Log Cabin Livin’

We’re back after a couple of spring break days away in heavenly Hocking Hills. Oh man, what a perfect getaway! Not enough time….just not enough time to enjoy it all!

We took the scenic route – three hours – from northeast Ohio to southeast Ohio, which I don’t recommend if you have kids in the backseat prone to car-sickness. Too many rolling hills and turns for that sort of thing! Our navigation roulette took us through the towns of Granville and Lancaster, Ohio, both of which looked charming enough to deserve more than a drive through.

Our little family rented a cabin for our stay. It was tucked away on a gravel road, up on a hillside, completely nestled among the trees. From the outside it didn’t look all that grand, but from the inside it was beautiful. An immediate sense of calm overwhelmed me from the moment we stepped inside.

The kids were blown away by the setting. Three bedrooms, three levels with the upstairs as a skylit loft, 3.5 baths, a nice kitchen, a couple of TVs, indoor and outdoor fireplace, jacuzzi, wrap-around porch, and hammock. Every one had a nook or cranny they could hang out. We used the jacuzzi each night, watching the moon rise and the stars twinkle in the evening sky.

My oldest was struck by the total quiet. I even forget how he put it but it was something like, “Why is it so quiet?” Well, uh….you’re on a hillside surrounded by nothing but trees. There is no street traffic, no neighbors, no TVs blaring, nothing but birds. It’s not like we live in a city, either. We live in a perfectly suburban neighborhood but even our teen realized that we had escaped mainstream living.

The name of the cabin was Gökotta, apparently a relatively untranslatable Swedish word for “arising in the early morning to hear the birds sing.” I loved it. The cabin was punctuated with bird decor, little touches that made you smile instead of feeling overwhelmed.

The cabin was so sun-shiney! And of course, it had this warm glow from the timbers and wood everywhere. The loft was one of my favorite places to chill, bright and cheery from a couple of skylights and altogether inviting with a giant bean bag by a triangle window, perfect for reading and snoozing. At one point, all three kids came to snuggle with me there.

My cabin pictures aren’t the best – I didn’t get an exterior shot – but you get the idea…

 

On our second day, we all donned our boots and drove out to Ash Cave to hike. It’s a very easy walk to the cave from the parking lot. The kids were amazed at the size of the cave itself. We climbed some wooden steps to the upper rim and took pictures which don’t give you a sense of the size at all. Maybe you can see the tiny people in the photo below.

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From the top, the kids announced they were game to hike the 2+ miles to Cedar Falls so off we went. The trail was muddy for most of the trek but we didn’t care since we had our boots on. Frankly, we all had more fun because of it! Every now and then we washed our boots off in the meandering nearby stream and then punched through the mud some more. We never did make it to Cedar Falls but found our way to the 80′ Ash Cave Lookout Tower which the kids climbed for the view.

 

The hike was both exhilarating and a case of family-induced attention deficit disorder. I’m sure other moms can appreciate how every 30 seconds one of the kids was asking me a question about something on the hike or altogether random. They would take turns running off into the distance, holding my hand, falling behind, splashing through the mud puddles, or pairing up with each other.

At some point four of us tried playing Red Rover to see if the fifth could run through our clasped hands.

“Hey, no shoulder butting allowed! Since when is it ok to shoulder butt in Red Rover? Huh? Huh?”

IMG_6973One of the kids found this painted rock, and on the flip side there is a tag that said to post your finding to the Dayton Rocks Facebook page. We took it home with us and promise to release it on our next hike. The kids and I just might paint a few rocks of our own this spring and release them to the wild! Or maybe we’ll try our hand at geocaching.

And oh yes, there will be a next hike. We only attempted Ash Cave on this trip but there are so many others to explore in Hocking Hills. We returned to the car after maybe 2.5 hours of hiking and all of us felt pretty good. I felt completely exhilarated. Maybe it was the fresh, cool, tree-scented air, maybe it was the pure exercise. It felt like every cell in my body had been pumped full of oxygen – I was literally tingling with energy. My muscles felt used, not overworked. I could have kept going for another couple of hours, I suspect. I honestly didn’t want it to end, but the last thing we needed was for anyone to poop out half way through the trek.

All told, we were only in Hocking Hills for 48 hours but I must go back. I mean, I was online the night we returned home, trying to figure out how to finance the building of a log cabin for retirement. Crazy, I know. But it is unmistakable the feeling of peace and calm that washes over me in the woods. This is only my third trip overall and second staying in a log cabin, but this decidedly indoor kind of woman feels quite at home there.

In the meantime, I’m going to make a lot more effort to get the five of us out hiking far more often this year. Besides, taking them to Yosemite one of these days is on my bucket list and I want them to appreciate the beauty of what they will see there.

The thing that gets me the most is how much the kids loved this trip. Maybe it was the cabin. Maybe it was the hiking. I can’t tell. What I do know is how we’ve taken our kids everywhere. By everywhere, I mean our oldest, 14-years-old, has been to 38 states already, and our youngest, almost 8, has been to 22. But all three loved this trip the most. I think we’re onto something here.

Lovin’ that log cabin life….

The Bible ABCs

Have you seen this little boy reciting a Bible verse for each letter of the alphabet?  Apparently several folks are convinced it is Prince George but no, it’s a little boy named Tanner from Texas. British accent…Texan accent….same difference!

