Can you be too connected?

Gosh this spring I have felt so connected. When I say connected I mean to the world, to social media, to my cell phone and being a child of the generation before the internet, Facebook and seldom did I sit down and watch TV shows unless they collaborated with a stomach virus or nasty bout of a sinus infection. Of course, when I was teen that changed. The internet started making it on the scene, MTV became so cool to watch and big huge bulky cell phones with weird thick antennas or long wirey cords made their way to cars nationwide.

It felt like a good thing when it was happening. Who wouldn’t want to be more connected. You mean I could make a two hour drive while talking with my best friend about our latest relationship drama. Sign me up I said at the ripe ol’ age of 18. I have had a cell phone since.

Just a few months ago I had a conversation with my students about ways to make my class easier and the biggest suggestion was to use mobile app friendly web spaces so they can navigate classroom information, turn in papers and chat with me as needed all from the comfort of their 200-400$ cell phone. I complied (Thank you Google). I now can officially say my class, which is very much taught digitally, is now fully accessible from any 4×4 screen that has a data plan. While I am proud to boast that in my career I do question it’s value and impact on my life in general. It is leading edge and breakthrough in the academic world and really will get me the appropriate opportunity for research as a graduate student. Or at least an avenue of research to explore.

Anyone that has spent any time around my family knows technology is important. I am quite proud to say all three of my girls can and did navigate the net at the ripe ol’ age of 2-3. They are queens of handheld devices: kindle, Ipods and Dsi’s. #1 & #2 can each look up the internet and weather radar on my cell phone and # 3 has been known to text or call people unknowingly on several occasions. So she can navigate my phone more than I probably give her credit for. I used to feel embarrassed and apologize for it. Then I realized we force them to be pretty balanced with them. It is not a 24/7 thing and we forced and encourage them to see their value and worth beyond entertainment. Thankfully and proudly we have taught them that they have a tremendous amount of access and privilege that some, if not most, kids do not. The biggest pitfall I see is they want the latest and greatest but isn’t that a lesson taught more by society? Don’t we always want the latest and greatest because it is what is spoken clearly by tech companies and cell phone carriers. So I try and teach them to be happy with what they have and to realize we cannot change daily.

The downside though is I sometimes dream of the days where it was simpler. When I was not always so connected to the world and when my girls didn’t resort to an Ipod in times of boredom. When I look at my aggravation and frustrations over time a lot of them stem from a phone or computer email or Facebook. Of course, I see the good in it. I have connected with people that would have likely dropped out of my life forever. Or I am able to communicate and stay in touch with my family in ways I would have probably not had the opportunity to given the distance between us. But when we can sit behind a screen: be it a computer, phone or a tiny little status message on Twitter or Facebook, it takes away some of the ability to be personal in some of those connections. And I will be the first to attest it gives me the ability or the fearlessness to say things I would never utter in person. That is NOT always a good thing. Especially if you were on the receiving end of my lack of a filter.

So as I sat down at the computer yesterday to post my latest and greatest status update on Facebook I asked myself, “Self, would say that in person?” (Okay it wasn’t so formal but you get the point) My answer was no. I clicked the red x in the corner and I thought maybe I should leave Facebook. It allows me to be a voyeur into others lives. But it also causes me an immense amount of frustration because of hurtful things people do and say that are posted for all to see. They don’t think of me or my feelings when they are typing it. Or the plain stupidity of some of the stuff that is on Facebook. The copy and paste this status messages that waste our lives as we read them. I am not cold and heartless to their causes but is posting a long drawn out post about how if you are good person you will copy and paste this changing the face of autism? Really? This is compounded by the fact that my children are also Facebookers. I keep major dibs of their manueverings and it is hard to witness at times either because I don’t agree with what they are doing on Facebook or I see others hurt them intentionally or unintentionally. Regardless, it hurts, it frustrates, it irritates and it is sucks out precious time I could be doing something so much more valuable and memorable to my life.

