Two Pairs of Keds

"One for dress, one for everyday."

Confession & Confusion of a Social Media Specialist

It’s almost too much to take, isn’t it? Or, it is too much to take, but to ignore the latest tragedy seems childish in the face of such suffering.

Today, the headlines confirm the worst mass shooting in US history. A gunman walked into a LGBT bar in Florida and proceeded to kill people, because, if his father has it correctly, he was outraged by seeing two gay men kiss.

Imagine the panic and pandemonium. The outpouring of blood. Hearts broken. Lives shattered.

And in the background, our Republican presidential candidate, rather than expressing condolences and compassion, congratulates himself on “being right” about terrorism, according to Time news.

Yesterday, the headline was of a deranged fan of Christina Grimmie, who shot her during an autograph session. Reportedly, she greeted her killer with open arms. Shots fired. A life ended. In the days and months preceding, the dead are counted in black men and women. There are stories of rape, abduction, madness.

Part of my job is to create and to reflect news on social media. I struggle. Is it better to spread the word? Does it raise awareness? Direct dialogue that drives discussion? Does it make space for solutions? Or does it feed a future killer? Does the spread of the story create a sense of normalcy: “This happens in America. It’s what happens when people have guns. It’s what happens when people are different than me. It’s what happens.”

My heart wants to unplug. I have a vivid imagination. My empathy comes from a faith that is founded in a creator’s compassion and love for all. What god has created belongs solely to god. We cannot destroy it. We have no right to judge it. What we do not understand on earth may become clear in the hereafter. Or not. It’s possible that when we reach heaven, our confusion on earth simply will not matter.

But here, it’s a mess.

A friend recently attended a conference held by a global consulting firm that handles major national surveys specializing in health care issues and insurance across private and public concerns. What do you suppose was the top health concern of the next ten years?  Mental illness.

My husband works with the developmentally impaired and disabled. There is little funding, few and fewer resources, and a growing list of consumers. You don’t find many “friends of the disabled,” especially when they are adults, rather than children. If a disabled adult becomes a problem, they also become part of the criminal system.

I am not saying that all disabled persons become public offenders. And I’m not saying all public offenders are disabled. What is a family to do, though, if they believe their family member is about to crack? The family of today’s killer has apologized. Too late, but what proactive measures were available?

Evil is on a roll, here, friends. Hell on earth is separation from that which is good and true. To be separated from love, from the basic necessities of life – food, shelter, security – turns animals crazy. The phrase “mad from deprivation” is not poetic. From what are these killers deprived? What deprivation is at work in our society?

I want to unplug. But to remove myself from the reality of the world is a child’s blanket. For goodness’ sake, my prayer is for leadership that examines mental illness and the resources required for a holistic system of care, that can make wise decisions for this growing population. I pray for a legal system that is equipped to identify and prosecute using just measures.

On social media, we will see hashtags that pray for Orlando, for the LGBT community. Anymore, it feels like #platitude.

I was raised on the phrase, “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it at all.” Later in my life, I heard, “Never miss a good opportunity to shut up.” Yet, the written word wields power; it can be used for good. Confused about the profusion of social media, I confess to a slim hope that news coverage will drive awareness and fairness to prevail.

(Photo credit: Police officers outside of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. (Photo: AP) )




Your Treasure Buried

Tempted to Tarry. The mountain rumbles. You can feel it. Beneath your feet. In your chest. As you extend the awning over your courtyard. A change. There is something cataclysmic under the surface. …

Source: Your Treasure Buried

Your Treasure Buried

Tempted to Tarry.

The mountain rumbles.

You can feel it. Beneath your feet. In your chest. As you extend the awning over your courtyard.

A change. There is something cataclysmic under the surface.

Should you move? Take cover? Go to higher ground? Maybe you should visit a distant relative, whether the journey bodes pleasant or not?

The mountain coughs. Spews smoke.

Your children are playing in the street, some sort of ball with changing rules and shouts of laughter. Pull them from the game?

Business is being conducted. The magistrate’s marble hangs importantly over the lintel. Surely, if the village required shelter, he would sound the call?