I was completely mesmerized and delighted watching him. I want to squeeze him, he’s so darn cute!

He’s 4. What gets me, and I’m embarrassed to admit this, is how I can’t quote 26 lines of scripture and I’m, um, older than 4. Now, it’s true that I recognize nearly every single line of scripture that Tanner says, but I couldn’t quote them verbatim.

I’ve been shown up by a four-year-old. Good for him. Even better for his parents! Man, you gotta love good parenting.

Let me back up a sec: I’ve been Christian all my life. I grew up Orthodox, which is pretty much code for “complex Christianity”. Orthodoxy is not Worship 101. It is off-the-deep-end stuff, unchanged since the very early days of the church a couple of millennia ago.

Let me emphasize: Orthodoxy is relatively unchanged from the early days of the church regardless of the world’s issues du jour. There’s a lot of emphasis on fasting, repentance, sin, suffering, symbolism, repetition, mysticism, ritual… My parents guided me what to do in church growing up but didn’t really explain why. They didn’t know why themselves, and so it went for generations before them.

Now my parent were steadfast and pious in their devotion to be sure, but well, I’m an inquiring mind. I always have been. I just knew I wasn’t going to get any answers from them. And reading scripture on your own wasn’t part of the ritual so it hasn’t been as top of mind as it should be for me.

It’s been a slow journey for me ever since. Many “cradle Orthodox”, as we’re called, don’t bother. Several of them just leave the church than explore their faith any deeper.

Despite not quite understanding about Orthodoxy, despite endless questions on my part and despite a few aspects that strike me the wrong way, I am still drawn to it.

During each Divine Liturgy we read an epistle and a selection from one of the Gospels, but they often use one of the older translations so the language shared aloud with the masses is archaic, clunky….and often times we have a guest reader for the epistle which is read at a volume and speed or cadence that doesn’t do much to facilitate understanding. I hear many comments from people about how they tune out during that part of the service.

They tune out! And we hear the same scripture verses annually so you’d think after a couple of decades, the message would sink in. And some of the messages do but they don’t speak to me personally and what I am struggling with. That’s something I need to remedy on my own.

So yes, yes, I should read the Bible frequently and deeply. I admire the people who can recite and take comfort in scripture for the various trials of life. I want to be that person. But I’m still a baby Christian. I should study the Bible, underline the parts that resonate with me, and commit some to memory. I haven’t done it. Only last year did I commit to reading more period, let alone more from the Bible. I even have an app on my phone so I can study it at a moment’s notice but it didn’t do much to immerse me more frequently in the verses.


Earlier in the week I also saw the image below online, and it too stopped me in my tracks. How many times have I allowed those very same outer messages to penetrate me? I found myself somewhat in awe of the spiritual armor this woman has. I get that she may not be real.

Still.

There have been times I felt those things deep inside of me, but I didn’t have the actual quotes ready to go in my head when I’m feeling down. The quotes are fantastic. Balm for the soul.

29216501_10214167534134875_4737592666882048000_nThis malady doesn’t affect just me. My young daughter and I had a little kerfuffle this week. She was feeling overlooked and unloved, and she lashed out in a minor way in both her behavior and words. It made me wonder have I been neglecting her? Am I giving her the love she truly needs? It struck me that I should be helping her build this same incredible spiritual armor and I’m failing.

We spent some time hugging and cuddling and I shared my hopes and dreams for her. I reassured her that she was wanted and loved and this love I have for her is an eternal thing. I worked hard to refill her love bucket. That’s what we call those words of affirmation, and this is a technique I picked up from reading How Full Is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton.

Yet I told her how my Mom’s been gone for 30 years now, and while I don’t remember uplifting, encouraging words from her, the fact is I won’t always be around to build up my daughter’s spirits. I truly believe it’s a parent’s job to do that for their children, and I will absolutely step up the effort, but I told her she needed to remember my words and let them echo forever in case I’m not always there to give her this love.

But let’s be real: my words aren’t as good, as strong, as the ones in this image. Those words have been fortified by God. Those are the words I should be sharing with her so that when I am long gone from this earthly place, she can open up a Bible and receive comfort in hearing, remembering, what I’ve told her first hand.

How did it take me this long to figure that out? Thank God I figured it out.


Along comes Tanner. Whoa! Now, I know a 4-year-old doesn’t necessarily grasp an understanding of every line he’s learned but for heavens’ sake, he has learned the scripture. He can call upon these verses whenever he needs to in the future. You know how some people wait until they feel something before they do it yet it’s really the other way around. Sometimes you need to think it before you can feel it. Tanner has a jump start, ladies and gentlemen. He’s got the words today and the Spirit will whisper the meaning in ways big and small over the years.

Tanner is wearing a suit of armor.

At our house we have weekly family meetings otherwise known as The Louie Scoop. I have been wondering how best to teach our kids more about what it means to be Christian and how best to incorporate the messages of love as noted in the Bible.

I know what we’ll be doing for the next 26 weeks.

What do you think? What is your favorite Bible verse and why? I’d really like to know. We have several more weeks in the year beyond those first 26. God bless and peace out.✌🏻

Road Trip to Hocking Hills

bryan-minear-315814-unsplashI can barely contain my excitement: before long we will be hitting the road for a little mini spring break with the kids. I took today off of work to run errands and take care of a few things around the house but tomorrow we hit the road headed south.

