Monday, May 19, 2014

Day 10 Without Facebook

Ten days without Facebook. Am I surviving? Absolutely. Possibly even thriving.

I do have a confession to make however. I never realized how many times throughout the day I "write" Facebook status updates in my head. Something funny happens and, in my head, I am immediately thinking of how I will word my witty post for the masses to read so that they, too, can enjoy the hilarity of my day. I was appalled at myself until I told Mike about it and he says he does the same thing. We both agreed that we feel a little disgusted with ourselves for having let a social network become so embedded in our thought processes.

I'm not sure what I have filled the time in with since giving up Facebook. I think my laundry might be more caught up than it normally was before. I've applied for a few more jobs online. I've read the news. I've had conversations with my husband about things other than what was going on with some person I "kind of" know on Facebook. I've written more actual paragraphs, some even with a pen and paper.

So overall I think life has been good. My husband has always said that "it takes 21 days to give up a habit" though, so we'll see if I am still happily Facebook-free in 11 days or if I am curled up in a corner, shaking, typing on an invisible keyboard in front of me because I just need to tell the world (you know, that big world of 194 friends I have) that the service I received at lunch was horrible, or that my commute to work took forever, or that I'm getting my nails done today.

I'm pretty sure the world can live without that news.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Dear Tooth Fairy...

As a mother, I am a bit of a hoarder. I saved so many things as my children were growing up - pictures doodled on post-it's, art projects from school, letters to the Tooth Fairy. I wasn't always organized about how I saved them though. Maybe it is because we have packed and unpacked ten times over the past 22 years, but these little gems from my kids show up in strange places.

Today, as I was digging through a bag of old craft projects, I found this letter. Needless to say, it was bittersweet. I couldn't tell you how old Keeghan was when he wrote it, or how his tooth came out without him having anything to leave as proof for the Tooth Fairy. But there is so much of his personality in this...for a moment, it was like he was still here.

I laughed when I first found the letter. The envelope was even sealed still! But I was on my way out to a job fair with Mike at the time, so I had to put it away - physically and mentally - or I would have buckled and been a crying mess for the rest of the day. But it's been there in the back of my mind, just waiting for the right time to pull it out and examine it. Soon after getting home, I dug the letter out again and looked at it more closely.

The first and most obvious thing that tears at my heart is just that it is his writing. He touched this! That alone makes it such a precious find. He always had such lopsided penmanship. We never understood why, but from the time he began learning to write, he wrote many of his letters from right to left. Nothing could make him do it any other way. So his letter spacing was always a bit off.

Then there are the words themselves. The fact that he asked the Tooth Fairy if she believed him and then apologized for losing his tooth is so Keeghan. He's worried about whether his story is believable, but also wants her to know he is sorry (he never wanted anyone to be upset with him).

And oh, the folding! The letter was in a standard legal-size envelope, but the letter was folded to about the size of my thumb! He was only finished folding when the paper could not be folded (easily) any further. It didn't matter that only two folds would have been enough to fit it into the envelope.  

So much of my little man is in this one piece of paper. If he was here as the 18-year-old that he should be, finding this letter would still be bittersweet because he would no longer be my little boy. Finding it now, when he has been gone for nearly six years is torture. I miss him so much. Maybe these little hidden gifts are his way of letting me know he's ok.  

I only wish I was.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Smells like Keeghan's Mama

I've never been a big fan of perfume. I always have a bottle of it around, but it isn't something I wear daily. I tend to choose one brand and wear only that.  In fact, in my 48 years, I only remember ever wearing three brands - Anais Anais in college, Estée Lauder Beautiful in my twenties, and then some time in my thirties I bought a bottle of Kenneth Cole Black for women.  My husband liked how it smelled, and that was really all that mattered to me. I still only wore it occasionally though because my husband always tells me that I smell good even when I'm not wearing perfume.

It's funny how that works, loving the way a person smells even when they're not wearing any artificial scent. During the times that my husband and I have been apart - and, as a military family for 20+ years now, we've had our share of separations - that smell that is uniquely him is one of the things I've missed the most.  I will delay washing a shirt that he wore right before leaving on a deployment for days just to be able to pick it up, bury my face in it and pretend he's still here.

