Friday, August 28, 2009

Facebook: Satisfying My Stalker Tendencies Since 2007

I've silently and verbally heralded the virtues of Facebook (FB), but I've never written about it in my blog (although I've been meaning to) until now.

I first heard about FB in probably 2006 or 2007, when it was primarily a social networking tool for college students. Working in a college, I would often see our student workers logged in, but they would also be really involved with MySpace, and I didn't see much value in either. Soon enough, though, I heard that I should create a FB page in case prospective students would like to connect with me to learn about our graduate programs. So, onto FB I went, and created a professional-looking profile which went on to attract no attention whatsoever. After that, I would check the page maybe once every four months to see if there was any action - there wasn't.

Then something happened: FB exploded! I mean it literally exploded as more people started to create profiles and, for me, FB shifted from a recruiting tool to my own person time capsule. Friends from the past, current friends, long-lost relatives, and co-workers began to "friend" me, and I, in turn, would browse their lists looking for friends to invite to connect.

Young, old, it didn't matter. FB seemed to fill a need (actually, a desire, more than need, I would expect) for people to reconnect with those who knew them as their "former selves." I suspect in many cases, it provided validation and absolution, as in: "See how good I look now? I'm really doing okay..." Whatever the motivation, it doesn't matter. I've heard people call FB "CrackBook" (like the drug) because it's so addicting; and it is!!

Many articles have been written about how older age groups have hijacked FB from the younger generations, and how the young folks will soon be leaving FB and creating a new social network to get away from their parents and the adults who are now gaining on them to make up the biggest demographic of FB users. I say, "Adios! Don't let the door hit you on the way out!"

The advent of technology and the Internet often gets a bad rap because many say it creates a distance between people, and that no one ever communicates "face-to-face" anymore. But, I feel really fortunate to live in a time where I can reestablish relationships with people who were an important part of my younger life. Not to mention staying in touch with those faraway relatives that you only see once every couple of years, if you're lucky. Sure, it's sort of mundane to know that your college buddy has a really important meeting this morning and is then heading to the gym for a workout, but it breeds a certain familiarity that is both engaging and comforting.
Want to see for yourself? Send me a friend request and off you go!

Friday, August 21, 2009

In Praise of the Staycation

Today is the last day of my week's vacation spent hanging around the house. I'm quite lazy by nature, so having the week spread out ahead of me with not a lot planned was a real dream. Alas, why is it that vacation weeks always go so fast and work weeks always go so slow?

I made a to-do list at the beginning of the week and I'm happy to report I was able to check everything off. This exciting list contained such compelling activities as "pick up a 'new driver' handbook at the community center" and "file kid's stuff in their bins in the attic." Oh! And don't forget the very necessary, "Get a new watch battery." Mundane stuff, but ultimately satisfying because these are things that have been on the list for a while now. The highlights of the week were being able to take several dips in grandma's pool, and we were blessed with great swimming weather during what some have said has been the nicest week of the summer.

I persuaded Mark to take today off so we can spend my last day of vacation much like the previous day's vacations: checking stuff off the list. Today's exciting activities will include taking Cam out to look for some playing cards he's been wanting, and checking out couches to go with the new rug (which is not here yet).

Try not to get too overwhelmed with excitement!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Meanest Mother

This morning Annalisse was lamenting the curse of having a really "strict" mother and how upset she was that I would not give her permission to sneak out and go into the village late at night when she and her friend Mo spent the night in the tent this coming Thursday (I know! You think she would further her cause by not telling me her intentions!). The funny thing is, I don't think I'm that strict a mother. A little obsessive about their whereabouts and safety (what parent isn't?), and probably a little too involved in their activities - but strict? That's a good one! Her arguments remind me of a poem my friend Meg read at her mother's funeral service. It illustrates the great divide in perception that's been going on between mothers and their kids for generations. It's long, but good. Enjoy!

"The Meanest Mother"

I had the meanest mother in the whole world. While other kids ate candy for breakfast, I had to have cereal, eggs or toast. When others had cokes and candy for lunch, I had to eat a sandwich. As you can guess, my supper was different than the other kids' also. But at least, I wasn't alone in my sufferings. My sister and two brothers had the same mean mother as I did.

My mother insisted upon knowing where we were at all times. You'd think we were on a chain gang. She had to know who our friends were and where we were going. She insisted if we said we'd be gone an hour, that we be gone one hour or less - not one hour and one minute. I am nearly ashamed to admit it, but she actually struck us. Not once, but each time we had a mind of our own and did as we pleased. That poor belt was used more on our seats than it was to hold up Daddy's pants. Can you imagine someone actually hitting a child just because he disobeyed? Now you can begin to see how mean she really was.

We had to wear clean clothes and take a bath. The other kids always wore their clothes for days. We reached the height of insults because she made our clothes herself, just to save money. Why, oh why, did we have to have a mother who made us feel different from our friends? The worst is yet to come. We had to be in bed by nine each night and up at eight the next morning. We couldn't sleep till noon like our friends. So while they slept-my mother actually had the nerve to break the child-labor law. She made us work. We had to wash dishes, make beds, learn to cook and all sorts of cruel things. I believe she laid awake at night thinking up mean things to do to us.