Initially I had planned some time for us at one of the water park hotels near Lake Erie but stories about bedbugs and an accident at the pool a few weeks ago made me change my mind. I don’t know…visions of an overcrowded hotel and young families with spring fever flashed through my head like a nightmare. You know you should always listen to your gut!

Besides, my body is itching to move and get outdoors. It’s finally spring, glorious spring, and the weather will be a perfect 60° to enjoy.

We are driving in-state but in the opposite direction, to an area in southeast Ohio called Hocking Hills. It’s still very early spring here so the trees won’t start blooming for another few weeks but I can’t wait to go. This area reminds me of where I grew up: woodsy, hilly, and a little bit more on the country side versus urban or suburban. There are several parks and nature preserves with a variety of hiking trails within a few miles drive of that area.

We’re renting a cabin for the five of us. It has a nice wrap-around porch, an outdoor hot tub, lots of windows, indoor fireplace, three bedrooms, three baths, and a loft. Hopefully some good, quality family time inside.

And when we aren’t hanging in the cabin, we’ll hike to Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, Cedar Falls, and maybe a few others. My husband and oldest will have just returned from an exhausting week-long trip to Disney with the marching band, so they may be a little road weary but the three of us at home are raring to go!

It’s the first time we will take the kids to Hocking Hills. I hope they like it and like living in a cabin. It’s only a 2.5 hour drive for us which makes it a pretty nice getaway….far enough but not too far.

I thought we’d make our way down there all the time now that I live in Ohio again, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Last visit was already seven years ago when my husband and I booked our 10th anniversary trip. We stayed for a long weekend but it was so nice, I cried when we left. Even though it was November and the leaves had fallen off the trees, the setting was so lovely, so calming. Trees were outside every window. We will need to make this trip again in the summer when you are surrounded in cool greenery and can hear the breeze whistle through the leaves.


We didn’t have “spring break” when I was growing up in public school. At the time, it was something exclusively for college kids. You see, in the US, college kids typically get a week off in the spring and many of them carpool to Florida or somewhere beach-bound and party all week long.

However I didn’t get to enjoy the classic spring break experience like many other college students. I didn’t have the money to take a trip and asking my parents for it was out of the question.

For me, spring break was a week where I could work full-time and save up money to pay for my next semester of tuition. Those were the years of barely getting by…and I wasn’t very resourceful or creative in finding ways to travel back then. Talk about a missed opportunity! I have a handful of regrets in life and finding ways to travel and explore in college is one of them. That’s the perfect time to bond with others and discover what brings you joy….and I didn’t know how to make that happen. Given how much I loved travel even then, in retrospect it’s surprising to me that I didn’t search for ways to make it a reality.

And this is one of the ways we try to guide our kids differently so they either have or make those opportunities.

I count my blessings that things have changed altogether for the positive since then and we are fortunate enough to take our entire family on our trips. I want them to see and experience the same places I have over the years, and foster that love of adventure.

It wasn’t until my oldest started public school that I really experienced spring break for the first time. Our school district allocates a week in late March for this purpose. Now every year we take advantage of the week to either escape the generally colder weather here or just to have a change of scenery. We’ve gone to Florida, Washington DC, Sandusky (OH), and Traverse City (MI) in years past. It’s usually the first excursion of a few within the year, but this year I am particularly eager to get out of the house.

Can’t wait to go go go…

 

Photo credit: Bryan Minear on Unsplash

 

 

Today I Became a Protester

An old high school friend of mine saw the news this week about how Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will now require students to wear clear backpacks and an ID badge. Despite this being a solution tossed out by the superintendent who purportedly is a gun control advocate, the students were not impressed with the decision as a means to combat gun violence.

My friend called these kids “snowflakes”. He went on further to say they have no idea what they are talking about because they are just kids, “you don’t always get what you want,”, and how “that’s life” regarding how the students want to take away the gun rights he’s had his entire life but now their rights to carry their own book bag are being infringed. How they are whining when some freedoms of theirs are being taken away even though that’s exactly what they want to do to him.

Somewhere along the way we lost that “inalienable right to life” concept from the Declaration of Independence, but I digress.

This was an online post, of course. I was shocked and disappointed.

Ok, maybe I shouldn’t have been shocked. He seems absolutely hellbent on protecting his rights, the 2nd amendment right he’s had his entire life, to own all kinds of weapons, and I suspect semi-automatic weapons are among them. He says he doesn’t feel too strongly about too many things but this is one of them, and he will not change his opinion.

Now, a lot of folks from my hometown are hunters, and I get that. I don’t know whether this friend is. It doesn’t sound like he is. It sounds like he is amassing weapons just to have them.

Forgive me but it sounds like he is compensating for something missing in his life. I didn’t tell him that (because oooh boy!), but when I hear about people who aren’t hunters and don’t have Fort Knox to protect, I come to the conclusion they are compensating for something or they have some serious anger issues they may want to resolve by pulling a trigger. Otherwise it’s a giant waste of money. And since it probably isn’t a waste of money….people buy these weapons to use them, so I’m predictably leery of people like this.

Makes me want to rethink who’s in my circle o’ friends. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. But then I get into that whole inside-my-head-argument that it takes all types to make the world go ’round, and do I really only want to be friends with people exactly like me, because what fun would that be?

