Thursday, July 21, 2011

Password Pandemonium

It started in Junior High. Twelve year olds, in an unfamiliar building, starting their day an hour earlier, remembering -- or not -- to bring their gym clothes, navigating an unfamiliar building, changing classrooms for the first time, were issued their first lockers and told to memorize the combinations within three days. Many did, but a few never managed to accomplish that task. They could frequently be seen making their way to the office, feeling dumb and hoping nobody noticed. Well into the year, distraught students could be heard bellowing, “My locker won’t open!” More often than not, it did though, as soon as the right combination was tried.

With the passing of time, the culprit morphed from locker combinations to the dreaded password. Password pandemonium crept upon us slowly at first, but soon picked up momentum, leaving shattered people in its wake. Since the introduction of computers, passwords have become as vital to our way of life as breathing. For years, I staunchly resisted doing business on-line, but a recent count revealed that I currently have 19 passwords, and every one of them came with the admonition to “memorize it”.

Memorization has never been my strong suit, but let’s pretend I do manage to remember my 19 passwords. Now I also have to memorize which password goes with which account. That’s just asking too much of my feeble brain, so it only follows that on occasion, I log in with the wrong password. The powers that be must have seen this before, because they have already provided a way to resolve this problem – simply request a temporary password. All I have to do is “click here”, and answer two security questions.

That’s not a problem, since I know the answers. After all, I told them what they were. So, how could they stump me? I know the city where my dad was born, and I know the hospital where I was born. Regardless, the program insists I have given them the wrong answer, so maybe I typed it wrong. Or, it could be that I spelled it wrong. Is it Trumbell, or maybe I used the complete name: Trumbell General Hospital? Maybe it’s spelled Trumbull, or Trumble. After three more tries I give up.

On occasion, I have been able to get beyond this obstacle, but now I am confronted with the security word: a nonsense word in a blurry, bizarre typeface. If I guess right and type in the correct word, I am allowed to continue the process. Soon an e-mail arrives with a temporary password that looks something like this: pT4ZxA3Bwl7hg9bhg8nie3vsc2qqU. I’m supposed to type that in correctly, but, surprisingly, I rarely do.

By the time I reach the “Change Your Password” page, my mind has been so focused on following instructions and producing correct answers, it is incapable of giving way to the creative side of my brain that could actually come up with a suitable word. Besides that, there are guidelines to follow: Case matters, or case doesn’t matter; use at least eight characters; include two upper case and two lower case letters and one numeral; use one special character; don’t reuse an old password; change password periodically; and don’t write password down. Reading those final two makes me laugh, but the laugh has an hysterical inflection that concerns me a bit.

As much as I resent having to go through all this trouble, I do understand the need for it. A password does keep me out, but it also keeps the bad guys out. If not for disreputable fiends that care nothing about integrity and that have no concern for their fellow man, on-line programs could be designed to function without such maddening complexity. If I ever had the chance to vent all my password related frustration on a cyber-criminal, it would not be a pretty sight. Why can’t people just do what’s right?

Well, I know the answer. People don’t do what’s right because they have no understanding of what true righteousness is. Nobody can understand that before they come face to face with the Savior. Once that happens, the old ways will not be appealing or acceptable to them anymore. Seeing the lost turn to the Lord is always a blessing, but think of the difference it can make to a world beset by sin.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It's A Grand Thing!

Even as a child I have always loved bread, and if, by chance, we were having biscuits, I really felt privileged. Mom’s biscuits were good with pan gravy, but the day I discovered “refrigerated” biscuits, my eyes were opened. Biscuits could be even better than I had thought.

Admittedly, I lived a very simple existence. Over the years, I began to experience a little bit more of life; however that never changed my affinity for bread. Then a certain baking conglomerate began to market a bigger and better biscuit, and I knew it was a red-letter day. That new biscuit was, by far, the best biscuit I had ever tasted. The company even called them “Grands”. The name itself told you they were going to be terrific. Anything that is called grand must be something special.

No wonder the word is used in regards to our families. Our grandchildren open up a whole new world for us. A special place in the heart is filled only when the grandchildren arrive. They’re so easy to dote on and spend time with. Even when they’re misbehaving, you can’t help but love them. That’s why we call them grand, and that’s the way it should be.

Whether you are known as Granny, Memaw, Papa, or simply Grampa, you have been blessed if your child has children. Grand-parenting is a special relationship between different generations. It fills a role in a child’s life that parents just can’t fill, and whatever the future holds for that child, your support will matter. Even if you aren’t able to spend time together, you can be a vital part of your grandchild’s life.

Long-distance grand-parenting is common in today’s fast-paced world, but neither money, time, nor distance should be an obstacle that keeps you from being part of your grandchild’s life. A little thought will give you ideas for plenty of ways to nurture that important relationship. What child doesn’t become excited when receiving their very own mail? Receiving a personal phone call would be even better. Pass on those old family stories no one else remembers; the fiasco created when eight year old Daddy had a lemonade stand, and the shopping trip you took with your Gramma when she bought you that special dress. Tell them about your wedding and how you nurtured your marriage and kept it strong and loving.

If you’re crafty, you’ll find ideas everywhere you look. I made my grandson a picture book illustrating the letters in his name. Maybe for yours, you will whittle a likeness of his first puppy, or write a poem for his birthday each year. Building memories and bonds starts with simple things like these.

No matter how often you are able to spend time with your grandchild, one thing you can always do is pray. Pray with them, pray for them, and pray over them. Teaching them to pray would be a memory they will never lose.

No matter how your relationship works itself out, the most important thing to remember is that it is meant to be a grand one, with love at the core.