Sunday, November 30, 2014

Five reasons why I need to get off Facebook

Tonight is the last night of November. I posted here every day of the month, a goal that's not as easy to achieve as you might think. November always leaves me sleep-deprived, much like someone taking care of a newborn or a 2-month-old puppy might feel. This month has been especially rough, because I've had a lot of papers to grade, and that always sends my muse Dolores running for the TV remote. I've also struggled with the topics that drew me to write: feminism, dating, addiction. I didn't find much humor in most of them. In fact, I thought many of my posts this month came out dark and cynical. It's a place I'm in these days.

One overwhelming influence on my mood is Facebook. I'm addicted, and by that I don't mean to underplay the terrible effects of drug and alcohol addictions, but I can't look away. My mom always said I was afraid I might miss something -- what writer isn't? -- and Facebook is an evil, time-wasting temptation that I can't resist. It's my connection to the world when I'm home alone, and for this extreme extrovert that's no small thing. Sometimes I think it keeps me sane; other times I know I'm wasting my life away staring at any one of my screens looking for the next high.

So here, purely to give myself a kick in the ass, are my 5 reasons why I should get off  Facebook.

Disclaimer: I'm not saying my 530 (as of this writing) Facebook friends shouldn't post whatever the fuck makes them happy. The point this list will make is that I need to make better use of my time.

1. Dog and cats. I fear I may soon find myself guilty of adding to the overwhelming clutter of cat and dog photos and videos that clog my feed. Look how adorable Poet is when he chews his ball, wraps up in a blanket on the couch (won't happen on my couch), rolls in the dirt, sleeps, sits in the sun, takes a shit .... We all think our own pets are cute as fuck, but really, who else does? Nobody. Every once in a while Facebook will automatically play a video of a cat who lets a toddler crawl all over him or a dog that saves a kitten from a raging flood or a golden retriever who nurses a tiger and I'll watch with tears in my eyes, but most of the time, I don't give a shit.

Disclaimer: I think my friends should post whatever pet photos and videos make them happy. I just don't need to spend my time looking at them. This shit is all about me, Queen Reticula.

2. Football. I don't give a fuck about football. Football is one of the reasons my decades-long marriage failed. I'm not going to go into details, but that's time my kids and I will never get back. Fuck football. The only time I cared about football was when I was dating a football player in high school. If I wanted to watch football, I would watch it on TV or go to a live game (definitely more appealing), but the constant stream of comments about every play and every fumble would not enhance my experience of either. And they certainly don't when I'm not watching and don't give a shit. If I did give a fuck, I'd be watching, not reading Facebook. I wouldn't need a minute-by-minute stream of commentary. (Same with soccer, baseball, and any other sport I don't give a fuck about.)

Disclaimer: Football fans probably love hooking up with each other on Facebook and sharing their excitement. This is not my problem. My problem is that I don't need to spend my time scrolling through a bunch of football posts. I've always been a person who would rather play than watch.

3. Food. I don't give a shit what people ate for dinner or lunch or breakfast. OK, maybe if it's a special meal at a restaurant I might like to try. But honestly, even then, if you want to share food with me invite me out to eat. Photos of the food you eat are meaningless to me. I cook and eat food every day. That doesn't make me special. I don't feel the need to share a photo of my scrambled eggs or my grilled chicken breast or even my blue-ribbon cowboy cookies every time I make them. Nobody gives a shit.

Also .... beer. I hate beer. I don't need to know how many beers my friends have untapped, especially if they're 3 blocks from my house, and I wasn't invited. I mean, yay, you're out having a good time with friends and I'm here watching Netflix. I'm so happy you unlocked that hoppy IPA that would taste like skunk piss to me. I might feel different if an app called Uncorked came across my feed.

Disclaimer: If it makes people happy to share their food and beer consumption, why should I care? I don't. But again, I don't need to spend my time looking and scrolling past. I'm rarely interested, and sometimes I really do wish I could be there instead of here watching the fun scroll by on my feed.

