to myself (I figure that's right up there with talking to one's self, but I digress).

Wide awake now, I opened this weird e-mail and found that it contained a link to a terribly inappropriate website. I was not amused. There wasn't a title in the subject box and I knew with a sinking feeling, that this was one of those much-discussed hacker jobs. Someone had broken into my account and sabotaged things. It made me sick. Just last week, this same thing had happened to a good friend of mine, and the e-mail supposedly sent from her, went out to everyone on her e-mail address list. I had consoled her teasingly at the time, since she is currently serving as the stake R.S. president in our area. That wayward e-mail had gone to people like our stake president. OUCH!!!

Figuring my dilemma was due in part to my secret snickering over my friend's mishap (I've always shared the following phrase with my children: "That which we mock, we become!" I should know better!) I immediately began repenting. It's not as funny when it happens to you personally. And the subject matter in my hack job was far worse than what my friend endured.

I'll admit, I sat in shock for a minute. Then I sprang into action. I was going to be out of town for four days and knew I needed to rectify this immediately. I sent warnings to everyone listed in my e-mail addresses, explaining the situation. Then I sat back and offered a small prayer that all would be well.

I also changed my e-mail password . . . again . . . something I do quite often these days as my computer literate children recommend to keep things safe. As I did all of this, I felt a surge of anger. Why does this kind of thing keep happening? I love the instant access the internet give us to family and friends. And, it makes things like paying bills and banking much easier. But it also opens the door to tremendous misery when reprobates decide this is a great thing to exploit. Are people really so bored in their own lives that they feel the need to invade everyone else's privacy? And then there's the matter of fraud. I know of several people who have had their bank accounts tampered with compliments of internet thieves. I also know there are online predators who take full advantage of innocent lives, causing havoc and pain.

It's rather scary when you think about it. And yet, like everything else, there is much that is good about the internet. It makes research so much easier for someone like me, who dabbles in the written word. I've also found tons of information about my ancestors compliments of the internet. And I love being able to snag pictures of my loved ones when they post them on places like Facebook, or on their individual blogs. However, it makes me uneasy when I realize how easy it is for online predators to do the same thing.

In my opinion, the internet is a two-edged sword. If it swings in the right direction, much good is accomplished. But when it swings the other way, look out---the injuries inflict untold misery.

One of my sons is a computer genius, and he is often telling the rest of our clan how we can be safe online: We are to use only numbers and symbols for passwords. Never belong to anything like unto "Facebook." Etc. and so forth. And yet, I protest. I hate feeling intimidated by online hackers\predators. In a way, it's like we're letting them win when we adapt our lives to hinder them. There has to be a better way. Until I figure it out, I'm open to suggestions. What do the rest of you do to be safe online in cyber-space? (Feel free to share.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

An "Aha" Moment

I suspect that at the beginning of each new year, we all ponder changes in our lives. Some make resolutions, determined to see them through. I've been guilty of this type of behavior, usually with less than stellar results. But this year, instead of writing down something along the lines of: "In 2011 I promise to . . . blah . . blah . . . blah . . ." I decided to try a different ploy. Ignoring the temptation to draw up a list of items like this:

This year I will lose this much weight: _______________
My blood sugar levels will always stay in this range: ____________
I will get this many hours of sleep per night: ____________
I will exercise ___________ hours every day.

I decided instead to be elusive. I didn't write anything down. I didn't make any pledges, nor did I document goals with family or friends as witnesses. Knowing my tendency to blow such high-browed ambitions about the third month of each year, and the nasty guilt that surfaces as a result, I am being extremely vague in 2011. I have one intent this year: to simply do better. I figure I can adjust what that means on a daily basis. It might mean on a given day that I will spend more time studying the scriptures, or reducing my carb counts. On another day it may mean that I will increase the amount of time I spend on the treadmill. On yet another day, it may simply mean that I will devote a couple of extra hours working on the great American novel.