So my question became why not leave. Seriously? Look at the benefits versus the hinderings and determine its actual value to my life. There honestly is not that much. I can see what everyone does every second of every day. Maybe we shouldn’t know so much about people. In 2 seconds flat my  blackberry phone can have me logged on to Facebook and posting my whereabouts. How is that right? Do people really care? I am not so inclined to think people care and I am actually more inclined Facebook is more about the people who can come up with the cleverest status to garners those most attention for them. This is demonstrated daily to me. I use Facebook to be a genuine and true friend. About 6 months ago I completely ridded it all people who I would not “friend” in real life. I try to be the person they would walk up and see on the street. Not the exciting status message girl or the lastest drama relationship girl and well let’s just say those same friendships aren’t returned. There is no fault or finger pointing here. It is a lesson in real life, right? Real life we have real friends. Those are the same people who are friends in my real life. I don’t need Facebook for that reminder.

So again my question is why not leave? Because I have to keep an eye on the girls. They are too young to navigate the treacherous waters of the internet with out Momma watching. I have to keep them safe. I delete my account I delete my access to their accounts. I am in the process of trying to reason a way to make this change while still being able to watch them but not butt into their privacy. I don’t want to log into the accounts and yes I can and will if warranted.

Then add in texting. What a stinking convenience this is on our world. I started out texting maybe 5 times a month to my all time high of 3000 text messages a few months ago. While 3000 text messages makes my life seem way more exciting than it is I do wonder if maybe I am too connected. Should I really waste my time with 3000 text messages? I would argue each of those messages was extremely important but then I look through my phone and I see a whole lot of “yup” and “no kidding”. I will let you all decide what you think of the value of that.

Okay so the solution is to hang it all up right? Can I do that? Should I do that? Do I just quit resisting it so much? Can you go from embracing it and encouraging it to down right sticking your middle finger up at it? Is it better to pick up the telephone and let people you love and care about hear your voice so they can hear that love and caring? Or do I hope the words “yup” and “no kidding” translate into those meanings on their own?

And yes I know the answers to my own questions but what do I do about it? Am I too connected and how do you stop once you are there?

Writing.

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.
Benjamin Franklin

 

Is this not what every writer aspires to? I know I do in my daily life. Ironically, my creative juice rarely flow when my guy is here and can take the child rearing task that often falls to me. But watch him walk out that door and I have a 9, 7 and 2 year old who are all hungry, have a tummy ache, need something from me and my creativity just overflows.

So in the last week while the guy was out of town I woke up and I just felt this amazing power to type and type something worth reading. Who knows if it really is. But it was the first time I really wrote something that was not academic and was not for a student. I wrote because I was moved to. The more I wrote the more I began to identify with who I am as a writer. I thought for awhile I was a creative writer and while I have been known to enjoy a poem or a story I find myself drawn to reading real life. I love biographies and stories that can tie to reality. I love reading it and I love writing it.

So the likelihood that I will ever write the next great novel is nil. I am okay with that. Instead, I write tantalizing words of digital literacies, research on writing, even some of my own inspirational stories. I house what most writers house. An intense intimacy with what I write. Which creates a fear of sharing that writing because it is sharing an intimate piece of myself.

I imagine with time and experience of sharing my writing I will get better. I have several conference proposals out there that I think will provide forced opportunities for me to share my writing. Thankfully, I have the ability to do that under the guise of collaboration and I have partners who share my writing passion and my conference proposals. Then I have the article/book that I will begin in the spring about my Appalachian family heritage. I am sure elements of nervousness will always exist while sharing something so personal but I have to trudge on. I made it my career to be in academics of some sort and part of that is putting yourself out there rhetorically.

The hard part is explaining your writing to the average joe who sees writing as Stephen King and Nicholas Sparks. My writing will likely never be that sort. I say likely never because I don’t want to rule it out. Maybe I have something like that in me. However, for now I am perfectly satisfied with just being the type of writer I am.

 

You call that what?

Various labels have been thrown out for what my #2’s issue is. As they come out and we talk about what that means the little voice in my head says, “I have that.” Yes the every winding road of an anxiety issue is paved with many similarities so kudos to the people who can clearly identify and diagnose.

Two things I have seen have happened since #2 has been in therapy. Her filter has fell off. She says what she is thinking. As in she is brutally honest. I, too, house the lashing tongue at times and didn’t remember it until I was lashed with it by # 2. Part of cognitive behavioral therapy teaches you to speak for yourself. It operates under the speak first and think later theory. I am typically doing the lashing but now it is my sweet 36 lb almost 7 year old who is doling out the brutality. Can I tell you how many times in the last week I have left the room for privacy and a place to cry. I suppose it is only fair as sometimes I speak and think later too. I can feel how sometimes I make others feel.