4. Celebrity deaths. Is it not obvious to most people if they see on their feed that a celebrity has died, and they've seen it 25 times, that most of the rest of us have already seen it too? Why post it again? Is it that compelling to have to share the tragic news? We know already. We saw it too. And for some of us, the constant barrage of information about, for example, suicide can trigger some ugly anxiety or even panic. I had to stop reading Facebook for several days after Robin Williams died, and I'm not the only one. I don't think sharing and speculating and digging up the dirt is respectful of the dead. It's a feeding frenzy. Lots of people die and commit suicide. Let's focus on the people near us who need help and support. They aren't celebrities, but their lives are just as important.

Disclaimer: Some people think they're spreading information about suicide, drug abuse, or various diseases that will help their Facebook friends. Maybe. Or maybe it's like blasting a sermon from your car speakers and hoping somebody will find Jesus. In any case, if my friends need to grieve over dead movie stars in public, that's up to them. My point is that I don't know those movie stars, and I need to spend my time with the people I do know and love.

5. Quizzes. Fuck those stupid quizzes. I get sucked into them too. The last one I took was what my job would be in a post-apocalyptic world. I posted the results to Facebook. Who gives a fuck? Nobody! Nobody cares about the color of my soul or what Princess Bride character I would be or which Hogwarts house I'd live in. Nobody gives a fuck, including me. But still I take those fucking quizzes, because it's such an easy waste of time. It's such an addictive way to do anything but the things that would create real value in my life. Like write a book. Like invite people over for a party. Like .... almost anything. Almost anything contributes more value to my life than taking one of those fucking quizzes.

Disclaimer: Take the fucking quizzes if it makes  you happy. I'm sure the people you're sitting with at a bar don't mind that your face is in your phone. Hell, they're probably taking the same quiz. Hell, I probably am too.

Do you see a thread here? The problem isn't my friends or what they post on Facebook. The problem is that I can't look away from Facebook. (Joe, you were right to save yourself, but who will save me?) As Mary Oliver would say, I have one precious life, and I spend too much of it on Facebook. I don't have time for half an hour of yoga, but I can spend an hour and a half on Facebook. I don't have time for a long phone call to a friend (remember those?), but I have an hour to spend on Facebook. I might even get out and find somebody to play music with, but I'm on Facebook instead. I don't have time to write a book, but my Facebook friends will back me up when I say I've written an entire fucking book this past year .... on Facebook. I take forever to answer an email, but I shoot off Facebook comments all day. I have a problem.

And yet ... I have reasons. Just like any other addict, I have reasons. I'm connected to people I never see in real life, and wouldn't but for Facebook. Today I saw a photo of my wonderful Aunt Shirley, who has suffered with dementia for years, sitting in her wheelchair with a puppy on her lap, smiling. I would not have seen that if not for Facebook. I saw a TED Talk given by a teenager that I will share with my students this week. I saw a plea from a dear friend asking people to support her in fighting heroin addiction, which killed her stepson a few weeks ago. I was invited to several parties. And in the wee hours of the morning, I posted a link to last night's blog post, and a bunch of people offered their support with my new puppy blues. A friend reached out to talk about the return of his cancer ... another friend asked me if I wanted to go dancing ... people helped me decide on a name for my puppy and gave me advice on training him ... I saw photos of my niece's family putting up their Christmas tree in Iowa ... I signed up to bake some cookies so my  neighborhood can give homemade gift baskets to organizations that have supported us. I saw this Sir Perky bottle opener.

I am conflicted. I get so much from Facebook. I truly do. I'm in contact with friends from high school I hadn't seen in decades. I can show photos to  my mom. I know when my friends need my support, both online and in real life. I can get support from lots of people when I have a problem.

And most of the people who read my little blog come here from either Facebook or a Google search for something + vaginas. I'll get 200 hits from the Ukraine alone just because I included the word "vagina" in this post. It's no small thing though, because although I don't get a lot of comments here (or any, most days), I do get comments on Facebook. And people follow my links from Facebook and then I'll be at a party and someone will say something about  my blog and vaginas and suddenly I'll have a new reader. Facebook feeds me almost as much as it sucks away my time and my life and all those things I could be doing, because we only have this one precious life, these precious minutes and hours.

Do people who shoot up heroin give the same excuses? How many books might I have sitting in a drawer somewhere, probably unpublished, if I didn't spend so much time on Facebook?

