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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Full Suburban: Gods of machinery are raining down their wrath on our family

Two of Julia Dittos’ sons – and a kitten – get use out of the old family laptop.  (Julia Ditto/For The Spokesman-Review)
Two of Julia Dittos’ sons – and a kitten – get use out of the old family laptop. (Julia Ditto/For The Spokesman-Review)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

I don’t know what the Dittos have done to offend the gods of machinery, but it was apparently something pretty severe because things have been breaking down around here at an alarming rate.

I mentioned in my column last week that our Suburban is on its last legs; it’s currently being resuscitated at a mechanic’s shop. On top of that, our furnace has been acting up, getting us nice and toasty in the morning only to quietly shut down a couple hours later, essentially turning our house into a live-action version of “Frozen.”

And as if that weren’t enough, the dryer is making a funny sound, the water softener is on the fritz and – absolutely worst of all – my much-needed computer somehow died in the night a few weeks ago.

With the exception of the Suburban, none of these things is particularly old, and that makes their breakdowns all the more frustrating. But out of everything, the loss I’ve felt most keenly is the computer.

I’ll admit, I waste my fair share of time doing unnecessary things on the computer, but there are also a lot of tasks that it helps me get done that allow my family to function in day-to-day life.

During the three-week span that my computer was hovering in the afterlife, I needed to plan a family trip to Disney World, I had four articles to write for this newspaper, and there were rapid-fire emails coming at me almost every day from multiple schools regarding plans for students to return to in-person learning.

All of that was a lot to handle from a smartphone, which was the one reliable device I had left. I needed something more desktop computer-like if I was going to function while my computer was being repaired.

I hunted down the laptop that we purchased in 2009 and fired it up. It took forever; it was like waking a slumbering dinosaur, which I’ve obviously never tried but can only imagine would be a very tedious process.

“I can’t even remember how to log into this thing,” I said to 11-year-old Henry. “Do you know the password?”

Yes, of course, he did. He’s a child born in the 2000s. He also knew how to find my Google documents, check my email and guide me to an internet browser. I felt like my grandma but was grateful for the help.

Even with the use of my laptop, there were many documents I couldn’t access and lots of tasks I simply couldn’t do without a more powerful computer. I wandered around aimlessly for a good part of the morning wondering what one did when their right arm was essentially cut off as mine was.

“I guess I could clean something,” I thought sadly. “Or eat. Or clean while I eat.” I pulled open our kitchen junk drawer, which had become a mess of broken pencils, half-filled notepads, tangled paper clips and random markers. I uncapped each marker one by one and threw away any that were dry and useless.

I gathered up two handfuls of pencils that I’d been saving for … I don’t know, a national pencil shortage due to a totally unrelated pandemic? I cut up an old cereal box and fashioned it into a darling little container for corralling scissors and tape. A little too much time on my hands, you say? Maybe. But by the time I was done, my junk drawer was a thing of beauty.

“I never would have done that if the computer hadn’t died,” I thought, quite proud of myself for tackling such a boring adult task. My kids looked around nervously, afraid that my extra time and focus would manifest itself in some kind of enormous family project, like scrubbing down all the baseboards or organizing the laundry room.

They had no need to worry. Our power went out a couple days after that, and our well water started turning brown. Suddenly, I had bigger things to worry about – like what kind of sacrifice would appease the machinery gods so they would leave us the heck alone.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at

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