I Love Facebook, Dammit.

May 31st, 2014

facebook-evolution-640As I mentioned in my last post, I decided to give up Facebook for the month of May, as an experiment, and in hopes of getting more (novel) writing done.

I tend check Facebook multiple times a day, sometimes in an almost compulsive manner. Not so much when I’m writing fiction or nonfiction, when I generally use software that turns off my internet connection, but when I’m doing my copywriting work, and need to keep email and various websites available. (And yes, I have the software that lets you block social media sites, and I use it sometimes but, hey!, there’s my iPhone with Facebook on it.)

But I worried that Facebook was getting in the way of my productivity in general, distracting me too much, and pulling me off track too frequently. (Oh the rabbit holes that are YouTube or Funny or Die or The New York Times — and a good link on Facebook can easily send me tumbling down into them…)

There was also the weird sensation of a sort of Facebook consciousness when going about my everyday routine. I’ll have some funny experience or make an observation and think: I should share this on Facebook! And how would I word it? And who will have a witty comment in response? It sort of freaks me out a little, that my brain has gotten trained that way.

Anyway, I decided — inspired by #BoNoProMo, “Boston Novel in Progress Month” — to take the leap and take the month off.

And you know what? I hated it.

It was, to my surprise, not that hard to resist logging on. I didn’t actually disable my account, for various reasons. I just generated a crazy random password — one of those insane ones we’re all supposed to use to foil hackers, like fN45$s<Qnn..?P242z7 * — that I’d never be able to remember, and wrote it down and hid it away. But I could have logged on if I really wanted to go through the trouble.

haven’t missed the dopey “copy and paste this status if you believe that it’s wrong to kill puppies” type things. I don’t miss people having political debates that go absolutely nowhere. (And I don’t miss getting pulled into them myself.) And for God sake’s people, ENOUGH WITH THE BUZZFEED QUIZZES. (I’m convinced the results are just randomly generated anyway.)

But I really have missed the camaraderie, and the updates and the sharing and humor and, yes, even the dopey viral videos. I miss the tributes to people, famous and not, who pass on. I miss congratulating people on their successes and sending them prayers in difficult times.

I’ve realized that as someone who is self-employed, and spends most of her day sitting in front of her computer, alone, Facebook really is my version of an office water cooler or kitchen or cigarette break. It’s my touchpoint with the rest of humanity, and with the people I care about, or am nostalgically curious about, or (in some cases) can’t even remember how I know, but have a fun FB rapport with. It’s my little breather and reward when I’m working my ass off — whether it’s working on my novel or writing website copy about medical testing equipment.

And, truthfully, I’m not sure I’ve been any more productive than usual without Facebook. There’s the fact that there are plenty of other ways to distract oneself on the Internet (my Twitter presence has definitely gone up, but Twitter sort of leaves me cold compared to Facebook.) But the larger reason is that I think that Facebook breaks actually give me the re-fuel I need (or have conditioned myself to need) to be productive.

So, contrary to some people’s theories, I will not be saying a permanent goodbye to Facebook. I can’t wait to get back on.

BUT there are a few changes I’m going to make. First of all, I will not be putting Facebook back on my iPhone. I just don’t need that level of distraction and connection throughout the day. I don’t want to have a knee-jerk look-at-my-phone impulse whenever I get a spare or quiet moment.

Second of all, I’m going to try to downshift the number of times per day I check Facebook (I’m going to uncheck the “keep me logged in” box), and keep it for “dessert” after I finish a task, rather than something to snack on in the middle of it.

OK, wait; that analogy doesn’t quite work, because if the task is the meal, you don’t snack in the middle of a meal, right? I suppose it would be more like saying that I’m not going to take bites of my cake in the middle of eating my spaghetti and salad. Because that would be gross.

No spaghetti and cake! I should write that on a post-it and put it on my computer. (Elsa would read it and say: Yum! Is that what’s for dinner?!)

Or, to change metaphors, I don’t want Facebook to be that annoying co-worker who comes over and starts blabbing about the weekend or bitching about office politics or whatever, and WON’T LEAVE, even when you literally start typing while they’re still there, and you end up just pretending you need to go to the bathroom so you can get up and walk away. (Except — another analogy flaw — that co-worker sucks, and Facebook doesn’t.)

I’m glad I took this Facebook fast, if for no other reason than to prove to myself that I could do it. I am not a cyborg yet. But I also feel less ashamed about saying, loud and proud, I love Facebook, dammit. And with a few tweaks in my usage, I’m looking forward to rejoining the village.

So…what did I miss?


A Zillion Down, Three to Go.

May 20th, 2014

10171727_10202834606199352_4874946374475899127_nYesterday marked the end of Clio’s fourth to last round of treatment. Only THREE MORE LEFT!!

What does this mean?

Only three more doses of vincristine. This is the stuff largely responsible for the fact that while Clio’s got lots more hair than she did when she was getting doxyrubicin, it’s still pretty thin and not growing very fast. I expect her to be sporting a luxurious mane by Fall! Vincristine is also responsible (we think) for the fact that Clio still can’t walk or run at her pre-cancer speed, and her gait is a little funny when she does. Her Olympic track and field training will commence in August.