I wish somebody could throw me a life preserver, but I fear I'm on my own. Most of you suffer from the same addiction I do, and Joe can't save us all. (Joe is one of the few people I know who refuses to get on Facebook.)

I don't know what the answer is. Maybe we could all be more careful about what we post on Facebook, and yet, I know my friends are posting what's important to them. As am I. What the fuck is a person to do, once the poison has gone down the hatch?

Puppy update: I put this at the end because I know some of you don't give a shit about my puppy. Fair enough. I don't give a shit about your pets either. Read on or don't read on.

I've finally decided on a name, and it's one both of us like: Poet. That's my final answer. It's perfect for this puppy who loves to lie under my desk chair and sleep, even when I'm in the other room. As soon as I let him down in my office, he runs to my desk chair and curls up underneath it. Seems like Poet is as good a name for him as any other.

I've decided I might like him a little bit. We had a somewhat better day today .... or maybe I'm just adjusting to his asshole puppy ways. I think I cleaned up 5 or 6 pees as opposed to 7 or 8 yesterday. We went on a long walk, at least 3/4 mile, and he did great on the leash. He's sitting and shaking on command, most of the time. And he's not howling as much when he's in his pen. Still more than I'd like, but not as much.

I think this little guy and I will eventually form a bond. It will be a battle between his peeing and puppy nipping and my impatience, but tonight I have a little more faith that we'll make it. Something about his puppy exuberance gives me hope.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A post about what's-his-name

Of course he's adorable.

People keep asking me if I just love my new puppy. And the honest answer is no, I do not love my new puppy. In fact it's probably a good thing his breeder lives 3 hours away, because right now, as I'm writing this, I would give him back to her and never regret it. As I write this he's howling and whining in an old playpen, where he has a cozy bed and toys and all the accouterments of a lovely dog apartment. And yet ....

He is not happy. He would only be happy if he had the entire run of the house, so he could chew on my laptop cords and pee and poop on the floors and chew on the furniture and the carpets and anything else he can get his needly little teeth into. He's fine in my big kitchen as long as the gate isn't across the door. Once the gate goes up, he's a whining, howling, writhing mess, throwing himself at the gate in an agony of abandonment. Even if he can see me right next to him. Especially if he can see an entire roomful of people eating Thanksgiving dinner.

I'm fucking exhausted. I haven't gotten more than 2 hours of continuous sleep since Tuesday night when I got 5. Human infants are easier than this puppy, and I've raised both.

An example: Tonight Doc/Shade/Poe (I can't decide on a name. More on that later) had been sleeping under the coffee table for a couple of hours. I got him up to go out, and so he wouldn't sleep while I was awake and howl while I was trying to sleep. I carried him outside, because he will stop and pee on the floor on his way to go out. He peed. I praised. We came in and played for a while. Then about 12 minutes after he'd peed outside, he peed on the living room rug. We had words and he went out again. He came in again, we played, and 10 minutes after he'd gone out the second time, he peed on the living room rug again. He went back out. This, to me, is an excessive amount of peeing, and it's also typical, so far.

I hate to admit it, but when Drake came home a few minutes after the 8th in-house pee (in spite of at least 15 trips outside), I was in tears. It doesn't help that I haven't left my house since Tuesday night, except to take the puppy on a couple of walks. I don't do so well when I spend so much time alone ... or with a peeing, howling puppy. In fact, I'm feeling a bit stabbity. I know why I wanted a dog. I can't remember why I wanted a puppy. I want to skip ahead a year to the dog I will -- whether he likes it or not -- be living with then.

Hard to believe they'll be the same
size in a year or so.
As for his name, I was certain Doc was the name. Positive. Ask Coraline, who is just as fixed on LuLu. It turns out Doc isn't going to work. It's too close to Duke, my son Drake's dog, and he's confused whenever I call the puppy. So I've been experimenting with new names. My Facebook friends gave me lots of suggestions. Yesterday I decided his name would be Shade ... but he didn't really respond to that name. and the s and a were too drawn out. So I tried Cash (the man in black) and Poe (as in Edgar Allan) and Redmond (my boyfriend James Spader's character on Black List). He seems to like Poe best, so for now, Poe it is.