FullSizeRender (1)A few tiles fall from a roof across the corsia. Shoddy workmanship? No, for the earth moves.

There is a moment, that paralyzing space that comprises fractions of seconds, where you realize that choices are few. What to take? What to leave? To whom do you call?

Pompeii in Ashes.

I have always had a fascination with the visceral story of Pompeii. That fleeting moment where decisions are made to leave, to flee, to stay, to ride it out, captures me. My breath is suspended. What would I have done? What would I do?IMG_2785

I am a terrible material creature. I like my things. I collect. My children know that there are separate collections of holiday decorations, china and dishes, art, and ephemera. By its very definition, ephemera is not meant to last. Why hold on?

Families, time immemorial, have saved the remainders of clans, tribes. We dig for reminders. We crave connection. We want to know that we have and do belong. We wish to leave, for posterity, that which we could not take with us.

Your treasure buried.

Today, I saw the buried treasure of the city of Pompeii. Certainly, there were surviving urns from trade vessels. Marbles and cement, statues, busts, lamps, urns. Wine casks. Pieces of floor and of frieze. Signs, like the one chiseled by a mother to her son upon his death. And IMG_2777amazingly fragile glass. How, precious flask, did you survive twenty-eight feet of ash?

And gold jewelry, the adornment of adults and of children. Was it not so hot that a child’s bracelet would melt? Or was it meant, historically, to be left behind?

I ask myself, what would I take, were I on the run, fleeing for my life? Today’s Syrian refugee experience requires the same question and response. And what, if I knew that my household life would be embalmed for all time, would I wish to be buried?


Thanks to the Kelsey Museum, at the University of Michigan, for its free exhibit. 

Leisure and Luxury in the Age of Nero: The Villas of Oplontis Near Pompeii
February 19–May 15, 2016




Peering up.

Learning, the process of education, is bound to change a person.

This is what we want, right? We want to grow, to gain, to earn, to expand.

Funny thing. You don’t always get to select the ways this impact will occur. You crack open the book, peer under the cover, read the content. And then, your view is changed.

Case in point: privilege.

I have never thought of myself as a person of privilege. Well…I have, in terms of the place I was born on the planet, which pretty much insures that I have a place to sleep, food to eat, and some sort of family life. When I was little, I was aware that running through grass was a pleasure not afforded to everyone. I thought about grass that grows up between blacktop cracks and dandelions that sprout between the sidewalk, the only nature of “city people.” I’m not sure that I thought cities had trees.

But privileged? No.

My first home was a trailer, but we soon moved to a small ranch house in front of the town graveyard near the reservoir. I ran around in flip flops. I went to 4-H camp for cooking and sewing. I hung out at the farm on which my mom grew up. I went to church, then to Sunday dinner, with beef and noodles, mashed potatoes, bread and butter, and pie for dessert. I learned how to milk a cow, bale hay, and put up corn. This is the pretty side.vintage mobile home 1

My grandparents on my father’s side did not come with such a bucolic story line. My dad’s father had VD. He worked on the railroad. Somehow, as a child, I was expected to know that a rail-hand’s ways led to wandering.

Walking home from cheer leading tryouts in fifth grade (I did not make the team, as I was woefully tall and awkward), my mom found me on my sidewalk route and picked me up. She was crying. My dad had been called in by the neighbor’s teenage daughters for watching them through binoculars. Not privileged. More like white trash.

At one point, my dad and his brothers had a physical fight at my grandma’s home one summer which led to years of their not speaking. On this side, my grandfather died young. My dad’s mom went on to marry two more times, one to a hard-drinking veteran who, now that I think back, was probably abusive. The other man was a factory worker with the nickname “Red.” Together, their idea of financial investments were Franklin Mint plates and horrid dolls, which overfilled their trailer.

Cumbered by cat-eye glasses, an overly tall and heavy build, and awkward social skills, by my family’s second move in two years – during the tragically dramatic seventh and eighth grades – I was far away from the farm. I waded into the exotic land of Cleveland and beyond to the professional suburbs of Jackson. I was gasping, out of water. Privileged? Try telling that to a crying adolescent girl.