Except I don’t really find guns to be fun, if ya know what I mean.

And set aside for a moment that I realize there isn’t anyone exactly like me. I’m a bit of an oddball, but I’m cool with that. I’ve had a long time to get comfortable with that realization. I’m cool being me. But that means I need to be open-hearted and accept people for who they are since so few are going to think and act like me.

The thing is, this guy seems like a decent human being. A patriot. A family man. Admits to mistakes…which is cool because we all make them but he’s a big enough man to own up to them. Seems to me he always tries to do the right thing. He’s a hard worker. Seriously: he seems like a decent human so I wrote to him to express my point of view as follows:

I understand you’re upset.  Bear with me on a couple of things as I explain my position.

First I found your use of the words “snowflake” and “you don’t always get what you want” to be sneeringly disrespectful of these kids, which is something I didn’t expect from you. These “snowflakes” as you called them were shot at, which gives them every right to speak against gun violence. Full stop.

Secondly, nobody is making a pawn of these kids. They are stepping up themselves. Again, getting shot at gives them the right to speak if they wish, and so they are. They are providing a level of leadership our politicians are unable to summon.

Third, I don’t have the energy to find the article, but very early on after the shooting, I read an article which explained how in the world the students at this school are so amazingly articulate about this topic. Bear with me as I’m gonna get the details wrong, but I guess a group of them were on a debate team or they were specifically studying gun laws and school shootings before it happened. So they happen to have facts at hand which makes me these MSD students particularly prepared to discuss this topic, unlike many HS kids. I don’t even know if these are the specific MSD HS students we’re seeing often on the news but this school emphasizes critical thinking, so you’re seeing the product of their education.

Fourth, I agree with them that your ability to own an assault rifle of any kind does not outweigh anyone’s right to life. There is no good purpose to own an assault weapon other than to kill as many people as possible in a single moment. Prove to me otherwise.

Fifth, I have yet to hear anyone on the left say “ban all weapons” or “abolish the 2nd amendment”. But to do nothing, absolutely nothing, is saying you’re ok with things as they are. I am willing to engage in discussion that identifies a number of changes that are needed, and sensible changes to gun laws are among them.

Sixth, I think plastic book bags are a ridiculous band-aid for a mortal wound.

Seventh (yes, I know seven points is obnoxious but let me run with it!), the Rolling Stones said, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”

Love you man… Don’t dismiss the kids…it makes you sound like a grumpy old man…and you’ll be destined to be that for a long time. Engage in the discussion like a wise advisor so we can get somewhere sensible but DIFFERENT about how this is managed. We can do it, together.

[Drops mic]. lol

All of this was met with a response by a friend of his, a one word post that I can’t tell whether it was directed at me or the MSD HS kids: “Snowflake.”

Seriously. That again? That’s deaf. Heartless.

How will we get anywhere if this is the nature of the exchange?


Growing up our family didn’t own guns. I never sensed there was a need. We lived in this little hamlet of maybe 50 families nestled among a couple of hills with Route 40 and a creek running parallel as the south border. My Dad was the strongest man I knew but he didn’t need a gun to protect us or fuel an overgrown sense of machismo. All he had to do was look at you. Silently. Mission accomplished. You were scared of him. The funny thing is, he had a soft heart deep inside.

That was 40-50 years ago. We live in some crazy times today.

When my boys were younger, they’d grab their Nerf guns, aim them at my husband and me, and pretend to blow us to smithereens. My husband and I would joke around with them, “We’re DOVES, not HAWKS! What are you doing????” and then fall down in a fit of giggles.

Nowadays, my husband and I seriously wonder if it’s time to start packing some heat in the homestead. Because, you know….people are acting like there’s a permanent full moon going on outside.


jerry-kiesewetter-234311-unsplashFast forward to this morning. I’m 50 years old and participated in my first protest. Such a crazy, liberal hippie, aren’t I?

I walked with others in my community for the March For Our Lives, organized by these MSD high school kids and held all around the world in solidarity. My husband and oldest are out of town so I had to bring my two youngest with me, elementary school agers, but we parked the car in our town square and walked around it holding signs.

I’m sure there are people who think I was using my kids as pawns but my kids understood why we were there. The youngest doesn’t understand why people can just walk into a school and kill children. He told me how happy he was that the laws were changing. I had to explain that it hadn’t happened yet. He couldn’t understand why anyone would be against this idea.

I can tell you both my kids looked at me with their giant brown eyes in surprise as I chanted, “Enough is enough.” Other times I silently held my sign high and looked every single driver in the eye as they passed our square in their cars. I bore a hole through them with the most serious face I could muster. I have a pretty bad-ass serious face, if I say so myself.

Some folks honked and gave a thumbs up. Some men in their monster trucks shook their heads in disgust. Others just stared straight ahead. Deaf. Blind. Blissfully hanging in la la land.

Did you know there was a group called Mothers Demand Action? Did you know this group existed and was formed after Sandy Hook?

Like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a woman named Shannon Watts decided she had had enough. She had had enough. I heard her being interviewed on Stay Tuned with Preet (Preet Bharara’s podcast) a few weeks back and was intrigued by what I learned.