I know this is the most difficult time with a dog ... at least until the end. If I weren't so fucking tired, I'd take it all in stride, but this little guy is particularly persistent. Even in this big house, I can't put him far enough away that I can't hear the howling, with ear plugs. He's loud. Really fucking loud. And he's in a playpen right beside my bed where he can see and hear me. It's not like he's alone.

Look who's whining now.

A year from now, I'm sure if I write about Poe the story will be much different. It had better be. He's already doing better than I'd expect on the leash, and he fetched the ball and brought it back to me several times. He's even learning to shake already. He's not dumb. He's just loud and stubborn.

Guess what. I'm a redhead. Enough said.

No, I'm not enjoying my new puppy much right now, but this too will pass. Please, dear sweet baby Jesus, let this too pass before I lose my poor exhausted mind.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Feminist Friday: “Hi, I have a vagina ...

...and a whole new set of rules. Nevermind what’s worked for several thousand years.”

Ooops. There goes my vagina, getting everybody into trouble again. Out there building bridges and shit. Next think you know, it will want to vote.

Someone recently sent me this video (below), which is a clip from a longer discussion between Paul Elam and Tom Golden, two whiners on MANstream Media. They're men's rights activists who are angry that women are trying to play with their GI Joes. That quotation above came from the video. Go ahead and watch it. I'll wait. I'm not going to watch it again. Their false sincerity doesn't do anything for me or my vagina.

Kind of makes me want to check my vagina at the door, because, you know, I'd hate for my vagina to ruin that good thing men have going where they bully each other and that makes them more productive. And even teaches the newbies among them how to use a nail gun. Although we all know "gun" is a misnomer in this case, because a guy can't actually shoot himself in the leg accidentally. He'd have to press it really hard against his leg and release the nail .... OK, nevermind. This man's penis knows all about that shit obviously, and he doesn't need some fucking blogger with a vagina to nag him about his ignorant example of how men learn their hard-knock lessons.

His point is that men were productive and got shit done until women brought their vaginas into the workplace. And now men aren't allowed to be men and harass each other when they make mistakes, because there's a bossy vagina in the room saying they have to play nice.

Wait. How did harassment in the workplace become about men harassing men? I suspect  we might find an argument fallacy lurking around here. The problem with harassment in the workplace usually occurs when men harass women. Let's say, although I don't have a statistic, but let me just throw one out there .... Let's say 99% of harassment cases are men harassing women. It has nothing to do with nail guns or men ribbing each other good-naturedly. It's a much bigger, nastier issue that happens when men can't use their manners when a vagina is in the room.

It's like when my sister's boss used to tell her if her sweater wasn't keeping her breasts warm enough, he'd be glad to warm them up with his hands. She was a single mother with a toddler and an old car on its last legs. I guess he figured she couldn't afford to lose her job so he could say anything to her he wanted. That's harassment.

But apparently a bigger problem with harassment in the workplace is that women use their vaginas to stop men from teasing each other when they shoot themselves in the leg with a nail gun. Alrighty then.

But inserting our vaginas into the workplace isn't the only sin women commit. We've also taken over the schools, gotten rid of all competition (except football, soccer, baseball, track, swimming, debate team, math olympics, ACTs, SATs ....)

Anyway, vaginas have ruined the education system. Elam: "Look at the education system now. People graduating left and right unable to read at a grade level …uh …uh …what’s appropriate for their grade level. In some cases being functionally illiterate with a high school diploma …” Vaginas did that. Because young men aren't allowed to compete. And "that's how boys learn. They compete."

He conveniently leaves out George W. Bush's legacy of No Child Left Behind, which requires schools to test and test and test kids until they have no time for real learning. He conveniently leaves out that state legislatures and governors, the large majority of whom are male, make the laws that require schools to test and test and test. It's the low-paid vaginas who are struggling to teach in a system that has been corrupted by politicians and corporate interests, which are, once again, run by men. He leaves out that kids are so busy with homework and sports and all the other shit they do that they don't have time to hang out with friends and play a game of pickup basketball. They don't have time to think, or even to sleep enough, although they do have time for video games (more competition). Those issues are driving our education system into the ground, not the vaginas.

He needs to get his fucking facts straight. 