So much of the way we see ourselves begins its definition in our childhood. Had you told me that the sheer fact that I was white made me special, I would have had no clue. There were race riots somewhere in a dark place called Detroit, with people called Black Panthers, but I thought it was because they were angry, violent people. I imagined their dandelions, pushing up through cement cracks. Did lack of grass make people mad? Crazed?

Now, this notion of privilege is pushing its way off the pages of text. I peer at it, as if I’m looking up from underneath at the surface of a sidewalk puddle. It shimmers and wrinkles. It distorts my view.

The climate of the campus in Ann Arbor makes me think differently about myself. There are people here who don’t want to know me, because they are minorities, different ethnicities, other socio-economic backgrounds. I used to want to travel globally. I thought a smile would open doors. Make friendships. Naive to think that people would rush to meet me, but this is what I thought. I also thought, and somehow still think, that which unites us is greater than what divides.

My youngest daughter used to vent her frustration at her older siblings by stating, in a scathing voice, “You don’t even know my life.” She was maybe three years old and precocious. Is this what we are all trying to say, at any age?

I peer up at this veneer, these days, of privilege. Too late to close the book. Education is a trip beyond your borders where growth seeps in, grass shooting up through the pavement.




The Cost of Calling. Hello?

Frequently, there is a portion of my brain split between two demographics. It’s uncomfortable, neither place entirely comfortable, which is basically how I feel at the sale rack of a shoe department at the mall.

As a social media specialist, also a mantle that is as scratchy to wear as a boiled wool scarf, I frequently explain the technological differences between two subsets of people.

Example 1
Technology Testy: I sit around people who have their faces in the screen of their phone. They are disassociated and rude. How can this occupy all their time? Don’t they see me sitting there?
Smart Phone Savvy: I am away from so many of my friends. Everyone is so busy. A quick text, a SnapChat, and we’re connected. We might not see each other. But we’re there.


Example 2
Technology Testy: No one writes thank you notes anymore. It’s a thing of the past. It’s like they can’t sit down and focus. I’m not even sure, through my gift, that I made a connection.
Smart Phone Savvy: I absolutely loved their gift. I appreciate the money completely. I thanked them when we were group chatting. It’s more significant to tell someone in person. (Pause.) Where do you put a stamp?

I do not adhere to the theory that it’s generational. It’s the Luddites versus Microsoftees (or Applettes). It’s like an extra gene. You’re born with it. You’re not. I have an 80 year old friend and a late-70’s step dad, both smoothly navigating the internet waters. They can search, post web maps, and copy pictures to Facebook with the best of them. And I know 40-somethings who administer the worst websites imaginable.

So it’s a thing.

Yeah. I love technology. I’m endlessly fascinated by the search features we almost take for granted. As a fourth-grader, I can still remember painstakingly crafting a report on Africa from the World BookWB Encyclopedia, magazines, and books, at the library, citing all their locations, with cut-out pictures from the out-of-circulation stack. There is a portion of me that would like to teach students how to use the library like the old days. You will appreciate the variety of locations from which publications originate, dammit.

let your fingers do the walkingBut now, as a graduate student, oh, how I love being able to punch up a topic and let my “fingers do the walking.” This is an old Yellow Pages ad jingle. Don’t know it? Look it up. Wait. You might not even know about Yellow Pages. Well, you can look that up, too.

But here’s where no one gets off free.

There is someone out there. And all they want is to hear from you.

We administer our time, popping texts back and forth with certain people, while selfishly waiting for others to reach out to us. We know, deep down, that we could absolutely make someone’s day with a phone call. Or a text. Or a Facebook post. And we hoard that time, technology misers, because we are busy. Short on time. So sorry. Later.

You could be forgiven, sins absolved, if we still had long distance charges. (Don’t know about that, either? Look it up. You paid by zone and by minutes. It sucked. But it put a precious tag on talking time. You savored each minute and despaired when the object of your affections rang off.) But you are not let off the hook.

The cost today is minimal and maybe that’s why we’ve treated it like a cheap commodity, rather than the rich and expansive asset that it is.

