I have a fascination with things modern and technical. I have an iPhone, a DVR, a computerized HE washing machine and a MicroCell tower in my home to boost cell phone reception. I keep up with friends, family and work through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Pinterest, Google +, texting and that old-fashioned thing called email.  Sometimes I’ve gone for weeks not actually speaking to my mother, father and sister and only texting, emailing and exchanging thoughts on Facebook. I haven’t handwritten a letter, besides a thank-you note, in years. I’m a thoroughly modern communicator.

That being said, I also prize my grandmother’s 50 year collection of cookbooks.  One hardback cookbook has a copyright date of 1940, and my favorite one is the “Joys of Jello” circa the 1960’s. Inside, I found other treasures which were handwritten Jello recipes on index cards. I imagine the index card recipes were gathered by my grandmother scribbling them down while visiting one of her sisters, at a Garden Club meeting, after church, or as she passed a friend in the grocery store.

The cookbooks have that ‘old’, thrift store, moth-bally smell to them. Yellowed pages, dried dampness, the standard ‘courier’ type font used by publishers in bygone eras. They’ve been stored away for years while she’s been in semi-assisted living; she didn’t need them, but she kept them.  Her collection also includes years of Guideposts, AARP magazines, the Friend’s Home newsletter, articles cut out of the newspaper, and all kinds of documents from the Veterans Administration.

I often marvel at my grandmother and her times. Born in 1923, she experienced World War II just barely out of her teens, married, experienced her young, dashing, WWII bomber pilot husband come home disabled and managed to raise FOUR boys and one girl without video games,  DVDs, cablevision, a microwave, pizza delivery, cell phones and only one bathroom.

It makes me think how did she raise her own family, work, volunteer and keep up with my grandfather’s VA hospital visits and paperwork? How did she communicate and keep up with so many things? Simple – she put forth the effort.

She was and still is a ‘communicator’.  .” I remember whenever I phoned my grandparents, they both picked up quickly. They were always ready for a good chat. Her phone rolodex looked like something from AT&T headquarters.  She had info on EVERYONE in the family – birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, who was related how, names of towns/streets where people lived, etc.

When I was old enough to start noticing, I saw the ‘grizzly-mama’ in her come out. “Don’t sass me.” “Because I said so.” “That’s the way we are going to handle it.” “I expect an answer.” “I need a yes or a no.” “Sit down and hush up.” “I’m ready for you to come to the table and eat.” There was no time-out in her day. Even at the age of 89, when she was moved into full assisted living earlier this year, she still directed where she wanted her side table, flashlight, Bible, pictures and welcome mat. If it isn’t done to her satisfaction, she doesn’t sit and brood, she communicates right away to her oldest son, my frazzled 65-year-old father.  She knows when her assigned lunch and dinner seating times are, her weekly hair appointment, what time and channel Wheel of Fortune is on,  and her daily blood pressure. She wants to KNOW about her world.

My inquisitiveness about the world must come from her.  I have a need to communicate. I’ve always wanted to be up on the latest things, be in the ‘know’, see the latest movie or television series and be part of the newest social media outlet.  I get frustrated when people don’t return phone calls, texts, emails, direct messages on Twitter, acknowledge them or poo-poo them.  I understand the need to ‘de-plug’ but it irks me when I hear people say “oh, you emailed me? I haven’t checked my email in a couple of weeks” or “I set up a Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter account but never go on there, I just don’t have time for all that.”

Really? Do you check your front yard’s mailbox? Say hello back to a bank teller? Answer the door when the neighbor knocks? Return a smile or pleasantry to a passerby? These are all ways we ‘communicate’.  And, technology is changing the way we communicate.  There’s still a real, breathing, person behind that Facebook account, Twitter @ handle and cell phone.  Maybe your neighbor texts asking can she borrow a cup of sugar, but it’s still the same message, just a different delivery. And, she still has to walk over to get it. They haven’t figured out a way to send sugar through the communication satellites…..yet.

I understand and embrace we are all not wired the same. Just as some people don’t like chocolate or sweets, others eat dessert first and work backwards at dinner (like me).  For some, these modern messages appear as goobly-gook jarble and it’s just too much.  However, just as I cannot live on chocolate, I must find a way to incorporate veggies and salads into my daily life, or I’d be a raving sugar-high lunatic.  And, I’ve found a way to actually enjoy them by seeking out chefs and cooks for recipe suggestions (on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and the old-fashioned thing called asking friends for recipes and writing it down on index cards).  I have found a way to enjoy the goobly-gook jarble of healthy eating even though I’m not exactly ‘wired’ for that.

The same goes for modern technology – how can it help you communicate, create opportunities, while still keeping your sanity? You have to put forth the effort and take charge of the communication and messages. Don’t set up a Twitter account if you never log on. It’s like showing up a party and disappearing into another room.  If you only want to learn LinkedIn, tell people to only connect with you there and CHECK IT. In this age, you really need to bite the bullet and use email.  If your children (young and grown) only respond to texts, then TEXT them, and get an unlimited data plan. Complain all you want that ‘no one ever calls, writes, etc you’ but they are right at the other end of that cell phone, I guarantee it.  Same message, different delivery.

I imagine if my grandma was raising children today, she’d have an iPhone with a pre-programmed text to go out at 5:45 pm to her five children – dinner in 15 minutes, be ON TIME.  An App to let her know when the Jeopardy pot was up to 100K, peach cobbler recipes texted to her from her sister, she’d schedule her doctor’s appointments and prescription refills with a touch of a button, a Twitter account to watch grocery deals (5 kids after all…) and she’d probably be in charge of St. Benedict’s Facebook Group Page. But, she’d still have those index cards for when she ran into friends. And, she’d still tell you if she didn’t like where you put her welcome mat.

Same messages, new ways of communicating.  Don’t forget to acknowledge people and always carry index cards.

And, I’m keeping all those cookbooks.

Happy communicating,

Debbie Fuchs

Owner- Communications Public Relations and Team Member here at “Simply” Sue Speaks!