When my son was alive, our favorite evening position while watching television was me sitting sideways on the sofa, him between my legs leaning back against me.  I would play with his hair, running my fingers through it and taking in that smell that was just his, the smell of my baby boy.  When we were told there was nothing more that could be done to treat his brain tumor, that we should take him home and "keep him comfortable" until he died, I would sit every night on the sofa and bury my face in his hair, taking in that smell, wondering how I would ever get through the rest of my life without it.

One of the smells that Keeghan loved was my perfume.  On the rare occasions when I would wear it, he was always the first to say, "You smell good Mama."  My husband and daughter would notice also, but never as quickly as Keeghan did.  I don't know how long it was after his death that I noticed my bottle of perfume was getting low, but when I did notice it, I started looking for another bottle to buy immediately. But I couldn't find one.  I looked in every department store, at the Exchange on base...nothing.  I could find Kenneth Cole Black for men, but not for women.

Since then, I have only let myself spray a smidgeon of perfume on, and only for truly special occasions. I took it to Shanghai, China last year when Mike and I went there for our 20th wedding anniversary, but again, I only let myself use a little at a time.  

Two weeks ago, however, everything changed.  While walking around the fashion district in downtown Los Angeles, Mike and I passed one of those perfume outlets that you usually find wherever there are knock-off stores.  I looked at Mike and he knew exactly what I was thinking and said, "Let's go in."  Walking around the store I didn't find what I was looking for, but I decided to ask anyway.  The store clerk went searching, and after only a short time, he found it!  The only large size bottle left was a display, but there were smaller sizes. Of course, there was no question as to whether I would buy it or not.  I didn't even care that it might not be the real deal.  As soon as we left the store, I opened it and sprayed some on.  And then I told Mike the story of how it really wasn't for him that I wore that perfume anymore.  I explained that, when I have it on, I know I smell like Keeghan's mama.  

I still only let myself spray a little bit on at a time, and not every day, becasue I don't know when I will find another bottle.  But for now I can wear it happily and know that somewhere, wherever he is, Keeghan thinks I smell good.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Day 1, No Facebook, Thoughts on "Friends"

So, the experiment begins...Day 1

I deactivated my Facebook account today. Actually, I deactivated all three of them. Scary to think I had three, although one I never really used and another was my "military wife" account. But still...slave to social networking much?

There are people on Facebook I will miss, and there are certainly train wrecks that I will miss watching. There are "friends" who will probably not even notice my absence. It's a sad realization, but events of the past few weeks had already shown me that some people who I thought were legitimate, real life friends really aren't. Life is too short to waste time with friendships that only exist when it is convenient for the other person, but not when I need a friend.  

I've noticed a trend recently in people. So many seem to live in a universe that revolves around them, and the people they consider "friends" are only that when they can do something for the person at the center of the universe. They don't consider the other person's feelings, only their own. They certainly don't take into consideration whether what they are saying is hurtful to anyone else. I'm sure at some point I was that person as well.

Now, imagine each of our universes as a circle. What I want for myself is also convenient for Friend A, therefore our circles overlap in a happy way. Many other Friends overlap with my universe as well. But Friend A begins to get so caught up in her own universe, always talking about herself and her own life and accomplishments. She no longer thinks of my life in any way. Our circles are no longer the perfect venn diagram, overlapping symbiotically, yet we are trying to maintain the friendship. That is Facebook. Connections are made, "friendships" created, at a time when our circles overlap. But when those same circles become disconnected, we still hang on. It makes no sense.

So I am disconnecting my circle from 194 others. Those who know me well and wish to can still keep in touch with me. I gave everyone my email address a couple of days before deactivating my account, so hopefully those who wanted it wrote it down. Those who have been hanging on to our friendship even though it is past its prime can rest easy in the knowledge that they didn't have to deal with the awkwardness of unfriending me. I am looking forwarding to working on building more meaningful friendships through real correspondence and conversation, insteal of voyeuristic socializing through a computer screen.  Who knows?  Maybe I will start a trend and save a million postal workers' jobs!  I doubt it, but it's a nice thought.