So far I like this plan much better. I'm not feeling the pressure I've felt in the past, and it's working. I won't jinx things by revealing how often I've exercised since the beginning of 2011, but I think my diabetic doctor will be pleased. Will I earn the "Honor Bee," award by our ward's New Beginnings ceremony in February? Time will tell, but I'm making good strides. And if I don't earn it by then, I still have the rest of 2011 to do so. (I earned the YW Recognition Award in 2010, so I figure the odds are in my favor.)

Am I making progress with the great American novel? I don't have to report to anyone but myself on that one. =D Isn't this great?! And the best part, since I haven't etched anything in stone this year, when asked if I accomplished my goals for 2011, the truthful answer will be a resounding: "You bet!" And since this is something I've never been able to do, no matter how this year turns out, I will feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment. And that will truly be something to celebrate at the close of 2011.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Book Review: "Who's At The Door?"

I'm beginning this year's collection of blog posts with a book review of a new and exciting read. It's entitled: "Who's at the Door," written by Dan Harrington.

This book offers a unique perspective in comparison to the traditional "conversion" stories that many LDS books contain. It is written in first-person-narrative by Dan, who investigated the LDS Church quite thoroughly. This adventure began as a story idea for a local newspaper. Dan's research plunged him into an ongoing quest for truth as he met with a series of LDS missionaries during a two-year period. Extremely well-written and laced with humor, this work of non-fiction is an enjoyable experience. It presents food for thought when considering the process most investigators endure when learning about the LDS religion.

It struck a chord with me right off the bat as my three sons have served missions for the LDS Church in varied locations. One son served in Seattle, Washington, another in Brazil, and our youngest son served in Canada. I found myself comparing some of their experiences with those shared by Mr. Harrington. There were moments of head nodding and shaking as I read through the varied chapters. My heart sunk when I read about the ward member who was a repeated "no-show" during several appointments the elders tried to set up with Dan. I reflected on what my own sons have said about the importance of ward involvement when an investigator begins the journey of looking into the Church.

I think those of us who are born into the LDS Church take so much for granted. We don't realize how much there is to learn for those who are seeking truth and knowledge compliments of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is often a painful pilgrimage, and one that shouldn't be faced alone.

In some respects, we are all converts to the Gospel. My own journey along that path was filled with obstacles. I came from what would currently be classified as a "less-active" family. Friends, seminary teachers, and inspired YW leaders played a crucial role in my conversion process. And while attending Ricks College, I was still learning important gospel principles that my friends had cut their teeth on while quite young. I'll never forget the night I stared at my college roomies, thinking they were all extremely strange as they knelt together that first time for what they called "family prayer." I had no idea what they were talking about. I also learned about tithing, and Family Home Evening while in college mode.

Can I just say that my first attempt at presenting a FHE lesson was less than enjoyable? I had no idea what I was doing and when one rooomate made what she thought was a humorous observation, the unintended insult cut deep. Fortunately, the witness I had received about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon had been so intense, it was something I never questioned. So while many mistakes were made by myself and well-meaning ward members and friends, I continued forward, knowing that what mattered most was the nugget of truth that burned inside my heart.

As I read "Who's At The Door?" I identified quite strongly with Dan Harrington. While I didn't have his experience of meeting with missionaries, I did spend many hours discussing gospel doctrine with friends, leaders, and teachers. Their testimonies laid the foundation for me to gain my own witness. Their example and teachings gave me the courage to press forward despite the uphill battle I waged with my father who was often antagonistic toward the Church.

My hat is off to Dan. He has written an honest treatise about a subject that is close to many hearts. Though his journey differed from mine, I respect his opinion and hope that one day he will succeed in his quest. I highly recommend his book. I think it will be an important resource for anyone making this same journey, or for those who are helping anyone involved in the crusade for truth. It will inspire smiles, laughs, and a bit of soul-searching as we reflect on questions we've all asked from time to time.

You can purchase a copy of this book by clicking on this link: Buy Dan's book

And here's a great interview with Dan: Dan's Interview