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Agree That We Disagree

December 17, 2013

My family is very inclusive. If you are a friend of the family, chances are you could become just like family. You’ll have an open invitation to family dinners and activities. You might even end up participating in our Secret Santa gift exchange. Many friends of the siblings call my parents Mom and Dad. In general, I think this is an awesome way to be. However, in this particular instance, I’m not happy.

A few years ago my sister invited a co-worker of her significant other and his wife and kids to my nephew’s birthday party. This is totally acceptable. We’ve met a few people that were really nice with great kids and it’s my sister’s right to invite anyone she wants to her kids’ party. With my parents having several grandchildren, there are birthday parties year round.

There wasn’t a problem initially. I’ll call the mom Liz. Liz is a young mom with a lot of energy and an easy laugh. Her kids seemed like normal rambunctious boys. She didn’t seem out of the ordinary. I don’t recall when it happened, but we eventually became Facebook friends. Then she moved away due to her husband being in the military.

Sometime after that, Liz posted a video on Facebook. There was no warning comment or any text added to sum up what the video was. The video itself was titled with some phrase including ‘must see’ and ‘incredible.’ I had just watched the truly inspiring video of Susan Boyle’s audition and clicked on Liz’s link without hesitation.

What happened next was a four minute video that I watched about one minute of. The video was fast paced quick clips of real life, living people being hit by cars or cars being completely obliterated by other larger cars or trucks. Real people. Real blood and gore. Real death happening before I could register what I was seeing. Once I did snap out of my shock enough to stop the video, I needed several minutes to stop shaking, crying and wanting to vomit.*

Who the hell posts this shit on Facebook?! I thought Facebook was mostly safe. None of my ‘friends’ had ever posted anything like this before. I naively assumed there were rules against this sort of thing on Facebook and maybe I assumed that if someone did post it, they’d at least give others a heads up.

I don’t recall what I commented on the video exactly. I was somewhat shocky for several hours after watching it. The gist of it was, “Don’t click on this link unless you want to see real people dying in very clear bloody detail. This video needs a warning!” I believe she laughed and sort of apologized for not labeling the video. I didn’t unfriend her. I just called it a cautionary tale for me to learn from and an opportunity for me to talk to my kids about this aspect of social media (be careful what you click on).

Sometime after that incident, Liz posted a link to a commercial to the new Call of Duty: Black Ops video game. I thought the commercial was amazingly well done. It showed everyday people dressed in their everyday work clothes being solders in the game. A business woman in high heels and a tailored suit commandingly slow-motion walks through a battle with a determined glare and a huge assault rifle (I believe she is a sibling of one of my kids’ classmates). The action is non-stop with the iconic and feeling inducing “Give Me Shelter” by the Rolling Stones playing interspersed with explosions and gunfire. A line cook slow motion shoots two pistols at the same time and ends the commercial with more slow walking in front of explosions and nonchalantly throws the (I assume spent) guns. There’s no blood or gore or people dying on the screen.

It was an epic commercial and I appreciate effective marketing. I would call that a “good share” on Facebook. All of the real life people in their everyday clothing looked old enough to drive. I enjoy video games but I’m not fond of first person shooters in general. This ad made me want to try this game. I hadn’t tried a first person shooter in years and asked Liz what she thought of the previous Call of Duty games. She raved about the one that’s setting is World War II and said that it was her three year old’s favorite game. What?

Did I mention I’m a big sister and a mom of two kids? I found myself shocked again and in hindsight, I think I should have done something differently, like maybe not comment at all. I did put a lot of effort into expressing my views kindly and compassionately, however I can’t escape the fact that I gave Liz unsolicited advice about the formative years of children and what age is appropriate for realistic violence. I did first ask her to clarify that she was actually letting her toddler play the video game and asked if she was concerned about what kind of impact that has on a little kid. The entire conversation quickly went south and heated up.

Liz believed it helped her young son connect to his soldier father who was overseas with the military for much of his life. She believed the World War II background of the game is educational. She believed that witnessing violence doesn’t have any negative impact on a person, no matter what age. For example, she had been a witness to realistic violence her whole life and she’s fine. That’s when I recalled the earlier unlabeled video of real people dying from earlier. Though I doubt she was exposed to the level of ultra-violence available today, there is really no debating when someone uses themselves as an example of parenting done good.

