Category Archives: Personal

And I’m Back!

I realize I haven’t posted much lately but it’s not for lack of ideas! No, I’ve been full of those, as always. I was side lined by carpal tunnel syndrome! For a writer I guess that’s a work related hazard. After much thought and consideration I’ve decided that I absolutely, positively cannot let that stop me! I have a lot to say after all.

Online Friendship and Loss

Over the years I have often heard people opine that online relationships aren’t real. They are shallow and superficial and somehow inferior to those relationships forged face to face. I don’t believe that.

Over the years as technology has evolved from email to chat rooms and message boards to the explosion of social media sites, I have made some friends online. Sure, most of them were of the superficial variety but then, so are the majority of my “real life” friends.

I’m not at all convinced that physical presence is necessary for a friendship to be real. Who determines what is real anyway?

I first met Becky years ago at a little website called the Darwin Awards, in the forums in fact, the Darwin Awards Forums, affectionately referred to as DAF by those of us who frequented it (DAFers). I came in what was referred to for years as the “Aggie Invasion”.  Texas A&M, my alma mater, had a tragic accident when a structure that was being built as a bonfire collapsed killing 12 students. Someone nominated those students for a Darwin Award. When this news got around to the Aggies, they came in floods and droves to vote it down and to voice their opposition. Most came, said their piece, and left. I came, looked around, and made myself at home.

I found in Becky, who went by the screen name Kiko Vi, a kindred spirit. I made a lot of friends at DAF and even met some of them in person, driving to San Antonio and spending the weekend with one. Hanging out at a Rangers games with another when he came to Texas for a visit. I never had the chance to meet Becky face to face but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t my friend.

Eventually I wandered away from DAF as real life intervened, a divorce, a cross state move, another marriage and a few kids later we reconnected thanks to Facebook. Over the years she was one of my closest allies in political battles and a source of endless advice about kids and dogs. She was thoughtful and never missed a chance to be helpful. One day I posted about my kids wanting me to kill a spider we found in the house and Becky sends them a copy of a children’s book called “Be Nice to Spiders”. Another time I posted about frustrations with my dogs only to find a copy of Caesar Milan’s book in my mailbox.

No matter what anyone says, we were friends. I would find myself thinking of her when I posted, already anticipating her response before I even hit “share”.  I knew that she had one son, his name, where he lived, what he did for a living. I knew how many dogs she had and what kind they were and their names. She knew the similar details of my life.

Certainly she had family and friends that populated her real life world that were closer to her and I’m in no way trying to compare myself to them or in any way elevate my importance in her life. Yes, we were online friends and I understand that does not convey the same sense of closeness as a real life friendship does. But it is something, those bonds of friendship do exist. I’ve known plenty of people who grow close to traditional pen pals through the sharing of their lives, thoughts and ideas so obviously distance does not preclude friendship.

I came home yesterday to learn that Becky had passed away. The shock that I felt was real.  The disbelief, the initial desire to think it must be some kind of prank or mistake. The gradual realization that it was true followed by a real sense of loss. Becky was one of the nicest and funniest people I know . We may have been only online friends but the hole she left in my heart is very real.

Getting Unstuck

Originally published at blogger, here was my moment of moving on:

Eleven months ago when I was packing up my office after being laid off, I threw my box of business cards into stuff I was taking home with me. I sat the rolling case full of the detritus of my career in a corner of my home office and ignored it for close to a year. A good friend, former supervisor and mentor asked me for some material from a presentation I delivered at a conference a couple of years ago, so I went digging through it, finally. Found those business cards, stared at them for awhile, wondering for what purpose I had kept them, decided I kept them because, at that time, I had not yet let go, not processed that particular loss fully. I then surprised myself by realizing that it doesn’t hurt anymore to think about it. Threw them in the trash, it felt good, cathartic. It was at that very moment that I truly let the last of it go, the vestiges of outrage, pain and loss garnered from not just the loss of a job or even a career trajectory, but my sense of purpose in my work life and all the people who truly made up a second family to me, the coworkers, clients, community and contacts, the relationships forged in that time. It was a relief to feel the weight lift completely and realize that it had been getting lighter and lighter all along. Now I finally feel fully invested in my new job, no longer holding a piece of myself back from it for some vague reasons I couldn’t even articulate. At the same time I was not fully invested in the new job, I also did not let myself look for or think about other options, like graduate school or another job entirely. Probably for those same vague reasons. Now I feel like I can truly move forward again, after a year of feeling like I slid backwards then got stuck. It feels good to be unstuck!