Since I’ve never been a gun owner, nor am I ever around guns, I will admit that I don’t know that much about them. Wanna know how little I know? Met a guy named Ruger and thought, “Huh, that’s unusual. Wonder if it’s a family name…”

My husband set me straight so I could promptly facepalm.

No, I don’t know enough but I will learn. I will have the statistics at my fingertips when I vote this fall. I cannot watch this country do nothing. I’ll be damned if one my kids dies on my watch while I sit and do nothing. I won’t let it happen to your kids either. I will be the change that is needed in the world, like Ghandi advised, even if I am just a wee baby when it comes to protesting.

I have had enough.

I have had enough of watching our children die. The horror of Columbine 19 years ago was dizzying. The incredulous circumstances of Sandy Hook 5 years ago (ALREADY!) are mind-boggling. We’ve done nothing. My God….we did nothing when first graders were slaughtered. Are we sleepwalking??? I guess we all thought we could trust our politicians to do something. Nothing has happened. The NRA has our congressmen by the balls.

I have had enough. Vote those SOBs out of office. Sensible people are a larger and stronger force than the NRA and the cowards in office. Maybe the the politicians who feel as we do didn’t feel we have their backs. I mean, I get it. Crazy people with semi-automatic weapons don’t exactly like the people in charge of taking them away. This could get violent, which is precisely what we don’t want to happen, but other countries were able to make the transition. Are we strong enough to do it too?

I couldn’t tell you how many of us were there today…maybe 100? 150? 200 might be pushing it. There was one guy with a sign that said “gun control doesn’t work”. One guy. As I walked by him I calmly announced how gun control has been proven to work in other countries and it can work here. I was pleased that for the 150 of us there was only one guy counter-protesting. Made me feel pretty good about our odds.

Speaking of my high school friend, he has argued that if we take away AR-15s, when will it stop? Where do we draw the line? He has a point. However I’d like to know: when the gun violence will stop? Where do we draw the line?

I’ll tell you where we’re drawing it. Here. Now. We’ll get it right, or at least we’ll be moving in the right direction.

Enough already. How many children have to die?

First Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash

Facebook Farewell?

william-iven-19844-unsplashI do believe my love affair with Facebook has come to an end. The latest news about the misuse of user data is among the final nails in the coffin of what was once a fun online community.

This week Mark Zuckerberg finally broke his silence over the news that Facebook user data was provided to Cambridge Analytica inappropriately, and it sounds like that data was then ultimately used to target undecided voters in some midwestern states in the US during the last presidential election to sway those same users to vote for Trump.

Put aside for a moment that so many people were gullible enough to be swayed to vote for him. I’m not one of them. He has proven himself to be exactly what I knew he was all along, an erratic buffoon, a bully, a fraud. A narcissistic, misogynistic racist. A chaotic coward backed into a corner and lashing out at everyone. The adjectives are endless. He is everything I despise in a human, and somehow he was elevated to leader of the free world. That says everything you need to know about the state of Earth these days.

But Facebook? I’m just so tired of it all.

Once upon a time, I got a huge kick out of the banter and posts that my friends, family, and acquaintances shared. I loved their pictures, even the ones of cats that I’m allergic too. I loved reconnecting with the friends I had made all across the country from my work travels and those who lived nearby but ultimately moved away. It was so nice to reconnect with people from all walks of my life. It was the place where I developed my love of writing and where I got a lot of encouragement from friends in doing so. For that I will be grateful.

Every once in a while someone jumped the shark with their posts or comments and you realized who to avoid, for so many reasons. Some were drama queens seeking endless attention. You had the Negative Nellys who complained about something – everything – with every single post. How on earth can people live their life that way? Do they hear themselves talk? Do they have any ability to self-reflect and self-correct? Oy.

There were the past acquaintances from my hometown whose language, humor, and outlook on life was just consistently crass and crude, and while I can be good-humored and accept people for exactly who they are, I am reminded that I have a choice about who I hang with, who I let influence my life, even if it is just words on a page. These people remind me why I moved away and don’t visit. Not to mention the people who are flat-out crazy. Maybe it took seeing their personality in full bloom online but you know you’ve met these same crazy people. Stay away.

Of course there were the ones who befriended you that you barely knew 20 years ago, and others who befriended you and then never interacted with you whatsoever. Ok, I suppose I’ve been guilty of the same thing. It happens. You live and learn.

For the longest time I kept my circle of friends online pretty tight. I was sharing pictures of my kids, after all. I’d go through cycles of expanding the friends list and then cutting back because I felt too exposed. Once we decided that we were staying put in our current community (I had seriously raised the possibility of moving back to my beloved Pittsburgh with my husband for a solid 10 years), I finally began to open up my circle to include the people I met in this town. But every now and then I felt the need to draw the wagons a little closer and unfriend people when my circle got too big and superficial.

Ok, maybe I waxed a little too long about the crazy people on Facebook. If I had to guess, there are people who include ME among those crazy people. That’s only fair.

I’ve been on Facebook for nine years already. Nine years! Other than being married, that’s the longest stretch I’ve done anything. What an evolution we’ve witnessed, those of us long-time users.

First it started with the short little posts about what was on your mind. Those early posts seem so quaint now. Then there were endless viral games delivered via apps that lured people to “discover your personality!” and then share the results. In reality, these were endless apps that collected data about Facebook users and their friends but it wasn’t obvious to people at the time.