With a deep sick feeling I realized nothing I could say would change anything about the situation, so I unfriended Liz from Facebook. I have often thought about exposure to realistic violence in entertainment and its impact on developing minds. I do believe that there are unforeseen consequences to it but I have no idea how something like that can be measured. I believe the technology to create more vibrant and realistic violence has outpaced the ability to measure its long term effects. Where would we even find a control group?

In general, I believe it’s up to parents to decide what is right for their children. However, if I believe that someone is harming their children, even if it’s due to ignorance, does that mean it’s okay for me to judge them? I am really confused about what is right in this situation. In the case of Liz, since she lives out of state, I don’t have to question the moral dilemma. She’s not my friend. I only ever see the occasional comment from her on my sister’s pictures or posts. I feel no urge to convert her or teach her sensitivity. I can’t even say that she is in the wrong and I am in the right.

Many times I have reviewed my past beliefs and decisions and acknowledge the errors or lack of experience moments. Someday I will probably look back to this experience with more wisdom and insight than I have now. I wouldn’t even be thinking about this except that Liz has posted publicly to my sister, that she cannot wait until she’s back here and they can hang out again. My sister confirmed, Liz is moving back.

Much of the time we’re visiting at my parent’s house for holidays, birthdays or Sunday dinners, my sister and I are out on the patio talking and laughing. Sometimes one of her friends from work or a family member of her significant other is there. Sometimes my brothers bring a girlfriend or friend. It’s usually no big deal and I try to keep track of who is who. I have no idea what it will be like with Liz there.

First, I don’t know how she feels about the last time she and I talked online and I unfriended her or if she even remembers or cares. Second, unlike my sister’s other friends who I don’t know well enough to have any opinion, I for sure have opinions about Liz. At the least I know that I would never choose to spend my time with her. Finally, the reason I’m writing all of this out is to wrap my brain around what my problem is and how I can solve it.

I can choose for myself who I want in my life. I cannot choose who my family wants in their lives. If the situation hasn’t changed, Liz will be here without family, which makes me think my family will invite her and her kids over for holidays. I need to understand that I have judged Liz on very little information. That her reaction to my unsolicited advice had as much to do with my saying anything in the first place and how I said it, as it did with whatever her views are on kids being exposed to realistic violence.

I have become defensive when I’ve felt attacked more times than I can count. Also, since that online argument, I have changed my policy on commenting on things I don’t agree with. Guess what? We don’t have to comment on things we don’t agree with! It might be sad, but I actually had that epiphany. I guess most of all, what I really need to do, is acknowledge that I really don’t know Liz and I probably never will. And that’s okay.

I love my family. I love their inclusiveness and the safe haven they represent to many. It’s an ideal I hope to live by with my own children and my nieces and nephews. Liz is a young mom and a military wife that has to handle all the day-to-day on her own while her husband is out there risking his life somewhere far away. I should cut her some slack and not let angst over our differing views impact my family time experiences. There’s a pretty good chance that despite seeing real people really dying and realistic violent entertainment that the kids are alright. Besides, who am I to judge?

 

 

*(Several years before this I received an email from a now former friend that wasn’t labeled. The video was footage of an American hostage being beheaded by terrorists. I will never forget what I saw or what I heard. I haven’t had nightmares about it in years but it still haunts me.)

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Contacts in Context

June 9, 2009

Yesterday my phone of three years, an MDA from T-Mobile, was retired and replaced with a G1 also from T-Mobile. According to one of my new year’s resolutions, I need to learn about any electronic devices purchased and take advantage of most of the bells and whistles available. The G1 has many more nifty bits than my old phone and I’ve spent much of last night and today diving into the new.

A large task that I’ve never actually done before is the integration and updating of my various contact lists. With G1 being a google phone, transferring my main email address from a yahoo account to a gmail account seemes like a good choice. I’ve used the same yahoo account since early 2002 so I don’t make the choice lightly. Even knowing there are ways to keep my yahoo account and get updates and sync my contacts and other various tasks, I’m still going to spend the time and the effort to change over.

Already there have been excellent benefits to the new phone. When I changed to my MDA phone three years ago, we simply took the SIM card from the old phone and put it into the new phone. All this time I’ve had new contacts in alphabetical order on the top of the list and all the old contacts I had from before the MDA were in alphabetical order below that. The folks with numbers I should have had memorized were a pain to scroll down to. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sixty seconds gone…

April 21, 2009

…coming up with this subject.

As I wait for my first cup of coffee to reach my brain, I’m sipping my second and watching the April 13th episode of House on Hulu. I’m also brain storming with pen to paper about what half dozen tasks I should do today from my list of several dozen.

