Posts Tagged ‘twitter’

I remember being in 7th grade. Each home room had to elect a president at the beginning of the year (I think the major duty was carrying notes to the office), it was a scary time. The first year of middle school — just out of elementary school. There were many new kids from other schools that I didn’t know that well and I was separated from my usual crew of beautiful popular girls so I was feeling a bit out of sorts. I never really did well apart from my friends… I was the token dorky jock in the midst of the cool girls.

So, there, I found myself sitting in home room with kids I didn’t know, in a school that was new — hoping desperately not to be noticed while at the same time striving to fit in. The teacher called for nominations for president — silence, of course, was the answer he received. I remember looking down at my paper and doodling — wondering when the bell would ring to release me back out into the hallways and the comfort of my friends, then, a hand went up… “Becky”, they said, “I nominate Becky”.

“Yes!” I screamed in my mind while still doodling nonchalantly on my paper.

“I second it”, another voice said from behind me.

“Yes, yes, yes!” I screamed even louder in my head, “They like me, they really really like me!” But wait… I thought. I don’t even have any lollipops with notes attached that read — Vote For Becky! How could I win without those lollipops?

A few minutes later, it was official… I was the president of the dorks, the note carrier to the teacher in the room at the farthest end of the hall — and proud of it. Fast forward to my sophomore year of college.

Homecoming queen nominations were being sought — the fraternity that my sorority was paired with was going over possible nominations. I wasn’t paying attention because tradition had it that a senior officer in the sorority received the nomination. Then… I heard my name in the distance, “Punky”, I listened closely with all the hearing power of the bionic woman. “Punky would win”.

I tried desperately to pretend to be paying no attention to the talks in the adjoining room but let my imagination cling to that thought a little too long. I saw my picture on posters, I saw me sitting atop a convertible riding through the stadium, I saw me standing in the commons area passing out lollipops with little notes attached that read — Vote For Punky!, I saw… “No, it needs to be a senior”…


Fast forward to now. There’s a game on Twitter on Fridays called “Follow Friday”. The premise is, you send a “shout out” to the people you find funny and interesting and profound and mysterious (not necessarily in that order and not necessarily all in the same person), you tell others they should follow that person as well — a great big classroom presidential nomination.

I don’t participate too often, I always forget to give a “shout out” to someone and then I feel bad that I forgot them and then when I go back later to remember them it becomes very aware that I forgot them in the first place. The neuroses accompanied by Follow Fridays is complex. And… I think all of the people I follow are funny and interesting and dark and mysterious — that’s why I follow them in the first place.

But, still… I find myself checking in on Friday’s a little too obsessively, just to see. Once, maybe twice or 14 times — to see if I received any of those “shout-outs”, to see if they like me… if they really really like me. I think I should send a disclaimer each Friday morning that says, “I’m caught between not wanting to participate to avoid hurt feelings and desperately seeking a nod in my direction — also, I have lollipops.”

Classroom presidential nominations… homecoming queen nominations… follow Friday nominations… and of course, Facebook friend requests go in there somewhere as well. The yin and the yang, the ups and the downs… the virtual :::sigh:::

I think I’ll go check Twitter for those follow Friday’s, right after I look in on Facebook for new friend requests. But first, I’m going to finish getting ready to go out to dinner with a really nice person who knows nothing of Twitter or Facebook or the failed anticipation of a homecoming nomination. All he knows is I have a big bag of lollipops sitting on my kitchen counter.

Follow Friday, friend requests, or dinner dates? I’m pretty sure I know which one I like the best — maybe I’ll share my answer in a few hours. What about you?

In case you haven’t met her… let me introduce you to the next classroom president, the next homecoming queen, the next smash of Follow Friday and Facebook friend requests — this is the coolest of the cool girls.

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My hand has hovered over the “deactivate account” button many times in the last two weeks — but, I can’t seem to drop it down and sever my ties… my connection to the people on the other end. The reasons why I have thought so often about pressing that button are so juvenile that to tell you here would only give you way too much insight into the 12-year-old mind that often overtakes my psyche — so, I won’t. But the reasons why I can’t follow through — why I didn’t and am convinced I won’t follow through might be worth sharing… so, I will.