Then Facebook further evolved to surface news articles but it didn’t feel like serious news. It felt like you had a direct link to the National Enquirer headlines. Eh. There’s only so much celebrity news I can handle, ya know?

Then came the ads for every store under the sun…shops I frequented and brands I had never heard of but felt lured to try. This is when I really started to get turned off. I missed the fun updates from my friends. Facebook became a giant ad book, and they implemented algorithms that chose whose posts you’d see routinely instead of you choosing whose posts you’d see. That was clearly a turning point for the worst. That’s when I started losing touch with people online.

I tried deactivating my account a couple of times. Once or twice I knew I was spending too much time online, and at least once I logged off temporarily because I could tell I was feeling bad about myself and my life relative to what everyone else was presenting online.

I couldn’t stick with it. Somewhere along the way, Facebook became a way to connect with the events and issues at my kids’ school district, and to learn what was happening in our community since I don’t get the local paper. It became integrated with my daily life….and very hard to break away.

This is particularly true for me because I have been an online geek forever in internet years: since 1996. I gravitated first toward AOL, then iVillage, then LinkedIn, and ultimately to Facebook. And sure, I have a Twitter and Instagram account but naturally those don’t have the same appeal to this writer.

As if the commercialization of Facebook was the end of it! Oh no….it kept evolving, and people figured out they could use Facebook to sell product: tote bags, health supplements, leggings, skincare. I was one of them for a hot minute last year even as much as I disliked seeing those sorts of posts from my friends. I wanted to hear what was going on in their LIFE, not be a target for a quick buck. On one hand, it’s been good to get exposure to products I would otherwise never discover but this wasn’t what I wanted from an online community.

I wanted friendship. Information. Laughs. Connection.

So you see, I already had this love/hate cha-cha going on with Facebook as it was these last few years. And then the last presidential election cycle heated up, and I was disturbed by the people who seemed to blindly support Trump. The rhetoric online was raw, ugly, vitriolic. I saw sides of people I never knew and was horrified to see.

It hasn’t improved. As a matter of fact, it’s gotten worse and I’ll admit that I’ve contributed to the tone because I cannot let people forget what a mistake I think they’ve made voting for that fool. And more friends have taken a break from being online because they just can’t take what Facebook has become as a result.

So this latest revelation that user data was misused is really no surprise whatsoever, and only serves to confirm that this online community was used by wholly bad actors to exploit people’s ignorance and vulnerability in the worst possible way. Kinda crazy that this social media platform had a hand in politics the way it has.

I’m completely frustrated by Facebook and its approach to privacy, accountability, and commerce. It no longer delivers what I came to that community to find. I’m sitting here wondering how now to streamline the news I want to hear about the people and organizations I’m interested in and nothing more. I suppose I’ll remain a user for a little while longer, but I am long past the point of wanting to share funny little snippets of my life or lobbing out prayer requests those rare times I did over the last almost decade. I feel like taking down my pictures, that’s for sure.

That place has SUCKED the good humor out of me, and I feel like it has spilled over into my writing. Zuckerberg can apologize and make amends all he wants, but the damage is pretty much done, isn’t it? It took even him a week to figure out what the hell happened right under their noses. What started out as a fun, college community app was left relatively unchecked with some real-life, world-wide consequences that the bad guys figured out how to exploit first.

Time to get my kicks and giggles from something else. I don’t really want to be part of that experiment, ya know?

Yep, a dull sense of real grief is washing over me, like it has for so many other events of the last few years, yet I can’t cry. I’m at an inflection point for sure, but I’m just numb to it all. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS, Vegas, and Pulse shootings. The massively disruptive weather events that are the new normal. The killer flu. The passing of the guard as so many boomers retire and die. The American self-mutilation at the hands of Trump….endless administrative chaos and resignations and increasingly serious talk of Russian meddling in our election with no recourse whatsoever. The war-talk with North Korea. The sad realization that so many of my fellow Americans cannot understand the chess game that is our economy and society. And now the loss of Facebook as a fun online community and past time. It became painfully obvious and real this week.

What’s an online geek to do?

PS – All that said, I’m pretty sure Facebook and I are like those Brokeback Mountain lovers when one said to the other: “I wish I knew how to quit you.”

Image by William Iven on unsplash.com

 

 

 

A Little Bit of This and That

I haven’t posted much lately, it’s true. My mother-in-law came to visit for a week earlier this month for the first time in years. I didn’t take time off work to visit with her, so evening was the only time we had to spend together. I figured I shouldn’t spend it blogging while she was here.

It was a wonderful, relaxing visit, and she said it was the nicest week she’s had since her husband passed away over 40 years ago. That’s quite the testament! I’m a little bit blown away by the pronouncement, to be honest. However I’m so glad it was a good trip for her and all of us. Our kids don’t get to see her very often so this really was a special treat, especially since she is the only living grandparent.

My husband took time off work while she was here and took her all around town and out for some good eats most days. She raved about the food. That alone is an impressive feat since we don’t exactly live in a foodie kind of town and she is a foodie kind of woman. She got to see schools where her son works, meet the kids and his coworkers in the music departments, visit me at my work and meet my coworkers, hang out in his favorite cigar shop, attend our daughter’s dance competition (where she was BEAMING as her granddaughter took the stage), and visit our church. She was a hit every where she went. She always is. Tutu, which is Hawaiian for grandma, sparkles with personality and takes no guff.  She also stays out of our business which makes her a pretty good mother-in-law as far as those go.