It’s only a little after 8 in the morning and I’ve had more thoughts and motivated actions then I normally have this time of day. Lately I’ve been going back to sleep at 8 a.m. because I have only slept a couple of hours or I haven’t slept at all. Since I went to bed at 2 a.m. last night and got up around 6, I should be more tired. I expected to be. And yet, here I am, awake and more mentally productive then I have been in weeks.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Sweet Land of Liber-Tea

April 15, 2009

Today I read several news stories related to dozens of grass-root protests to publically object to taxes, government spending, President Obama himself and various other gripes. Their motivational theme was inspired by the original Boston Tea Party. Since I’m not sure what “No Taxation without Representation” has to do with what is being protested today, I ended up reading several articles and visiting several sites to try to figure out what the deal is. So, President Obama is doing what he said he would do before elected and is putting the country more in debt in an effort to stimulate the economy and save our nation from rampant unemployment, homelessness and various other messes left behind by the old admin. He must be the anti-Christ or the new Hitler? He must be a communist, socialist, fascist or some other evil-ist? Seriously? 

 

Read the rest of this entry »

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One small step

March 20, 2009

If I were an island, it’s possible that I would continue to coast, managing my stress by monitoring how much news I take in. Luckily, I’m not an island. Going on fourteen years ago I chose to create life and forever expanded my responsibility and obligation to one and then another child.

 

It is true that I could choose to not take that responsibility seriously. It is also true that for several years I’ve been struggling with personal demons. Personal demons are my why of summing up having children before I was in a position to give an optimum go at it. Doing okay is not good enough.

 

So here I am: a mother of two, a wife, an American, a woman. With blinders up, I’ve seemed to manage. It’s a lie. I’m terrified. Self medicating on my drug of choice – distraction – is killing me. I’ve consciously constricted my circle of influence to my daughters and my husband. The time has come to be courageous and pull my head out of the sand.

 

With countless false starts, I’ve feared embarking on another failure. Too many potential plans have mired me in indecision. This time, instead of waiting for my search for answers to come to a conclusion, I’m just going to take the first steps. Step one is easy. I need to learn to sleep so that my mind isn’t so fogged I can’t take the next step. With a firm commitment, I wish you goodnight.

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CyberSocial

February 3, 2009

Today’s informal agenda included contacting several individuals. My monitor currently sports three open Word.docs, one Excel spreadsheet, one picture folder, yahoo instant messenger, one SMS message via yahoo instant messenger, skype messenger, yahoo news and five explorer browser. One of the explorer browsers has three tabs open to various pages of Facebook. Basically, my computer is as cluttered as my house and my head.

 

The point of the digital laundry list is that much of my computer is dedicated to keeping in touch with real live people. The people I live with, the people I’m related to, the people I’ve been friends with and the people I only know via online games or blogs. When I want to contact one of those people, I have several electronic options to do so. I send it on my time, they get to it in their time and eventually communication happens.

 

I have sung praises to the age we live in, but I have to wonder, is this contributing to my neurosis? Neuroses? I feel like I’m managing my mild agoraphobia and various anxieties. I’ve even considered that upping my communication with friends and family might be helping me improve. But if a good 80% of my socializing is via email, instant message or message board, does it count as socializing? Am I becoming too dependent on electronic filters?

 

Last night I began to compose a message via facebook to a friend of mine on the east coast. I’m working on a project and I thought she might have some excellent input. I ended up giving up for the night when it became obvious I was spending so much time giving her background information before I could ask what her thoughts were. My plan was to pick up the message in the morning with a fresh brain.

 

To be fair, my friend is an incredibly active and busy individual. So sending a message that she could respond to when her schedule permits does make sense. Yet, as I began to flesh out the message today, I had the aforementioned thoughts and before I could get anxious, I was dialing her number. As her voice mail picked up and I squished the “leave a message” anxiety down, I mentally laughed at myself.

 

Chances are good that she won’t have time to call me back. It’s not very important that I get her input specifically. I don’t feel good that I called instead of sending a message. She could be too busy for the message too. All I’ve done is save myself twenty minutes of typing time. If she does call me back, I’m thinking the call would take about ten minutes tops. What if she calls when I’m unavailable? Crap. I’ll stick to emails next time.

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do you mind?

September 25, 2008

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of blog writing and no posting. Several word document pages long, they have no end or audience. The situation says something about my present state of mind. Hell if I know what that is. And the angels say, “Exactly.”  

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