Monday, September 26, 2011

Dear Wayward Facebook Friend

I will be the first to admit that I'm a techie geek and that I absorb everything I possibly can about social media. On the negative side of this "personality trait," I can be a techie snob who will roll my eyes when I read a Facebook status update that's really just a rumor or something lame - Facebook is going to start charging, etc.

To help me get my frustrations out without releasing my evil twin upon the world, I started writing letters that I'll never send.  Here are two examples of past letters that I thought I would share with you, now that sufficient time as passed.

Dear Wayward Facebook Friend,

I realize that you're not a Facebook genius and that it is really just one step above a regular website for you, but there are some Facebook functions that I would like to bring to your attention. I'll go slowly as I know that sometimes your dial-up connection loads the pages slowly on your Commodore 64.

There's this handy, time-saving function called "Facebook Notifications" that I love. I have my preferences (which are my way of telling Facebook how I want it to behave) set to send me an email anytime someone posts something on my wall. So as soon as you write something on my wall and hit enter, Facebook sends me an email with your entire message contained within it.

Now I tell you this because, for some reason, you deleted your recent comment from my Facebook wall. Since it was a rather innocuous comment, the fact that you deleted it baffled the heck out of me.

And thus leads me to my next point, deleting comments. I'm okay with people changing their minds and deleting something they've written on a friend's wall, particularly if said comment was written on a Friday night after consuming an adult beverage or two.  I would especially recommend hitting delete if the aforementioned comment causes mutual friends (of which we share many), to message me with the subject line, "WTF?"

Please take the time to learn about these lovely Facebook features.



The second letter was written a couple of years ago when I was employed at a place that is NOT my current employer.

Dear Wayward Facebook Friend whom I am currently blocking,

I am writing to explain how social media works since you have so obviously not bothered to understand how this new communication system works.

I believe that you're aware that social media marketing is one part of my job description and that, unlike other staffers, I may be on Facebook for several hours each day. It's called "listening." I need to know what is being said out there. You should also know that I do my work utilizing my own personal account. (something I will be changing very soon.)

I know that you know about PTO - also known as vacation. I know that you know about it as it seems that you take a lot of it. Well, don't be shocked, but PTO is also offered to other staff members. There are times between 8 and 5 Monday through Friday that I may be on Facebook, but not at work. That's okay. Utilizing Facebook during vacation is normal.

During these non-work hours, I might talk about non-work related hobbies like figure skating - a hobby that eats up much of my free time and, to be honest, much of my vacation time.

I'm telling you all this because you felt it was important to inform my supervisor that I'm spending way too much time on Facebook and that I'm talking about topics that are not work related. While my supervisor may have acted shocked and told you that "it" would be discussed, please understand that my supervisor has a clue and the information only caused me to roll my eyes and shake my head.

I have only one thing I would love to say to you: in order for you to "tattle" on my abundant Facebook frequency, you would also have to be on Facebook for several hours. See the correlation? 

So, I have taken it upon myself to un-friend you (Google it) and block you from ever seeing my activity.

Enjoying my obvious superiority,


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering the day that changed the world

In the past ten years, I have watched countless documentaries on September 11, 2001 hoping to understand why and how something like that could happen. I even read the 9/11 Commission Report. But in the end, I've concluded that my brain may understand the facts, but my humanity cannot and will not comprehend it.

I was running late to work because I was watching the Today Show talking about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. Suddenly another plane hit the second tower. It was the moment of realization that it wasn't an accident.

As I arrived to my office at Hamline University, our secretary was listening to the reports on her radio. We tried to focus on our work, but every 15 to 20 minutes, the situation changed. Another plane had crashed into the Pentagon. One of the tower collapsed. The second tower collapsed. There might be more planes.

I couldn't stay at work. I went home before noon and sat on my couch and watched the news. And I cried. I cried a lot.

I started emailing friends on the East Coast to be sure they were okay. I finally reached my best friend that afternoon. She was in St. Louis and trying to get home, but with all the planes grounded, she didn't know when that would happen. Mary and I had a long history of talking on the phone while watching history unfold on TV - first time was when Baby Jessica was pulled out of the well.  Talking with her provided a small piece of normal to an extremely un-normal day.