Angela’s Rules for Cell Phone Ettiquette

We all get busy. With career, family, kids and other obligations going on , who has time for drama? With that in mind,  I present Angela’s rules for cell phone ettiquette:

  1. Don’t get upset when I don’t answer or return your call or text during work hours. It is unreasonable for you to expect I will. When I’m at work, I’m working and do not even check my personal cell phone until after work hours. I’m busy, it’s not personal.
  2. Please do not put me in the awkward position of telling you no by asking for my work number. My work phone is owned and paid for by the agency I work for and is for work calls. If there is a true emergency, please contact my husband or mother who have my work number (and no they won’t give it to you.)
  3. Please do not call and/or text me multiple times in a short time frame. This in no way increases the likelihood of me answering or returning your call/text during work hours. In fact, it decreases them as I get annoyed by it and am passive aggressive.
  4. I appreciate and love most of my family and friends so when I do not return your calls/texts in what YOU deem a timely manner, please do not go all drama queen on me, I am not mad at you, ignoring you or avoiding your calls. Unless you do any of the things on this list frequently, then I might be.
  5. Outside of work hours, there is a high probability that I am in class, doing homework, working on work stuff at home, writing an article for my column, shopping, paying bills, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, playing with my kids, bathing my kids, reading to my kids, feeding my kids, putting my kids to bed, fixing problems my kids come to me with, homeschooling my kids…(you get the idea), spending time with my husband, and occasionally eating and sleeping. Sometimes I even (gasp) leave the phone inside while I’m outside with the kids and/or animals. While these, and many more, are all valid reasons for not answering my phone (see number four, it’s not all about you), I don’t actual owe you an explanation of what I’m doing with my time or have to justify that it was important enough to ignore phone calls for. Please remember that YOUR priorities are not necessarily MY priorities.
  6. When you call me, if you would like a return call, please DO leave me a voice message or a text message that ACTUALLY STATES what you are calling about. I return calls and texts by priority so just saying or texting “call me” tells me nothing and I will assume it wasn’t important and move it to the bottom of the list.
  7. When you text me, please, please, please do NOT use all caps. I don’t know why you are screaming at me and it’s rude. When you consistently use all caps to convey urgency yet it turns out it was nothing urgent at all, using all caps ceases to get your call returned quicker and will in fact have the opposite effect because it annoys me.

 

Frozen In Texas

Image

Well, its winter in Texas and that always means at least one or two days of freezing weather. Read freezing weather as chaos and mass pandemonium.  Yes my friends, we in Texas are not prepared for the frozen tundra. I know our Northern neighbors poke fun at us for shutting down over a half inch of snow or panicking at the first snowflake but let me explain.

First of all, it’s true that we are not prepared to survive any extended amount of time in the snow and ice and that’s because we seldom have to. It just wouldn’t make sense to invest in things like snow tires and street plows when they would be used a handful of times over a several year span.

Secondly, let’s get one thing clear. We almost NEVER get snow. No, what we get is nasty, wet, freezing rain and sleet that melts into slushy, muddy, yucky crud. This is no picture of a winter wonderland with soft, fluffy snow for building snowmen and starting snow ball fights. No, you can’t throw ice balls at your neighbors. Well, you could, but it would likely result in an assault charge.

Have you ever seen Texas snowmen? When we do get a modicum of snow mixed with the ice, it takes your entire yard worth of snow to build one pitifully little snowman and it’s mixed with dirt and twigs and leaves. Think Frosty’s less fortunate, vagrant brother.

The reason we are locked in our homes for the duration of the ice, not snow, days is simple. We can’t drive on sheets of solid ice. Hell, we can’t even walk on them! I once fell 34 times traversing about 60 feet over a frozen solid parking lot. Seriously, do you think anyone in Texas, outside of hockey players, own ice skates?

So I know we may look silly freaking out over some freezing rain with a temperature dip to 31 degrees overnight,  but we also have not lost the wonder of waking up to find ourselves frozen inside a snow globe.

I have a screened in back porch, looking out my sliding glass door at the ice sheets clinging to that screen and seeing the icicles gracing everything in sight is an awe inspiring moment. Watching my dogs skid across the frozen backyard is hilarious. Hearing my children shriek with delight as their father pulls them in a big plastic tub across the frozen driveway is heartwarming. Most of all, the silence is amazing and being frozen in with my family with all obligations suspended, nowhere to go and nothing much to accomplish is a wonderful, unexpected gift, every time.

Image

What Do You Expect?

I’d like to say a word about expectations and how they influence our lives, probably more than you even realize.

Expectations. We all have them. Of ourselves, of others. Of our children, our friends, our coworkers, our jobs, our lives. And how those expectations are, or are not, fulfilled, affect our attitudes and our actions.