But let's follow his flimsy argument. Let's look at whether boys are allowed to compete. First, as I said above, sports. Second, tests. Are tests not competitive enough? Because it seems to me that the grading system and all that testing is highly competitive. I know a little bit about that, and I can tell you my students who want to excel compete for those A's. Sometimes for B's. So there's no lack of competition in schools, and it doesn't seem to be working.

The real problem is penises. That's right. Penises. If the penises stayed out of the schools and let the teachers -- the majority of whom are women because it's a low-paying job -- do our jobs, maybe kids would graduate with a higher level of reading and critical thinking skills.

It's easy to blame the vaginas, but the argument doesn't hold water. Having to work with vaginas, having to "cooperate" (which seems to be a loaded word for these guys that means "castration") shouldn't affect their ability to do their jobs. Men still have their balls, even if they aren't allowed to teabag women or men in the office.

I suspect these guys haven't seen a vagina in a very long time though ... maybe never. Maybe that's why they're blaming the entire downfall of world on women. I mean, the problems they're whining about can't have anything to do with corporate greed (mostly men) or crooked, incompetent politicians (mostly men). Nah, the problem is vaginas. Keep the vaginas at home in the kitchen and all problems will be solved. Men can get back to building bridges and boys can get back to learning how to read, so they're not such pussies when they get out into the workplace.

My sister, by the way, didn't put up with her boss's harassment forever. She filed a complaint about him and quit the job. She found another shitty job, and then another that wasn't as shitty, and now she manages a plant and makes over 6 figures. Now that takes balls a vagina.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving 2014

I  just took a little  jaunt down the memory lane of Thanksgivings past here on Reticulated Writer. I started doing NaBloPoMo in 2011, so that's how far back the Thanksgiving posts go. If I weren't doing this crazy "blog post a day" thing, I certainly wouldn't make an effort to crank out a Thanksgiving blog post after a long day of cooking, cleaning, eating, playing games, watching Netflix in a stupor, and cleaning up dog pee taking care of a new puppy.

I'm glad I started doing it though, because I enjoyed looking back and remembering what made each of those Thanksgivings special. Last year I was working on my new house, trying to get it ready to move into. I was painting and packing and hauling until I dropped every day, but I took off Thanksgiving to spend the day with kids and friends. I had hoped to get into my new house by Thanksgiving, but it was a couple of weeks later before that happened.

The year before that was a difficult year, a year of betrayals. It hurt for a minute, but I just invited new friends to dinner and started making new traditions. Funny how much even a traditional holiday can change in only two short years. I never forget betrayal, but one thing I've worked on unpacking this past year is knowing what's my business and what is not. Other people have to live with their actions, but I don't have to let them camp out in my head. A lesson to give thanks for.

In 2012, I butchered turkeys. Turns out that was a one-time Thanksgiving event, but one I'm still glad I participated in. I have to admit, it's much easier and causes less mess to buy the turkey at Kroger a few days before. It doesn't give me much to write about though.

Today we celebrated our first Thanksgiving in my new house. I'm still working out the kinks, but it went pretty well. I need to buy a big dining room table with 3 or 4 leaves, but a new dishwasher, a gas fireplace, and some storm windows come before that. Owning a new old house means I never run out of things I need or want to buy.

Finally, this is Doc's first year with me. Poor little guy. He got thrown headfirst into his new family yesterday. He's doing OK though. He cried a lot last night and this morning unless I was holding him, but he's settling in. One guest or another held him most of the afternoon, except while we ate, but he's spent the evening on the floor next to the couch where I'm sitting. I hope he sleeps tonight, because I am exhausted. 

As the night winds down, I've got the turkey carcass on a slow simmer in the roaster so I can extend the holiday into winter with some turkey soup. The dishes are mostly washed -- thanks to an assembly line of guests. The refrigerator is filled with leftovers. And even the dogs enjoyed the trimmings off the bird. Plans were made for Christmas dinner, but I'm not looking that far ahead tonight.

Here's wishing you a happy and contented Thanksgiving. However you spent the day, I hope you found something to be grateful for. I am grateful for a holiday that's only about gratitude. Yeah, I know a lot of people have made it about shopping for Christmas, but I've never done that. I'll pay more just to keep the holiday of thanksgiving pure.