Saturday, September 25, 2010

Blogging by Hand Started Long Ago With My Childhood Friend

I think blogging was started by my childhood friend. When she passed away, her daughters were left a shelf full of bulging three-ring binders of her life. She had kept every memory alive by journaling -- ribbons, invitations, pictures, and commentary, were all preserved for them, as they occurred. At leisure, her daughters could watch her become a woman -- and then their mother and their own lives -- through the pages...

We were both eleven when my best friend moved clear across the country. Little did we know that we would be best friends until her death at age 58. We were heartbroken at being separated and promised to write each other every day! And we did write, not every day but weekly, from that moment on. We literally sent the same Christmas card back and forth to each other for more than 20 years, until it became too worn to survive the journeys.
In the first few years, we wrote at least three times a week and then, as we became more involved with... well, boys!... the writing was reduced to just once a week, but the letters were thick and full of girl talk. We shared dreams, thoughts, activities, love interests, family life, disappointments, joys -- as I said, we knew each other and were best friends. It was a safe way to share because we lived so far apart from each other. There was little chance of running into the people in each other's lives, so secrets were safe. As we grew up, we began to truly treasure the other being there for venting or helping to work through problems and important decisions.
We could count on each other because we shared the truth, although we weren't as brutal as today's young people. We didn't sugar-coat but we found supportive ways of helping each other through our problems.  It would never have occurred to either one of us to share that privileged privacy with the world. That would be a true betrayal and not something you would do to a real friend. And hand writing everything down helped clarify problems. Sometimes, the mountains really were only molehills. It's said but I think the Internet has just about done away with young people being able to trust a friend. How sad. Everyone needs someone they can confide in without fear of being exposed to ridicule. We stumble. It happens. A friend gets you through it. The Internet has taken that freedom away from our children, it seems.

Our families met only once during that lifetime and our children couldn't understand that our bond was still so strong -- stronger than anything I have shared with my own sisters. She was a dancer instructor who spent ten years trying to figure out why she was eating so much but not putting on weight. One day, when she asked her doctor if he had ever given her a blood-sugar test, he said no and promptly administered one. She was a Class III Diabetic. Diabetes lead to other problems. She lost her battle to Lupus in '93 and her letters were put away with all the memories.

I can only imagine what my beautiful lifelong friend would have done as a blogger! Upon her death, her daughters inherited their mother's history and journaling. Every special event had its own page with mementos and their story written by her hand. When not attending something special, she would simply share her days and life with her daughters, along with any pictures taken on that day. The beauty of it all is that there were no computer crashes or lost files because it was all done by hand on hard copy.

There were 33 binders filled with this remarkable woman's life. A beautiful legacy from a woman who worked tirelessly for her family, church and community, and never complained -- not once. I know she was in pain but she only saw the beauty in her world. She humbled me. She was happily married and adored her family -- especially, the grandchildren -- and it hurts that she was taken from them -- from me -- so early. I hate that. This was a lady who would be the reigning queen of Bloggerville, Facebook, and Skype. It's hard to believe she never got the chance. Today is simply the anniversary of her passing but I've never stopped thinking of my very special childhood friend.

Do you have one, too?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

VICPs Are Like Digital Two-Year-Olds

What is a VICP?

A VICP is a Very Important Cellphone Person. They are on their cell phones almost nonstop. It doesn't matter that they're having dinner with friends, on a vacation tour bus, or walking down the street. They are almost never with the people they are with because they're on the cell phone with anyone else.

Now, those who really know me know that I'm not a phone person. Never was. Even as a teenager. Couldn't stand to be on the phone longer than it took to give or receive information. Don't know why, but there it is... so, you can just imagine how excited I was when cell phones took over the world.

Everyone walking around like a homeless person, talking to themselves... wait, no, they're talking to someone else, but now you can hear everything on their end of the line. Stuff you don't want to hear, don't want to know about -- but, can't get away from. TMI at its peak.

It seems there are people, today, who literally can't get from point A to point B without talking to someone else about what their next step should be. What is wrong with them, I wonder. Are they so insecure that they can't make their own decisions, or, more frightening, are they so controlled by someone else that they are not allowed to make a decision for fear of serious repercussions. People terrified of having an independent thought. And, we're raising our children to think they can't function without group think -- a very scary thought, indeed.

We are not discussing teenagers. I know that's how they get oxygen. They did it with land lines. They do it with cell phones. They'll do it with implants. And it is kind of funny to watch them walking down the street together -- each of them talking to someone else on their cell phone.