This is not about calling senior citizens, although if that’s the person in your life that needs a ring, great. Do it. But they’re not the only ones. We’re all included. Missing a friend? Disconnected from a relationship? Hello. Pick up the phone.





What’s in an institution?

What keeps us together?

What makes a unit? Unites? Makes ties that bind?

Does it take an institution to create that bond?

Take, for example, a student group or club. I’ve been asked to join MONTS (Michigan Organization of Non-Traditional Students). Divided, we wander aimlessly through the channels and byways that were built for full-time U-M cohorts. It’s a new group. I think there are fourteen members. Will we coalesce? Be more, together?

Another institution: marriage. Left to each other – without the vows, and the paper, and the ceremony before friends and family – are you entering into an institution? All the trappings are called “the institution of marriage.” It’s certainly tougher to break. But does it make stronger links?

I thought, for a long time, of friendship as an institution. I am deeply loyal. I don’t trust easily, and so, I thought the gift of sincere friendship was revered equally. Sure, you have differences. You cause pain. But you commit. Together through thick and think, you endure.

Turns out, I didn’t understand the premise. Friendship seems, now, a sliding scale. Slide in. Slide out. There are times of intensity. And times to walk away. I am stunned by how easy it is for some to walk away. They don’t even look back.

Would some sort of friendship vow (or family vow, for that matter), a formalized institution, raise the bar? Not enough to just be born into a subset. Or to enroll. Should we have formalized ritual at the onset? Declare our intentions?

sorry i'm late girl scout

Take Girl Scouts. This was not strictly a Girl Scout tenet, but it’s where I heard, “The way to have a friend is to be one.” The other night, I was due for one thing or another involving a friend and I did not want to go. This thought kept my foot on the gas pedal and my car headed in her direction. “On my honor, I will try…”

You make a pledge. A solemn vow. It’s not going to be easy to let go, even through the years. You can’t just say, “I didn’t want to.” Or think, “You’re not worth it,” or “But you hurt my feelings.” In the Institution of Friendship, you would say, “…to help other people at all times.”

This group I’m joining, MONTS, well, I’m going with an open mind. I would like to think what I am joining is a supportive group of people who are concerned with the welfare of one another. What I fear is that, like my misunderstanding of friendship, this will be something organized around the wants and needs of individuals.

Not an institution, at all, just another place to slide in, look around, and slide out.


Vintage Girl Scout postcard:
Vintage Girl Scout Uniform photo: Pinterest image (edited by J. Preston) 


Off Your Feed

Source: Off Your Feed

Off Your Feed

Days are short. My thoughts are short. Like milky winter days they shimmer, but lack form and shape.

One thought circling is that I am off my feed.

I used it to describe a friend who repeated a request to both Anne and me.

My daughter says to me, “What does that mean?”

And I explain, it’s an idiom. It’s agricultural. Animals get off their feed. They’re out of sorts, not eating well. Something may be wrong. Or it could right itself. Hard to say. It bears watching. For now, they’re just off their feed.

This happens to me after times of intense output. You, too?

My mother-in-law said to me, “I know something about you. You get quiet when you’re under stress.” She has known me for almost thirty-five years.

If you are this sort, and I don’t think there are many of us, anymore – like an endangered species – you curl up. You’re conserving energy. What I’ve come to think of as “Armadillo Mode,” you tuck and roll, tucking being the armadillo’s defense mechanism.

After a while, you pop out of the tuck, a gymnast without a landing mat. Ta da!

Lacking an insightful mother-in-law, people may have missed your landing. It’s disorienting. Where am I? Here, in the middle of January?

Wait. Classes have started. My meetings and organizations have taken up. I have commitments. Bills to pay. A new year of expectations, when I haven’t even had the time to get my bearings. Some worries from the old year linger, but fresh ones, without snow tracks, lie ahead.

Today, there is so much clamor for attention. I’ve been wronged! I need! I have! I’m working out, I’m quitting this or that, I’m falling out of love, I’m desperate, let me show you.

I do wonder how many of us are just off our feed. Quietly. No one but the stable master may notice. I will keep you in my prayers.


Photo credit: Milky Winter Syndrome, by Cattywampus (




New Year’s reflection.

Source: Lights

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