I can already see the puzzled, “what the hell is she talking about”, look on many faces as you read this. I can also see the smiles beginning to curl around the ends of the lips as the recognition makes it’s self known to you others. In this instance, I’m speaking of Twitter. But, before I lose those of you who don’t use twitter, let me say… it’s about life and connection and friendship and encouragement and anger and intrigue and crushes and flirting.

A few years ago, my 10th high school reunion was scheduled. I very much wanted to be a part of this celebration — to see and to talk and to hug the people who I hadn’t seen for 10 years — the same people who just 10 years earlier I couldn’t make it through a day without connecting with on some level. As fate and timing would have it, it didn’t seem too possible for me to attend. My grandmother had just died and I drove home from Missouri (8 hours) on the day of the reunion as my daughter, then six months old, screamed the entire journey (8 hours). I reached home crying, frazzled, in need to run away and with no intention on making it to the reunion that would begin in less than an hour. My parents practically threw me in the shower and shoved me out the door — so, I went. I had a great time that I can still see vividly in my thoughts, 14 years later. The connection and the flirting and the anger and the friendship were all there — waiting for me to drink it (and a few margaritas) in. Even though I hadn’t spoken to many of these friends in 10 years.

This scenario repeated itself during my 20th high school reunion. My father was scheduled for surgery to remove his cancer infested lung the day after my reunion and I was in no mood to attend. But my best friend, my soul sister, had flown in from Montana (at my constant prodding) to attend. So, there I was — being thrown into the shower, being forced to dress-up, being tossed out the door and into one of the single most wonderful nights of my life (hint: there were margaritas). Even though I hadn’t spoken to many of these people in the 10 years since the last reunion.

So… back to Twitter. I stumbled upon Twitter when I was bored and hanging out in the Alive Hospice house during my mother’s final days. I dabbled here and there until I figured it out and began chatting with some funny interesting people. One of whom, (most likely unknown to her), encouraged me to start this blog. Twitter has broken me often (again, to explain this would be to give you far too much insight into my 12-year-old mind), but it has saved me more times than I can count. I started exercising and eating healthy and losing weight and writing and expressing and sharing and connecting and laughing and joking and thinking and breathing… I started breathing. Everyday, I take a breath and locate my friends and chat. Everyday… not every 10 years.

My hand hovers, as of late. It wants to disconnect my mind from the world at my fingertips. It wants to separate me from the thing that has, at times, left me emotionally naked. But I know what the friends I’ve met have given me. I know what this blog has given me. I know what breathing and thinking and connecting and caring have given me. So, my hand may hover on occasion over that “deactivate account” button, but it won’t follow through — I won’t let it. Already this week I’ve talked to three people who I have a strong emotional connection with, I’ve chatted with three New York Times best-selling authors about dogs and treadmills and vacations, I’ve chatted with friends about their health and their jobs and their love life. I’ve connected with real people, who like me, have real lives and real feelings and real emotions. Who have you connected with?

Picture from Kind Over Matter

And… a bonus song!

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In Real Life…

I’ve been thinking about friends… how we meet, how we stay in touch, how we communicate, how we fight, how we make up, how we joke, how we laugh, how we let each other know that we love. I have many connections “in real life”. Friends I’ve known for long periods of time, friends I’ve known very briefly. I was trying to process the way in which we stay in touch. Is it face to face, is it by phone, is it by email or text or Facebook or twitter?

I actually opened my twitter account when my mother was in a hospice house nearing the end of her life (hospice can be a boring place, more on that later). I didn’t understand it and never looked at it — it seemed rather confusing. About four months later, I decided to give it a try again — still, it seemed confusing. But, I looked at it at least once a week and wrote little snippets in 140 characters or less. Then I began to connect with people and laugh and share stories. I would call it friendship.

One of the arguments I’ve heard about twitter and Facebook and texting or other forms of “hands-off” communication is that possibly, the people who communicate primarily this way have an inability to form “in real life” relationships. They have barriers that remain intact due to the lack of “hands-on” contact. That possibly, they lack the ability to form lasting quality relationships. The implication here was that I too was one of those people. So, I thought that maybe this was true. Possibly I was fooling myself into believing “in real life” connections inevitably could not form unless the primary mode of communication is “hands-on”. But, then that meant that not only was I flawed, many others were flawed too.