It's Not All About You VICPs; We're Here, Too

But, there is a point when it has to stop.
  • I can understand parents and children checking in with each other.
  • I can understand getting a clarification on something you might be doing for someone else.
  • I can understand calling for more specific directions when lost.
But, I have a real hard time with marathon cellphone conversations in public. If it's something that requires more than five minutes for clarification, your butt should be right in the same room with the person. I don't want to know where your files are or how to build the next rocket ship. I want to be able to focus on the job at hand. But, I can't, because the VICP insists on sharing every detail of their life with me and anyone else in the vicinity.

So, you're in the line at __________, and the VICP is second in line ahead of you and six to eight people behind. The cellphone will play its merry tune, the VICP takes the call, and everyone gets to listen as they circle in and out of their place in line. No one closes the gap because they have manners and don't want to make a scene. But, people are irritated -- no question about that -- because this side of the call does not reflect that the caller needs instruction on how to apply a tourniquet or where to dispose of a body just run over with a lawnmower -- they're just chatting because they have the time.

The clerk signals that they're ready to take the VICP next, but, no, the VICP just keeps talking, while the rest of the line begins that subtle ominous low grumbling... Finally, the frustrated clerk calls on the next person in line -- and the VICP gets mad! They're not hanging up, they're not ready to conduct their business, but they're not willing to give up what they thought was their place in line, either. WTF! No one owns a place in line and, if you're not ready when it's your turn, it's the next one in line's turn.

The sad truth is VICPs do not:
  • give the impression world events need their intervention
  • need all the hours in a day to keep up with all their friends
  • have businesses that can't function without ongoing instruction
  • brighten up your life by letting you in on theirs 
The VICPs do:
  • give the impression that they are rude
  • suggest they couldn't care less about the rights of other people
  • care more for the person on the phone than the person having a meal with them
Why should everyone else be held up until a VCIP's call is finished? When in public, why not use the 'vibrate' feature to announce a call so that the caller can be contacted, later. And, if the call is going to take some time, a considerate VCIP would step out of line and find a quiet corner to discuss their private life.

Two-year-olds are taught not to interrupt us without a good reason, why are callers -- who happen to be free to make the call -- allowed to demand immediate attention? Is it really asking too much for common courtesy?

And, texting...  aargh...

Monday, September 13, 2010

When A Devil's Advocate Becomes Just Plain Mule-Headed

I raised my children to always consider the source of any information they are given. Why? Because so many people will simply give an opinion whether they have knowledge about the subject, or not, and it's usually negative. When, "I'm playing the devil's advocate," is overused, this is where you have to draw the line with that person. It may be that they simply cannot accept a new idea.

What is a Devil's Advocate?

From Wikipedia:
In common parlance, a devil's advocate is someone who, given a certain argument, takes a position he or she does not necessarily agree with, just for the sake of argument. In taking such position,the individual taking on the devil's advocate role seeks to engage others in an argumentative discussion process. The purpose of such process is typically to test the quality of the original argument and identify weaknesses in its structure, and to use such information to either improve or abandon the original, opposing position.
You see? It's something used to help clear up any problems with the original idea or project. As an example, your friend has decided to build Fido a tree house next to Billie's tree house. It would be inconceivable to almost anyone that this would work -- but, not to your friend holding the hammer and saw! Someone (that's you) has to act as the devil's advocate. To protect the dog, if nothing else!

Playing the devil's advocate is similar to using counter-arguments in theses or debates. It's really quite neutral and meant to help complete or modify the idea to a workable conclusion. The first logical argument for the dog's tree house is that dogs can't climb. This is too obvious and practically impossible to say without either raising one's voice or smirking. So, the approach is more supportive and you may ask your friend in a soft, low tone --
  • Is that apple tree going to be low enough for Fido to see his house at the top of the crossbars?
  • Will that slide be highly-polished so Fido doesn't get splinters in his paws?
  • Is that window frame strong enough for the 5000 BTU a/c?
  • Where can you get Fido trained to raise and lower that food basket?
You get the point, questions that will make your friend think about possible problems in the hope that it will spark their idea-center into realizing this plan needs to be tabled for awhile.  But, questions that are always supportive and not personal attacks.

Now, if, when your friend is able to blow holes through your arguments with breathtaking clarification as regards his particular Fido's deep love for climbing trees and napping on broad limbs, you continue to press your case, you could be guilty of being just plain mule-headed. You could become a naysayer!

Naysayers Can Really Bring You Down

Naysayers deny or take a pessimistic view of anything, regardless of how much information is given to support the idea they are opposing. They could be either afraid or jealous of your new idea and, in either case, you cannot let them bring you down. It isn't that you just want people who support your idea and let you make a major mistake; but, when someone consistently puts down your ideas without any positive feedback that will help you work to correct a problem, it's time to reevaluate how often you seek the opinion of this person.