My husband picked her up from the airport on Day 1 and took her straight to a restaurant where the kids and I met up with them to celebrate his 50th birthday. I watched as he escorted her like a gentleman from the car to the front door. She had her light golden brown hair blown out in a bouffant pageboy, nails all done, and she sported funky, dangly earrings. She was dressed head to toe in black, wearing little black cigarette pants as they called him back in the day, and a black faux leather jacket with rivets. She works out at Curves every day back in her home city so she’s in pretty good shape. No lie, she looked like a million bucks. She just had her birthday, and when I saw her I thought, “Holy crap: she’s 80 and edgy! I wanna be 80 and edgy!” She was absolutely beautiful.

It’s been an semi-eventful month all around. The day Tutu flew home, I learned my boss left our company which was totally unexpected. So unexpected, it almost feels like she died. A group of us are left dealing with the shock and immediacy of the news, and trying to keep juggling the ball. However, as I told a coworker of mine, “I am the ball”, meaning as far as I am concerned there is no juggling, no dropping.  I am one with the ball and it ain’t going nowhere.

DeltaAnd now I’m sitting in Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport waiting for my flight back home. I came here for a two-day conference, on maybe my fifth visit to this city and countless connecting flights through this airport over the years.

This time is different, though. Someone from my past – someone with whom I’ve had a supernatural connection – lives in this city and the mere act of being here stirs a huge number of memories that were happy at one time but ended in a way that makes me sad and feel bad about myself and bad about how things ended.

I didn’t think it would bother me. Ok, let’s say that I really hoped that I had evolved enough as a person to move past that time but it has been an unsettling couple of days. I was even more of an introvert than I normally am at conferences….I didn’t feel much like talking to anyone. I have been uncomfortable in my own skin. I just don’t let things like that happen. I mean it: I don’t live that way. But I can’t seem to help it right now.

Not to mention how my hair and humidity have never been friends but on this trip, they are outright feuding. I had to walk three blocks from my hotel to the conference and on arrival, I looked like I let my hair air dry after a shower. Two days of feeling like I wanted a paper bag over my head. Yoy. Even my hair knew I didn’t want to be there.

I have always tried to live my life looking forward toward hopes and dreams, and not backward on regrets. But if there was one thing I could change, it would be the relationship I had with this individual. It’s painful, and time hasn’t really healed it. Naturally I don’t like thinking about that and feeling this way, but it’s otherwise difficult for me to equate Atlanta with anything else at this point.

However another one of my friends is moving to this city later this year so maybe just maybe there is hope that I will drop the existing mental connection I have with this city and develop a better one as I watch her take this town by storm. She’s an orthopedic surgeon and author with a great perspective on life and health. It’s a joy to watch a powerful, ambitious, dynamic, intelligent, and beautiful woman develop a vision for herself and her family and make it a reality. Now THAT is a very forward-looking, hopeful development I can focus on, even if it is my friend and not myself.

Maybe what I have going on here in Atlanta is fear. And to conquer fear you must face it.  Maybe I’m starting to face it by talking about, albeit somewhat cryptically, in this blog.

But right now? I just want to get on that plane and head back home to my family, squeeze them hard, and tell them I love them. And take a big, deep breath since I’m struggling for air at Delta Gate B27.

An Introvert Speaks

Reprinted from a Facebook post two years ago today.

I had a pretty good day today and so many emotions are bubbling up inside. Bear with me while I sort through it all.

neonbrand-258972-unsplashSeveral weeks back I was invited to speak to a group of internal audit leaders from across the country as part of panel at a big bank in Cleveland. I won’t say the name of this bank because something tells me that the inner workings of Facebook are sneaky, as in, “Here’s what others are saying about XYZ…” and what you think is a private post to your friends somehow gets surfaced for public consumption. So if you happen guess the name of this particular bank in response, I will delete your post! lol Not that I’m saying anything truly private, sensitive or controversial here; these are just my reflections on the day and on my career relative to where I started out in life.

I was surprised to be asked to participate alongside chief audit executives from another sizeable bank and a major insurance company, entities you may very well know. My immediate gut reaction to being asked was excitement and “YES!” followed immediately by fear, genuine puzzlement, and “Wha? ME? Oh surely they don’t mean me. I mean, my department is relatively small and our audit work isn’t nearly as regulated and sophisticated as anything in the financial services industry, and yada yada yada. How could you possibly compare my audit department with this group of banks?! Why would they ask ME? Who thought to call me?”

And maybe they just called me because we represent a local, iconic American brand and it comes with the territory of working there. Or…. there are two influential people I work with today who have a strong connection to the bank, who could have suggested calling me and that is entirely plausible too. I don’t think I’ll learn how it came about but that’s ok. Not really the most important part of the story but definitely part of the story.

Seriously, three times in the weeks leading up to the event where I was coordinating logistics with them, I wanted to graciously bow out. I had to give myself the pep talk and restrain myself from cancelling. I was concerned I would let them down, that my perspective was small potatoes relative to what they deal with. Their coordinator so effusive and bubbly with anticipation about my visit and thought of every last detail. I wondered if I was out of my league, and whether I should put them in touch with an international conglomerate or two in town.