The second thing my girl clearly has some food issues. Almost every come together after her therapy sessions he is going out of his way to talk about the importance of food to # 2. The thing is: I don’t get it. Where do these food issues come from? Food is not treated weirdly at our house. It sounds as though from what he says food is her way to feel in control of her anxiety. This scares me. I would be lying if I didn’t say raising three girls and the fear of issues with food or body image weren’t a big deal. Since # 2 could eat she has always housed her own “weird” issues with food. Ironically, the guy and I just always chalked it up to “texture issues” for her. It never seems to surround around anything else other than how it feels in her mouth.

So we have a few sessions left and then we determine where we are. Where she is at. I am so proud of her bravery despite the uncomfortable places it sometimes takes us as a family I am grateful for realization that it is was something more and that we didn’t just chalk it up to something different. I also recognize she sees parts of herself in me just as I see parts of myself in her. Anxiety is a bitch. It has a sneaky way of being okay one day and being a pain in the next. So I know while we are in the answer stages of this we are no where from over.

However, I also know that despite her honest proclamations of “I have problems” or her brutal honesty that we are headed in a good direction where she gets to push the cart so to speak.

Yum Recipe! Carmel Cashew Brownies

Culver’s is a luxury around these parts. Yes I can drive there in 45 minutes but it was not always that way. Before it was a treat only had when traveling to visit family.  So we have kept it that way. Although now it is by our current movie theater of  choice so sometimes we do venture there after or before a movie. Anyway…I love and adorable their Carmel cashew sundaes. Once you have one you get it. So I kind of jumped all over this recipe when I saw it on $5 Dollar Dinners (a great blog by the way!).

Cashew Caramel Brownies

Adapted from Fudgy Caramel-Cashew Brownies

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. bittersweet baking chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup (dairy-free) margarine or butter
  • 2 cups chocolate chips, divided
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 20 caramel chew candies, cut into quarters
  • 1 cup cashews, chopped

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 and grease and flour a 9×13 inch baking dish.
  • Melt the chopped baking chocolate with the margarine or butter and 1 cup of the chocolate chips in a glass bowl in the microwave for 1 1/2 minutes.  Stir together. Let cool while you start on the next part.
  • In a stand mixer or mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar and vanilla.  After the chocolate mixture has cooled, beat it into the eggs mixture. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Then gently fold in the rest of the chocolate chips, the caramel candy pieces and the chopped cashews.  Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean in the center.
  • Let cool slightly before cutting and serving.  Serve warm so the caramels are ooey, gooey good!
  • To serve after cooled, warm them in the microwave for 8 to 10 seconds, or long enough to make the caramels soft again!

This was pulled from the site. Now in my family only one person besides me likes this. The rest turn their nose up at anything with nuts in it. Not really sure why when they haven’t bothered to try it. But if it you like these things just try and no dive in.

Summer Time

Wanna know the reason why I cannot post as much?

It was recital time. #1 did clogging and lyrical. #2 did jazz.

#3 works extra hard to be cute to make up for her extreme orneriness.

*Insert Untaken Softball Picture Here*

We average three games or practices a week. That dedicate about 2 hours of time each to them.

Dawning this the summer of the IPOD (translate into learning new technology)

Someone has to clean up all that cheese, right? #3’s new “cheese” smile!

Someone has to clean up all the Popsicle drips off bodies, clothes and floors.

It sure doesn’t look like she will be doing it anytime soon, right?

Fate is it mine or yours?

I know the idea of fate brings about copious amounts of conversation of spirituality. That is a conversation that I am not sure I can delve into right now because as I have established in real life and here I am not sure where I stand spiritually. The down side to more education is more and more introduction to disbelief. I say down because I was raised catholic and I was baptized and practiced Christianity for the majority of my adult life. So much so my girls are all baptized and raised as practicing Methodists. But the reality is I teach logic and reason every day and operate much of my life in backing up claims with verified proof. So asking me to believe this guy exists that I cannot see and he has the ability and power to move mountains and change things that seem impossible is hard. It gets harder the more educated I become. Now that isn’t to say that I don’t want to believe. I do.