So, I investigated. I started looking at myself and the friendships I have. And to be perfectly honest, the relationships (mind you there aren’t many but they do exist) I’ve honed on twitter or Facebook have given me a power… a confidence to speak more freely with my “hands-on” friends. I speak to my friends on twitter or Facebook far more frequently than I do my friends I don’t share this connection with. All my friends are “in real life”. The one’s I get to actually sit down to a meal with or watch a movie with aren’t anymore real than the ones I talk with by email or text or twitter or Facebook.

I have a best friend that I’ve known for 36 years. We haven’t seen each other “in real life” in almost three years. We text more often than we talk on the phone. Yet, no one would question our friendship. No one would question the validity of it due to a lack of “hands-on” time.

So, I live “in real life”. I’m not sure where else you can live. And “in real life” I have many friends that I cherish. Many friends who shine a light on me. Many friends who I can sit with on a beach somewhere  and watch the waves and talk and be together — “in real life”.

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I am going to try something a little different today. We’re going to play a great big game of “let’s pretend”. The stories I tell on here are stories from my life. So perhaps this game of pretend won’t be such a big stretch, as I’m hoping …

The weather was still and quiet, a perfect sky where all the stars were shining so cleverly on the streets. The temperature on this November night must have been unseasonably warm — no coats required. Of course, with never having been to New York, she really didn’t know what the usual weather was. The walk from the hotel was short and magnificent. The towering buildings, the lights, the people — everything was a new sensation for her.

She stopped in front of the building where the party was taking place and gazed up at the enormity of it all for just a second too long. She became dizzy and stumbled backwards, bumping a couple of passers-by, then gathered her balance and resumed to stare — at that door — unable to go in.

This was a long-awaited night. One that had been dreamt about for the last year. One that had been the inspiration to make a change, to become better. It had started as a joke really, amongst strangers. A vow to meet — in real life. But, something in her made this want to be real. She wanted to have a reason to leave the comfort of her life — just for a little while — and mingle amongst the strangers who had become her strength.

It was the anticipation of meeting those strangers that had finally propelled her in the direction of positive change, of doing something for herself — selfishly. She had spent the last couple of years in a state of constant worry, panic, disbelief. And by all outwardly appearances, she had just stopped caring. She had been content to stay the same. The thought of moving forward was too scary because the imminent failure was all too familiar.

But, there she was, at the door to the party. About to meet those strangers. And all the doubt and worry and lack of confidence was urging her to walk away — back to the comfort of her real life. The anticipation of this event had been so long thought out, that perhaps the end of the journey would pale in comparison to the story she had already written in her mind.

So there she stood — still. A feeling of sickness creeping up her throat, the warm night air turning ice-cold on her skin, the towering buildings falling in on her — the city sounds confusing her. A deep breath, if she could only take a deep breath.

She kept a steady gaze on that door. Her feet, with a mind of their own, tried to begin the fleeing process by turning in the direction of the hotel. There was a real intention to walk — stumble actually — back to the hotel. But, before she could make the move, that door opened to greet her. The laughter was infectious and floated out to her — calling her. She could make out the faces of those that had unknowingly prodded her along. Her breath came, her feet moved towards the door, the strangers were waiting to welcome her.

So, there’s the partial journey to the world of “let’s pretend”. The journey has begun already actually. The outcome of which is not known — like life. You have to decide if the person you want to be is anything like the person you really are. You start the journey and wait for the outcome… waiting for the conclusion.

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There are many forces that motivate people to do things. I don’t mean bad things, I’m talking about good things. Really, every positive decision we make in life is due to an intrinsic motivation to “do better” to “become better” to “achieve more”. Sometimes, it’s the intrinsic part that becomes so difficult and holds us back — the last thing anyone wants to be is selfish.

I have always loved to read. Sometimes though, the things I read weren’t exactly appropriate for my age. I will blame this on my mother (see previous post). When I was in the fourth grade, I did a book report on Sybil. Yes, that Sybil. My fourth grade teacher laughs about that whenever I see her. She said she just assumed it was standard reading material in my house — it was. My mother always had journals on Psychology lying around. There was always some thick book of case studies just begging me to read it. Those books were so fascinating to me. Oh, I owned other books too, I had the whole Little House series — (it was mandatory back then).