New ideas are fragile and must be nurtured or they die under too much negative feedback. Your best sources for honest feedback are those people familiar with your subject. Their arguments will be focused on what generally works in that area and they can be trusted to help you. The less they know, the higher the probability that their arguments will be less effective and far more personal.
  • What makes you think you can do that?
  • Are you out of your mind?
  • What a stupid idea!
  • Oh, no, not another one. 
How Do You Respond to New Ideas?

It's hard to monitor ourselves but we can watch other's reactions to our words. Are you one of those people above? If you keep attacking the ideas and projects of your friends or family, you may find that you are left out of the loop because it's the easiest thing to do to avoid being crushed by your naysaying.

It's not your job to tear someone else down simply because they asked you for an opinion. It doesn't mean you have to tear them apart so that you will sound as if you know what you're talking about. The old rule still holds true:
For every negative thing you say, you have to say three positive things. It's best to start with two positive things, slip in one negative, and end with a positive.
Especially, if you are not an expert in the field.
  • You have one smart dog.
  • This is a perfect location for Fido's tree house.
  • Can Fido climb crossbars?
  • I love the paint color -- it's so Frank Lloyd Wright.
Believe me, there will be enough critiquing at the time your friend's idea or project is ready for the expert's review. Life is too short to get beaten down by people who are not willing to take chances, themselves, but are very quick to judge others. As a friend or family member, it is your job to be supportive. The wolves are supposed to be outside your circle, not within. Play the devil's advocate, with love. Without new ideas, you'd be reading this on paper.

Monday, September 6, 2010

My Name Spelled Any Other Way is Disrespecting Me

What's in a Name?  My name is Jane Doe. That has been my name since birth. It's the name I answer to when called. It's the name I put on
  • applications
  • badges
  • hello tags
  • legal documents,
  • raffle tickets,
  • paintings,
  • and, so on
While it might not be the most important name to you, it is how I identify myself to the world and how the world identifies me. So, why are you so careless when retyping my name? I understand that you're busy (who isn't?) and that it is possible to forget the spelling when my name is just spoken and then I've moved on and you need to get a list made. Chances are, you refer to previous documents on file with my misspelled name to include me on your list.

But, when I have taken the time to print out my name, there is no excuse for you not to take it down as written. I don't care how busy you are, this is just an affront. Even more irritating is when I have given you my name on my own printed cards, pictures and/or on banners, only to find out later that you have decided it's wrong and changed the spelling. I don't care if you have a cousin or a friend with the same name and that they spell it different from the way I spell mine -- it is not your cousin or friend who is going on your list.

If I try to correct you, I'm the one that gets treated as if I'm a petulant child, stamping my foot because the name isn't right in your publication. If it's a one-time thing, I'm probably not going to do anything more than mention it, once -- and, of course, every time I meet someone new at the event! But, if it has been misspelled in a publication, for the rest of the life of that publication, my name is misspelled. The end result of that is, somewhere down the line, I'll be involved in another situation that requires my name being shown and someone will decide that the way my name is spelled must be as it is in that erroneous publication they have kept – because, that is how it was printed!

A Mountain Out of a Molehill - Or, Can You Prove It

Imagine this scenario: You or your child has won an award and it includes a beautiful printed certificate or ribbon for the winner. It's a memento, something to cherish for the rest of your life and put in a scrapbook for the next generation. Would you want to have to add an explanation that the award is real, even though the name is wrong? Of course not. It takes away from what the award is and turns it into a misspelled name story. This is simply a matter of giving credit where credit is due and you would want the same for yourself or your child. It only takes a second to check a name, but a lifetime to correct the mistake.

By the same token, if you are in charge of displaying awards to the public, please see to it that the winners' names are visible so that they can be recognized. There is nothing more disheartening than watching the light go out of your child's eye because no one will know they won an award for all their hard work because the tag has been turned, covered, or crumpled, and no one has taken the few seconds it takes to make it right. This is all a part of the event coordinator's job and the crafter should not be made to feel bad because they point out that their name can't be seen. Simply saying, "Well, you know you won the award," doesn't cut it, here. That doesn't make it go away and it is usually said by someone who didn't get an award.

My Name Spelled Any Other Way is Disrespecting Me

My name is Jane Doe – it is spelled J-a-n-e -- not J-a-y-n-e, J-a-i-n-e, J-e-h-n-e, J-a-n, or, any other combination you can imagine, my name is spelled exactly the way I have written it down for you. To look on the bright side, at least, I have finally found a purpose for the one word I loathe in common usage today, 'disrespecting.' Please stop disrespecting me and allow me the dignity to go through my life with the one thing that totally belongs to me – my name – and I will do the same for you.