Sometimes life just hands us things that are too much to handle. I find myself coping with those moments by believing in something much bigger than myself. Call it fate, call it God’s will or faith.  I don’t really care what you call it, I know it exists. My fate and my family’s fate hangs in the balance and I have to question my ability to control it and the only conclusion I can drawn upon is that I am not in control. This for me is proof there is something bigger than then me.

So when I mentioned my life changing a few weeks ago I have been sitting back and thinking about these things. I have realized much of life has been up to others. Yes we go as far as we can but there is always someone higher up with more power that decides our fate. That isn’t that we sit back and let the world be handed to us. We push and move in ways that determine those with power in our life. We allow them that power.  However, the older I get the more cynical I get and I see how self centered and wrong people can be. I started to give up. I gave up that anyone cared enough to go beyond their own comfort to do anything for me or my family. Even family and close friends struggle looking beyond their own worlds to take an interest further than their own. I, too, am guilty of that. In those moments, cynicism wins. I am not cynical.

These hard knocks make me question my own faith and my fate. Amazingly though as I voiced that (inside my head…lol) people came out of the woodwork. People I never expected or saw coming. They are thinking of me and my family. Family I never believed I could count on prove that they can see beyond their own. So in effort to wrap up this extremely long ramble on fate, spirituality and what it all means I am trying to believe. I see God in the world. I think. Now if this post is not Mommy Rhetoric, I am not sure what is.

Life in Flux

I promise to try and get here more regularly but it is easier spoken than actually carried out.  It is still golf season and the girls are home from school. Which means I am a full time mom to a very bored almost 10 year old, trying to entertain an almost 7 year old and keeping the 2 year old fits at bay of a toddler. Once the guy is home more there should be a little more time in my day. Maybe. I never promise anything.

There are some big things going on in our life right now that I cannot even begin to put out there. I want to. It has been hard. But huge decisions are being made for me and my family right now and it feels important that we keep this to ourselves until the time is reached that we are comfortable with the decisions we have made. I have shared it with one person with the threat of death if it was spoken beyond us. It isn’t that it is a big bad secret. It is more or less a decision we need to let develop a little more and see how we feel as it does.

However, it has left my life in complete flux. That is hard for me.I like to know what is coming up and being able to openly talk about it. So I have (when time allows) immersed myself into class planning for the fall. I am teaching two sections of freshman composition and I am eager to go against the norm and not have both sections on the same schedule. It means my grading will be more spread out but it also means I won’t be grading 45 drafts at one time. That about killed me last semester. I wasn’t giving teaching, parenting, my marriage, my friendships or myself all the attention they needed and I was truly in survival mode. My hope is that by having them on a different schedule I am splitting up their work and my own. It is pretty common to keep the schedule the same for same sections of a class to ease confusion. However, I have to try. Maybe come December I will regret it but how do I know till I try?

I am also using a new text. A textbook I love. The one I used last semester I  hated. The university required students to buy it so I felt obligated to use it. I rarely did but I tried. One of the biggest complaints on my evaluations was my students having to buy the book and rarely used it. I relied heavily on internet articles and my own power points to do my teaching. So the complaint was just more the wasted money. I always kind of suggested nonchalantly to take it back and use the internet version of the book. Which in my head translated into take it back but I could not come out and say that.

I miss not teaching right now. I do enjoy the time to think about the things I need to change and ways I can improve. One of my assignments was picked as a recommended assignment and will be featured in our fall series on teaching freshman composition. It sounds pretty important but it is basically a meet and greet for teachers of composition on our campus. I came up with an innovative way to teach collaborative writing that is getting some attention. I have also submitted a few proposals to conferences in hopes of them recognizing the uniqueness of my writing assignment. I did this at the suggestion of the Assistant Director of Writing. We shall see how it all pans out.

In the spring of next year I hope to also begin writing a co article with one of my professors on my heritage and background and success as a student both graduate and undergraduate. So in my professional life things are good. They are heating up and I am making my intended mark on the academic work as a Masters student. Now to decide what to do with the rest of my life. Do I want to teach? Do I see myself working in academe? Do I want to go totally different and work in the business industry? We shall see.

So while some of my life is in flux I very much need to decide where the rest is going.