In the fifth grade we had to do a report on a historical figure — I chose Gloria Steinem. Yes, that Gloria Steinem. (This again, I will blame on my mother.) I never really understood the kids who were reading C.S. Lewis or Nancy Drew Mysteries. To me, you really couldn’t get more interesting than a woman with multiple personalities or someone as out-spoken as Ms. Steinem.

Thankfully, I discovered literature. It was in college when I really understood what I had been missing. I was taking a women of short story literature class. My world changed completely. I could not stop reading. Margaret Atwood, Emily Carr, Alice Munro, Dorothy Parker, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty — I went through high school literature classes thinking it was all about Shakespeare and The Great Gatsby (I love both of these, by the way). There were women who wrote stories I could relate to and wrote them really well.

Now, I still love to read. But, with the addition of children, the reading content once again was not exactly age appropriate for me. I am blessed with children who love to read. As a responsible parent, I thought I should screen the books they were reading. So yes, I’ve read all the Harry Potter books (the fact that I read all of them at least 4 times does not have anything to do with the screening process — I get that). I have read all of the Twilight series (yes, ok — more than once). So there I was, once again craving something to read — something that was all mine.

A couple of months ago, I came across the most lovely person on Twitter (get over it). We chatted a bit, she thought I was funny — (this is how I meet most of my friends — if you think I’m funny, I’m yours for life). Turns out she was an author — a really good author. I googled her recently (most facts can be found by googling) and read the most intriguing short story — “Zebra Sounds” by (my long-lost best friend) Judy Clement Wall (please try to finish this post before your curiosity to google her kicks in). Yes! I was back! It was a great story and it was all mine.

This was not the first of my Twitter author finds. I had found and had been tweeting (really, can you move on) with other authors; Laura Zigman (my close personal friend and author of Animal Husbandry), Allison Winn Scotch, Susan Orlean, Julie Klam. And with each new find, I headed to the book store. And with each trip to the book store, I learned that being happy by doing something that was just for you, was ok.

The intrinsic desire that had failed me so many times in my life, was there — with me. Reminding me that happy is good and smiling is better. We all have the ability to be a positive part of our little world’s — sometimes, we need to remember that the intrinsic gratification we get out of it isn’t selfishness — it’s just smiling, and smiling’s my favorite.

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Elisabeth Kübler-Ross really hit one out of the park when she published her five stages of grief in, “On Death and Dying”. I have this book or, my mother had this book. My mother read everything. She was a therapist and often counseled people on grief. She was also an avid reader of good books, I would love to be able to impress her with some of my new friends. Well, back to the stages of grief:

1. Denial — Yes, absolutely — did it.

2. Anger — Without a doubt — just ask my co-workers.

3. Bargaining — Ahh yes, a tricky one — but, did it.

4. Depression — Hardest to admit to — but, yes, did it.

5. Acceptance — Hmm. Well, this one is tricky as well. I don’t think we ever accept our grief — unclear on this one.

I definitely am not going to dispute any of the Kübler-Ross stages (that would be like saying Shakespeare was a hack). But, I do think some attention should be given to some additional stages. For example:

1. Chocolate — As we know, chocolate has actual healing effects on the body. Some of which are;  benefits to the circulatory system, brain stimulator, cough preventor, anti-diarrheal. Of course, the problem arises when we combine chocolate with stages 1, 2 and 4 on the Kübler-Ross scale. This then can lead to obesity — that is bad. But, then again, we are talking about grief here — and all good bouts of grief start with chocolate. So, I think chocolate should get an entire stage to itself in the grief process.

2. No motivation to do anything for yourself — yes, I know this is similar to the depression stage but I think the dissimilarities are enough to point out. Sometimes during grief, you maintain your ability to do for others — to get the kids to all their sports, to do the laundry, to clean the house. What I’m really referring to here is not doing anything for yourself. For example, maybe you were eating well and exercising regularly before the grief. But then, you just didn’t care anymore — about your own health. This gives the no motivation to do anything for yourself its own stage.

3. Cooking — Bear with me on this one. There is something about grief that paralyzes our ability to cook. Others recognize this and bring you food — this is good. I love to cook. I used to cook quite often. I have starting cooking again. Sometimes grief can be measured in how often you cook. Therefore, cooking gets its own stage.