 

I often spend the better part of my work day talking to parents about expectations of their children and keeping them realistic. Certainly if you know your child can say “doll” then it’s ok to expect her to say it in order to obtain the desired object. However, if you child wants to see the fish and you have never heard her utter the word fish before, expecting her to say it in order to be lifted up to see them is not only unrealistic, it’s cruel. I certainly wouldn’t want someone to tell me to quickly solve an advanced math problem or I can’t have my lunch. It’s unreasonable, I couldn’t do it.
Unrealistic expectations play a large role in the occurrence of child abuse. If you truly believe that all children are able and ready to potty train at age one and your one and half year old isn’t doing it, frustration is going to occur. Only instead of understanding that your child can’t, you see that child as defiant, stubborn, bad. Having a clear and realistic view of what your child is and isn’t capable of is crucial for maintaining realistic expectations.
It’s not just children we need to have realistic expectations for. I am always amazed at the relationships that end over expectations that just aren’t achievable. If you haven’t read the book, “Real Love” by Dr. Greg Baer, you should. It took me awhile to get through it because I kept exclaiming, “oh this is ridiculous!” and throwing it down only to spend the next day or two thinking it through and realizing it was right, just difficult to put into practice. This would send me back to pick it up and resume reading until the next time I exclaimed over it’s ridiculousness and threw it down. In this halting manner I finally not only understood but embraced what it was telling me. That to love someone unconditionally is to have NO expectations of them. My first response to that was, well, that’s ridiculous! But it’s actually not.
Unconditional means no matter what, therefore, to love unconditionally means just that. No matter what. Any time you are angry with another person, it is because they have failed to meet your expectations. Think about it. You expected your son to wipe his feet before walking across your clean floor, you expected your friend to pay for lunch this time, you expected your spouse to remember your anniversary. You are angry because they failed to meet that expectation.
If you love someone unconditionally then you love them even when they fail to meet your expectations. Not having any expectations in the first place keeps you from feeling angry when they aren’t met. The book does a great job of teaching you how to get and give unconditional love. I’m not going to try and recreate it here, this was a very bare, barely scratching the surface summary and I know I have not done it justice. I highly recommend you read it for yourself. Meanwhile, I feel like I’m making a short story long here! Back to my point!
I’m not sure it’s possible to truly be expectation free but we can have realistic expectations of our significant others. Don’t date a doctor then be surprised after the wedding when you get left alone in the middle of your anniversary party for a medical emergency. Don’t marry a woman who hates to cook the be surprised that she doesn’t cook for you. And don’t sweat the small stuff.
People often comment that my husband and I just got lucky or they want to know what our secret is. The only trick is that we just accept each other the way we are, we don’t try to change each other. We also don’t expect the other person to be a mind reader. If I want to do something specific for our anniversary, I say so and well in advance. Likewise, if he’s cooking and feels like he needs help, he asks for it rather than hinting and feeling resentful that he isn’t getting any. These are just simple examples, but hopefully they illustrate my point.
I think you will find that you are much happier in life when you don’t have an overabundance of expectations. If you bring me some dinner, I’m happy you thought about me at all and I won’t complain if something isn’t to my liking. This way, I simply enjoy the dinner and the fact that you thought of me. On the other hand, I could react by being disappointed because I expected you to remember all my likes and dislikes. In one scenario I just ignore the part of the meal I don’t like and enjoy the rest. In the other I may sulk and dwell on how thoughtless you are. Really the difference between me being happy or unhappy in this scenario is what I choose to focus on. See there? Happiness really is a choice!

The Internet Ate My LIfe

Today I’m wondering why I haven’t fully embraced this blog yet. Why I seldom write, though writing is one of my great passions. I think I have an answer. I’m still grieving the loss of my last blog. The website was pulled down and if they gave me any notice, I sure missed it somehow. Which means the documentation of my life is just……..gone.

My entire pregnancy with Troy, my fourth child, was documented there, the initial announcement, the sonogram when we found out it was another boy, the ultrasound showing an echogenic spot on his brain, the fetal MRI, the worry, the relief when they said he was probably ok, the little nagging bit of worry that hung around until well after he was born. The story of his birth, how they ignored me and told me I wasn’t in labor until he was born with no one ready to catch him, landing instead on the bed. Of how he was born blue and still had the membrane intact over his face. The fear when he wasn’t moving, when he came out blue, the resuscitation. My refusal to pay the hospital for “labor and delivery” when no one delivered him or paid one bit of attention to me during my labor, the charges for the IV and fluids that I repeatedly declined that were forced on me anyway, complete with pitocin even though I had just gone from zero to pushing a baby out in an hour and a half and the pitocin seemed redundant and possible damaging to me. A copy of the letter I sent to the hospital informing them that the 90% paid my insurance and the 5% I paid up front were, in my opinion, more than what they deserved. His first days home. All the cuteness and ups and downs of his first year, including his fluctuating muscle tone and really odd and atypical reflexes that may or may not have been caused by birth trauma, we shall never really know. The million funny stories as he began to talk.