And then I kick myself for discounting who I am and what we do…and specifically what I have done in my career. Humility is a very good thing – and although you may think differently about me – I frequently let it consume me. However sometimes humility needs to get kicked to the curb so that confidence and leadership can reign in a world where both are desperately needed.

Yes, I know I can do this. I know I can knock it out of the park both in terms of content and delivery. Yet part of me likes sitting quietly in the corner without any visibility or notoriety. And part of me wonders if people think I’m full of hooey so what right do I have to speak up? What do I know? And yet another part of me wonders if there are people who are surprised that I even have this internal struggle. And I KNOW there are people who just don’t care at all and consider all of this to be mindless blither and drama. (And….you have a point there. I have amazing capacity to do just that.) And then I circle back to the part of me that thinks about how I know what to do and I love helping you figure out if what we do would help you too. After this exhausting analysis, I end up with that as the lingering thought.

So there I was today, part of me just thrilled to participate as this is the first in a long while – 7 or 8 years – that I’ve had a public speaking gig. Granted, it was a relatively small but national audience but they were a bright and engaged group and it was fun. I even got to use my line in response to “how’s business?”, which is, “we’re jamming”. (My company makes jam and jelly among other food items.) And they all laughed…..”Thank you, you’ve been a great audience, be sure to tip your waitstaff!”

True to style, I didn’t go in with a boring Powerpoint, either. I introduced some flair. Not exactly Steve Jobs-slick but commendable nevertheless. Ha! Flair and internal audit don’t really go together, but honey that’s part of the bling I bring to the profession.  I told you this was a GIANT nerd alert. But you’re still reading, so we’re good!

I didn’t know what to expect but it was a very cool morning. It was interesting to go through the security process. Nothing like pulling into a parking garage under the careful watch of a machine-gun armed guard. You could either be really nervous or feel pretty good about that. I didn’t even see the entrance to the garage, and here the wall opens up and the on ramp into the building unfurls like a rug. Who knew? At least I had a parking space among all the downtown St. Patrick’s Day revelers, and I’m comfortable that my car isn’t laced with a bomb unbeknownst to me.

As soon as the session ended, a couple of people approached me immediately to talk further, and then some of the women in the bathroom made a point to say they really enjoyed my remarks. That was gratifying, I’m not gonna lie.

The organizers liked what I had to say enough that one of them approached me about speaking at a sister bank location in Dallas later this year, if schedules align. The speakers they’ve invited in the past were chief audit executives at a major airline and a major home improvement store, the very people who were among the keynote speakers at the 1,300+ conference I attended last week, kind of the “stars” of the audit world. So while that was one guy’s opinion, he placed me in the company of some very talented people. Even if a follow-up gig doesn’t happen, I’ll say my thanks as that was a very nice compliment!

I think I would enjoy more speaking gigs. I have a lot to say – practically and academically – on the topic of audit, risk, and control. Perhaps the time has come to grow my career that way. God knows if it’s a way to network, abandon the safe route of sitting in my quiet little office, and let my career move in directions I never could have imagined, then so be it. I always wanted to be a teacher…and clinging to what is safe can be foolish as I’ve already learned the hard way.

Like Liz Gilbert says, fear should be acknowledged and it is allowed to have a seat on the bus but it isn’t allowed to drive. I am trying to treat fear just like that. Who knows where the scenic route leads?

As icing on the cake today, we panelists got a tour of the facility which was loaded with amazing architecture, art, and other features such as a three-story marble lobby with all kinds of architectural symbolism, Warhols with the silk screen dollar signs, the largest albeit no-longer-operating vault in the world protecting 9′ thick walls which was an incredible sight to see, a $100,000 bill, and all kinds of beautiful old currency. I wondered if I looked like a geek gawking at all of it…and if the financial services guys were going to be all Joe Cool about what we were seeing because they’ve seen stuff like this before. Yet they were geeking out over how cool all of it was too, so I felt pretty good about being in the club, so to speak.

So why am I sharing all of this? 1) There are so few people that I ever open up to about this sort of thing. Yet this is Facebook, you know, my online diary, haha, and you’re my friends. And if you hung on and read this to the end, I appreciate it. 2) Guys just don’t even debate this kind of stuff. They just do it and they don’t give it a second thought. They’re probably wondering why the hell I am dissecting this situation to this degree. But I do. 3) To know that I grew up unable to carry on a coherent conversation with people I KNEW let alone speak publicly on a professional topic to a bunch of people I don’t know….well, it still blows me away what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it. And every step along the way, you chop away at the fear so that you can, for example, progress from where I was to where I am. Maybe that’s being a bit too vulnerable for all of you to see but it’s true. 4) I like to write. This is what struck me today.

I had a pretty good day today.

PS…A few times over the years, people find out where I work and then they ask if I brought any free samples, as they did today. I good naturedly shrugged it off like a “my bad” oversight. I should have asked them if they had any free money to hand out as samples. Darn it. What a missed opportunity! That only seems fair, right? I can just imagine the scene unfold:

“BRR…BRR: security? We have a suspect identified. 5’4″, a brunette/blondish wannabe…we’re not really sure what hair color she was shooting for as it doesn’t appear in nature…with a deer-caught-in-headlights look on her face. She swears she was joking…”

Image courtesy of Neonbrand on Unsplash.com