In 2001, I was a member of the Basilica of St Mary Cathedral Choir. We were asked to sing at the prayer service at the Basilica that evening. It was the perfect place for me to be since the choir was my family. I found a lot of peace being with them, singing together and from the words and the emotions shared at the service.

The Basilica was packed that night as everyone was needing the same thing. I remember walking to the back of the church during the recessional and seeing everyone was crying. And whenever I see someone cry, I cry. Crying came so easy that day.

In the days that followed 9/11, it were the news reports from New York City that impacted me the most.  Pictures of the missing were posted all over New York, asking anyone who may have seen their loved one to let them know. The TV reporters would let the people searching to talk about their loved ones and you could hear the pain and desperation in their voices. And I would cry.

I had a small obsession in the days following the WTC attack. I would look at all the photos of Ground Zero and search for office furniture in the rubble and debris. There were thousands of chairs in the tower, how could there not be a single photo with office chairs or desks among the debris? It was just dust and beams and paper.

In the weeks that followed 9/11, the New York Times started running short stories about the 2,600+ people who died at the World Trade Center and I would read them every day. And I would cry.

I didn't know anyone who died in attacks, yet I cried and it took months before I would stop. 

In the past week or so, I've been watching the special coverage of 10th Anniversary of 9/11 and I still cry, but not like before.

As I said, my brain understands the facts of 9/11, but my humanity never will. If I do, I think I'll be lost.

Friday, September 9, 2011

I was nearly wrong

Sometimes, milestone birthdays freak people out.

And no matter how many times you tell them that having a birthday beats the alternative of not having birthdays, some will still feel uncomfortable with the aging process.

I remember back to July 2001, telling my best friend that turning forty is no big deal. After all, I had done it 18 months prior, so she should be able to handle it. I reminded her of everything she had accomplished in her life and her two beautiful daughters.

This conversation happened when she was home visiting Minnesota. As we went our separate ways - she was flying back to Atlanta while I was heading home to Saint Paul to start a new job August 1st - I joked with her one last time and told her, "The world won't end if you turn 40, so enjoy your day."

Mary's 40th birthday was September 12, 2001. I was nearly wrong.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

When will I have my heart attack?

That sounds like a silly question, but in reality it is a pretty important one. 

I was surprised to learn that a 37-year-old former co-worker had a heart attack last month. She blessedly survived, but hearing the news just set me back on my heels. Jen is a healthy, active (i.e. marathon runner) mom of two and I would never imagine that she would have a heart attack.

Me? Have a heart attack? That's just far too easy to imagine. I've been thinking about it since I was 11. 

[Flashback sequence] During an exam with a new pediatrician, he was concerned about the slow pace of my heart. I had to do a stress test right away and that freaked out my mom. He couldn't find anything wrong with my heart and I'm sure mom's heart must have stopped several times during the visit.

Immediately after the appointment, we stopped by my dad's office (which was right next door to the clinic) and, after hearing the story, he chuckled and told mom that I have the Harty heart; my heart just didn't go as fast as others. His mom had the same issue as did her mom. It's a family thing.

As any 11-year-old will do, I shrugged it off and moved on.

I think I was in junior high (1970's) when the cardiologists at Mayo Clinic found a blockage in my dad's aorta. They didn't operate because they felt the surgical mortality rate was too high. From that point on, our family started waiting for something to happen.

In 1988, my dad had emergency quintuple bypass surgery at Saint Marys Hospital and for the next six years, we had many trips to Rochester.

In April 1994, my dad suffered congestive heart failure and passed away. In the weeks leading up to his death, his diabetes was out-of-control and that also contributed to the heart failure.

In doing my family genealogy, I was able to view the death certificates of many of my ancestors. Both my Grandma Harty's (my dad's mother) and my great-grandmother's (her mom) death certificates listed the same cause of death: congestive heart failure with complications from diabetes.

So that's what Dad meant about having the Harty heart. Oh, joy.

So what have I done about avoiding my family's legacy? Actually very little because who has heart attacks in their 40's? I figured I would start worrying about it in my late 50's. 

I guess I have been lying to myself. It's time for me to be pro-active and learn about heart disease, get off my duff to start exercising, and start eating right to avoid diabetes.

All things considered, I just might be over-due and running on luck.

P.S. My former co-worker has started a blog about her experiences and recovery, you might want to check it out. She's a fabulous writer.