Katies experience with preschool, the time she busted out the plate glass window at Jump N Land. Brandon’s junior, then senior prom. His high school graduation and all my mixed emotions about my oldest growing up. The wonderful long post about Todd’s potential ADHD and the list of his ridiculous messes. The announcement that I, at 44, was going to have baby number five after all.

My entire masters degree program was documented there from deciding to do it through the excitement, the hard work, the long hours, the induction into several honor societies and the pride as I graduated with a 4.0.

My grandmothers death, the grief over the loss of a friends child. Me, eleven years later, processing grief over my fathers death as my uncle was dying of cancer.

The frustrations of the state sponsored budget cuts to ECI services and the ensuing loss of services to families and benefits to employees. Being laid off after ten years with the same program.

Vacations and family trips, the kids first visit to the zoo, the museum, etc. In short, my life! All of it, just gone.

I have always been a journal writer, the transition to blogging wasn’t easy for me. For one, I enjoy the physical feel of putting pen to paper. For two, an inherent distrust in the internet not to eat my posts and three, the publicness of it all. Putting myself out there for the world to see. I thought for sure I would edit myself more knowing it was for public consumption. The more I wrote, the less I edited. I figured no one really read it but me anyway. But issue number two was valid and I should have backed my writing up. A few of my posts were copied and pasted over to Facebook or into a word document, but most of it was just lost, never to be recreated. Sure, I can tell you about Troy’s birth, but I will never be able to recreate the feeling and depth of the original post coming immediately after experiencing it.

However, I think I’ve learned from my mistake! What I ought to be doing, in addition to creating word documents (because hard drives crash) is printing. Although, nothing lasts forever. Looking back at my old hand written journals, many of the twenty or thirty year old pages are already filled with ink that has begun to fade. I don’t examine that too closely, because I’m sure it says something about the fragility of human existence and how time erodes everything and that’s another post entirely!

At any rate, I shall try to be a more faithful and entertaining blogger for you, my three readers!

I Unfriended Someone Today…….

I unfriended someone today. On Facebook that is.  In the words of Dr.Seuss, this may not seem important, but it is so I”m bothering telling you so.

This is only the third person I”ve ever unfriended and I have over 800 of them on Facebook (friends that is). But he will not be the last. It takes a lot for me unfriend someone because I do not believe in censorship. I believe in freedom of speech and I think we should be trying to understand each other.

However, it has finally dawned on me that protecting my own psychic “space” isn’t the same as censorship. That I can no longer be untrue to myself in the name of being PC and “nice”. Some people don’t deserve my time and attention. Sure, they have a right to speak, but I am not obligated to listen.

I have many friends from all walks of life. Look, I don’t care if you are a democrat, republican, independent, Libertarian, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, gay, straight, bi, poly, trans, male, female, old, young, middle aged, blond, brunette, redhead, American, Canadian, European, Asian, African, childless, mother of 12, black, white, red, purple or orange……………we are all different and I respect and celebrate those differences. You can have opinions that differ from mine all day long and until he cows come home. BUT, there is never any reason to be less than respectful and kind to others. We can disagree respectfully. Most of us do. Some of us can’t. And some are too full of hatred, anger and fear to articulate anything approaching reason.

I will not tolerate hate and ignorance. I’m done.

I have scrolled past many posts in recent months that I didn’t really want to pass up. Either I really agreed with them but didn’t want the drama that re posting would bring (I don’t really like to fight with my friends) or they were so ridiculous I wanted to say so, but again, I don’t really like to fight, especially on someones status who has 400 like minded bigoted friends who will jump all over me in a free for all.

So to keep the peace, I scroll on. But I’m done. I am as entitled to my feelings/beliefs/opinions as anyone. And mostly, I have a wonderful group of friends that I can disagree with and it’s ok. We disagree, we are respectful to each other and we don’t make sweeping negative generalizations based on insulting stereotypes.

The first person I unfriended was posting a steady stream of homophobic vitriol that I just couldn’t stomach. The second referred to women who did things that were prohibited by HIS religion (and as interpreted by HIM) as whores. The third continuously posts a continuous stream of extreme conservative right wing propaganda, which in and of itself isn’t the issue, it’s the insults that generously pepper said posts.

Look, if you’re against universal health care or gun control, be against it, that’s fine. But those who support it aren’t automatically idiots, fools, government slaves or any other such labels. The poor are not automatically losers, leeches, takers, beggars, trash etc. And the poor are not all black, by the way. I won’t even go into racial slurs here, but anyone who knows me at all should know better. That is certainly not something that I tolerate. Hateful remarks flung at large groups of people only serves to show the SPEAKERS character, not the people being spoken about.

Most of you have nothing to worry about and I’m really just venting. I’m not going to delete you because we disagree politically. However, I am done overlooking ignorance and hateful behavior in the name of considering all points of view. Some points of view don’t deserve considering.

That is all.