Friday, May 9, 2014

High Expectations

I have made and lost/ditched more friends over the years than I can count. For a long time I blamed it on me just not being likable, but I don't think that is it. I think I just have high expectations. That, and a low need for female companionship. I've never quite understood women who need their gaggle of girlfriends. Maybe it is because I have no sisters. I don't know. I just know that, when put in a room full of women, I start getting twitchy after about five minutes and start scoping out where all the exits are!

This ... flaw, I guess? ... in my personality has made the last 17 years of being a military wife difficult at times. Spouse groups, for the most part, are full of women even though there are plenty of couples nowadays where the wife is the active duty military member. Guys are just smart and know to stay away from the Hen House that is the Military Spouse Group. I've tried numerous times to be part of one of these groups, and it almost always comes back to bite me.

At our first assignment, one of the other wives went to the hospital commander's wife and told her that I should not be allowed to join the group (no lie) because I was "too Army-ish." My first response was to thank her, because as an ex-Army private I was proud of my Army-like ways.  But also, as someone who was new to dealing with the Air Force, what I had seen thus far came a long way from impressing me. Of course, the commander's spouse did not ban me from the group, and we all found out later on that the wife who requested that ban was, well ... crazy. Certifiably so actually.

At our next assignment, I volunteered to be a Key Spouse only to end up being the only Key Spouse for an entire squadron, which led to some saying I was trying to be more important than my husband's rank warranted. After that, I gave up spouse activities for years. I didn't need a bunch of other women in my business anyway. But along the way there were still friends made - some I still keep in touch with, some I have written off as more work than they were worth.

For the past few years I have blamed my impatience with people on my anger over Keeghan's death. That might seem like I am reaching, but I'm not. In the past 5 years I have ended relationships with family members that, prior to Keeghan's death, I had tolerated even though they made me unhappy. Now? I have no problem whatsoever cutting ties with people who bring me down, whether I am related to them or not. Keeghan's journey with cancer taught me that life is far too short to waste time with people who contribute nothing to my quality of life.

Here's the problem with having such high expectations of people though - I want to get back out into the workforce when Mike retires in a few months, and one of the things I've also learned over the past 17 years of watching my husband's career is that having high expectations of everyone around you only sets you up for disappointment and frustration. Sure, there are some who will live up to those expectations, and they are the true gems of the world. But for every gem there are two unpolished rocks. Granted, some of those rocks are only that way because they have lacked the proper mentoring and leadership to help them become gems, so there is still hope for them. But then there's the Fool's Gold, the ones with the inflated egos who look like gems on the surface, but have no integrity or value inside. Everyone knows someone like that, and sadly, most people work with at least one as well. I had to deal with that in the job I had a few months ago working in a real estate office. A building full of fake gems that place was!

It would be ok if it was only the inflated ego that you had to deal with. I grew up with one of those. It's the lack of integrity I struggle with though. People who claim to work hard, but don't. People who have trump cards just saved up for when someone places a high expectation on them ...

"I'm so busy!"

"It's not my fault!"


... when really the true excuse is a lack of work ethic and laziness. I love to work. A good, busy work day makes 8 hours go by so much faster than a lazy day of looking at the clock.

So there you have it, my fear for the day. How will I deal with people when I am actually in the workforce and no longer have the luxury of quitting just because I don't like the work ethic of those around me (which is pretty much why I no longer work in the real estate office)? Do I lower my standards? Become the most hated person in the office? Come home and complain to my husband every night because his excess amount of integrity has set everyone else in the world up to always be failures in my eyes?

Honestly, it must be very hard to be my friend. To be my co-worker will be excruciating.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Look Up.

Do I really have 194 friends? Can someone even be called "friend" if the only interaction I have with them is through my computer? Can life be lived without social networking?


I don't have 194 friends. I don't even truly know that many people. But I have 194 people who, for whatever reason, want to know what I have to say on Facebook.

Can someone I've never met in person, and who I only interact with online, be called a friend? Absolutely yes. I know people in just this way who have been more supportive than people I was born and raised with.

Can life be lived without social networking? Well, I am about to try. Starting Saturday, May 10th, I'm shutting down my social networking accounts. Instead of looking at my iPad every evening, I'm going to look at my family. Or maybe the television. But I'll do it with my family.

This should be interesting.