She always insisted upon us telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, even if it killed us- and it nearly did. By the time we were teenagers, she was much wiser, and our life became even more unbearable. None of this tooting the horn of a car for us to come running. She embarrassed us to no end by making our dates and friends come to the door to get us. If I spent the night with a girlfriend, can you imagine she checked on me to see if I were really there. I never had the chance to elope to Mexico. That is if I'd had a boyfriend to elope with. I forgot to mention, while my friends were dating at the mature age of 12 and 13, my old fashioned mother refused to let me date until the age of 15 and 16. Fifteen, that is, if you dated only to go to a school function. And that was maybe twice a year.

Through the years, things didn't improve a bit. We could not lie in bed, "sick" like our friends did, and miss school. If our friends had a toe ache, a hang nail or serious ailment, they could stay home from school. Our marks in school had to be up to par. Our friends' report cards had beautiful colors on them, black for passing, red for failing. My mother being as different as she was, would settle for nothing less than ugly black marks.

As the years rolled by, first one and then the other of us was put to shame. We were graduated from high school. With our mother behind us, talking, hitting and demanding respect, none of us was allowed the pleasure of being a drop-out. My mother was a complete failure as a mother. Out of four children, a couple of us attained some higher education. None of us have ever been arrested, divorced or beaten his mate. Each of my brothers served his time in the service of this country. And whom do we have to blame for the terrible way we turned out? You're right, our mean mother. Look at the things we missed. We never got to march in a protest parade, nor to take part in a riot, burn draft cards, and a million and one other things that our friends did. She forced us to grow up into God-fearing, educated, honest adults.

Using this as a background, I am trying to raise my three children. I stand a little taller and I am filled with pride when my children call me mean. Because, you see, I thank God, He gave me the meanest mother in the whole world.

written by Bobbie Pingaro (1967)

Family Picnic Pix

As promised, here are some pictures from the picnic we had when Aunt Jeannine visited. This one features Mom, Aunt Jeannine, with their (very tall) sister Aunt Jackie in the middle:

This one brings to mind that old song, "Cameron and Bonnie, sitting in a tree..." (look closely).

And, here's the whole fam-damily, including the kids, my sisters, and our cousin Brenda:

In the words of my wise 13 year old, "Boy, those Canadians sure know how to party!"

Sunday, August 16, 2009

They say the best thing about retirement is...

...Sunday night! That saying also goes for the Sunday night before a week of vacation! Which starts NOW!

I've been really lax about blogging lately. I do have some ideas I'd like to blog about, but with the kids home it's been really hard to get a block of time on the computer. That's mostly true, but is probably more of an excuse for the fact that I'm really busy right now, and simply have not taken the time to blog!

Here are some highlights of the last week:
  • Last weekend we travelled to Massena for a family picnic with Aunt Jeannine and Uncle Larry who were visiting from Edmonton, Alberta. I think I've written before about how awesome Aunt Jeannine is, and it was GREAT to see a bunch of other relatives all at once. My super nephew even taught the kids some drinking games (using gatorade)...that was just great.
  • Cam is still really busy with camp. He's home this week but goes back on Sunday for another week. In all, he will have spent five weeks at 4H Camp Bristol this summer. He would move there if he could!
  • Annalisse is raking in the dough babysitting this summer. Last week alone she made $140! Of course, it burns a hole in her pocket! This past weekend she went to spend a couple of days with Aunt Mary in LaFargeville, and between shopping and hanging out in Alex Bay for Pirate's weekend, they both got their fill of girl time.

I just got back from Saranac Lake for my annual girls weekend with Sue, Lorie, Heather and Gina. It's always a wonderful, fun, relaxing couple of days with my girls who mean so much to me!!

Getting back to the original point of this post: I'm off for a week's vacation! We don't have much planned as the week is filling up already for Annalisse with babysitting jobs and hanging with her peeps. But, with Mom home now we'll get some swimming in (Summer is FINALLY here) and just generally hang around with Jasper. I expect he'll also reap the benefits of my week off with a couple of trips to the creek!

I will post pictures of my Massena weekend with Aunt Jeannine soon (Annalisse has them on her computer). Until then....stay cool!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Here Comes Trouble

Last night, after months of saving her hard-earned babysitting money, Annalisse bought the "phone of her dreams." I was very proud that she was able to save over $200 through her mother's helper gigs, and, if you know Annalisse, you know the temptation she struggled with anytime she went into a clothing store or to the mall.

Another milestone: I finally gave in and added texting to all the family phones. Hey! At least that makes us one of the last families with teenagers to give in (I'm sure there are other teens who do not have texting, but there sure are a lot more who do!). I've been reluctant to get texting, especially for Annalisse (Cam doesn't care about it), because it drives me crazy when kids sit around texting instead of actually talking to each other. But, lately I've found a couple of practical reasons for texting, especially since the kids are becoming more independent and sometimes they, or you, need to send a quick message about a change of plans or location that doesn't really need a phone call.

We will continue to monitor this situation closely so the worst aspects of texting do not rear their ugly head(s) in the Baker family. I think it also goes without saying that texting during driving will be absolutely FORBIDDEN (not to mention that it's now illegal in NY state), and if I see it don't even want to know.

(Mary: thanks again for your lack of support during the period that Annalisse DID NOT have texting and for not backing me up when I refused to get it.)