4. Twitter — Ok, ok. Those of you who know about twitter, know of its healing qualities. Naysayers, I say to you, just give it a try. I actually set-up my twitter account when I had to move my mother to the Alive Hospice unit downtown (I was bored, not much to do there). I didn’t start actually using it until about four or five months ago. (The previously mentioned stages of grief were in control at that time). But, once I understood it and could find people I related to — it was like being immersed in the healing powers of the Dead Sea. So twitter gets its own stage of grief (on the positive end of the healing curve).

5. Blogging — you knew it was going there. I started this blog just as a way to vent (actually, I guess that’s why all blogs are started). It was due to the people I connected with on twitter — (see how we’re still on the positive side of the healing curve). Through my own blogging, I re-discovered a passion for writing, for friendship, for sharing. Therefore, blogging deserves a stage to itself because of its ability to bring you through safely.

Back to Kübler-Ross and the acceptance stage — I still don’t know if this stage actually exists. To accept means to believe that the situation is final — it is not. A very wise friend told me that sometimes we need, “… a distraction and reminder that we don’t get to stop time, and that’s probably a good thing.” Sometimes you just need a little distraction to help you get to where you need to be — back on the treadmill, back in the kitchen, back to the keyboard.

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The age of social media has given me new access to friends and I love it. My friend Mark got me started on Facebook about a year and a half ago. He told me about all the friends with whom he had reconnected. So, after a short tutorial, there I was — full into the obsession of Facebook. Within about two weeks, I had “friended” all the kids with whom I had gone to high school (our 20th reunion had been the year before so this was perfect timing — I graduated high school in ’86, you can quit calculating it now). After that, I started working on the college friends. They were a little harder to find. But, pretty soon I became “friends” with the college kids too.

It’s so strange. Some of these people I hadn’t spoken with in over twenty years — and I would bet that I have more contact with some of my “friends” now, then I did back then. But, whatever the case, the new age of social media led me back to them. There was Emily — we were the best of friends in college but had lost touch with each other. And there was Louann — she and I were on the tennis team together in college and inseparable our freshman year. If it weren’t for Facebook, we would have continued to only remember each other and wonder what had become of our lives.

Now, there are downsides to Facebook. Sometimes the people you really had no intention of bringing back into your life are regurgitated up like a bad burrito. (I am probably this person to some of you — it’s ok, I can live with that.) But, we can wish each other a happy birthday, or grieve a loss together, or just say “hi” — at the push of a button. Now, I’m sure this isn’t as personable as it should be (what would Amy Vanderbilt say about this new age etiquette?). But, it is better than not knowing, isn’t it?

There’s also Twitter, a recently discovered obsession. It isn’t nearly as intimate as Facebook, but equally time-consuming to be sure. Twitter has given me new friends — 140 characters at a time. They are, most would say, complete strangers. But the reality is that I have laughed, shared recipes, and grieved with these “complete strangers”. Wouldn’t you agree that makes us friends? It’s hard to imagine that out of the millions of people on Twitter, I found the ones I did — I’ve always had a knack at spotting the cool girls I guess. I reconnected with my love of reading and writing and sharing because of those strangers I met, 140 characters at a time. These are my friends.

My parents had lifelong friends. There was the Cozean’s, with whom they had gone to high school and remained friends through all the years. And the Strite’s, neighborhood friends they had never lost touch with — even during a variety of moves. My mother had Ms. Bratten from work — they were great friends for years. And then there was Twerp, my mother’s friend from high school that she always talked about and had kept in touch. My father had Mr. Harrelson, his friend from down the road. My parents shared phone calls, letters, cards, and the occasional in person visit with these people they met along their life journey. These were their friends — it didn’t matter how often they saw each other in person — the in person contact was just a bonus.

The new age of social media gives me the chance to share with friends, old and new. (Not to mention, I’ve weaseled my way into some of my oldest daughters “friends” list — parents, use what you can!) My eighty year old uncle is on Facebook as is my tennis coach from college — how often would I take the time to share with these people if the only option was for me to send a letter? I can remember when I was a kid, my grandmother would always tell me to write her a letter. I wrote very few.

So, the new age of social media may not be the most ideal way of keeping in touch with friends — but, it’s better than not being in touch at all. Except, of course, for the occasional embarrassing photo tag — which reminds me, time to go through some photos.

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