Only 12 more weekly doses of Methotrexate. Three of them, she’ll get at the clinic when she gets her vincristine. The rest, I administer myself at home. Since last summer, two weeks out of every three, we get a home visit from a nurse, who accesses Clio’s port, draws blood for labs, and leaves the port accessed. Once Clio’s lab numbers come back, usually the next day, I get the go-ahead to give her her Methotrexate. It’s delivered from an infusion company, along with syringes full of saline flush and heparin and gloves and alcohol wipes. And I get to play nurse.

The process made me insanely nervous at first, but now it’s become second nature: Alcohol wipe, saline flush, alcohol wipe, chemo, alcohol wipe, saline flush, alcohol wipe, heparin lock. In fact, the hardest part is getting the damned dressing off the port needle at the end. (Imagine having to peel the world’s biggest, stickiest bandaid off your child’s chest. Oh, and the band-aid is covering a needle that pokes into your child’s skin.) Then I pull out the port needle — still sort of scary — and off she goes. Read the rest of this entry »


Stunted

May 16th, 2014
Grocery store scavenger hunt (Yes, I'm brilliant.) The girls wanted to find something with Paul Newman on it.* (This picture has nothing to do with this post. But cute, right?)

Grocery store scavenger hunt (Yes, I’m brilliant.) The girls wanted to find something with Paul Newman on it.* This picture has nothing to do with the topic(s) of this post. But it’s cute, right?

This post, as titled, could be about this blog. Or “stalled” perhaps more aptly. Not sure why, but I just haven’t felt compelled to write much here lately. That is, I think of little tiny things I could write here…glorified Facebook statuses (stati?) really. But nothing meaty enough for a whole post.

I’ve also stayed away because I’m  trying to stay focused on the novel I’m writing. As those of you who follow my page over on Facebook know, I’m taking a Facebook vacation for the month of May as part of BoNoProMo – Boston Novel in Progress Month, initiated by my friend Lisa Borders. The idea is to spend 10 hours a week on our novels. I’m definitely not hitting that goal, nor did I think I would,  but I definitely *am* succeeding in spending more time writing. I’m also on board (sort of) with another writing pep rally / challenge called the Muse100, which is to write for 30 minutes every day for 100 days. I’m modifying that to simply writing every day, even if it’s just five minutes, forever. (Knowing that, there are SOME days it obviously won’t be possible. Like if I’m ever in a coma, for example.)

Wait. Where was I? Oh yeah — stunted. And the real reason for the name of the post: Read the rest of this entry »


Follow The Yellow Brick Free Stuff!

April 26th, 2014

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I’m writing this post while we’re watching The Wizard of Oz, so forgive me if I sit and think some more accidentally insert words if I only had a brain from the movie into what I’m writing.  It’s a perfect movie day, really — a rainy Saturday, Clio on steroids and not feeling well, Elsa recovering from a sleepover, and me with some sort of virus myself because I can’t think. Won’t you take me with you?

Apples! Oh, look!

OK, OK, I’ll stop.

So. These treatment rounds of Clio’s always, strangely, take me by surprise. I mean, they shouldn’t. I guess it’s just that they’re so much easier than they were last year when she was on high-dose steroids and more chemo that I forget how difficult even this year’s lower-key treatment weeks kinda are, for her and for all of us. Poor kid came home last night at 9:00 from her first ever sleepover party because she just wanted to sleep in her own bed. (Fortunately, Alastair and I still got to finish our dinner out! Ha!)

And this week’s treatment actually kicked off in a pretty fun way: On Wednesday, all four of us went to the clinic, where Alastair played music in the waiting room, along with his producer / collaborator / frequent side-guy Anand. (See pic above, and see a quick video, including crazy kooky dancing from Clio, over on my Facebook page.) There wasn’t a big crowd, but the folks who were there enjoyed it.

Last week was also — because it was April vacation — sibling week at the clinic (how cool is that, right?), so they had a special session for siblings, with food and activities, which Elsa enjoyed. Several of the families we’ve gotten to know a bit happened to be at the clinic too, and it was nice to see them and catch up, compare notes.

As one of the many wonderful people I’ve met on this crappy little boat trip once put it, “Cancer is the worst. But you meet the best people.” Amen.

Now. Time to give away some free stuff! If you are interested in any or all of these, please leave a comment in which you  1.) Specify which items you’re interested by number (1, 2, and/or 3)   2.) Use your real email address in the form where it asks for your email, so I can contact you if you win  3.) Write something about the Wizard of Oz — a favorite part, associated memory, etc.  (You don’t actually have to do #3, but wouldn’t it be fun?) Read the rest of this entry »


Escaping, Clinging, Rising

April 19th, 2014

photo-3I‘m enjoying my last couple of hours at Wellspring House, a sort of B&B for writers out in Western Massachusetts, in a beautiful little town. I came here for a week way back in 2011 to work on Double Time and it was a fantastically productive time. You get a room with a desk and a comfy chair and a bed, and there’s a big living room and a shared kitchen. It’s a monastic little existence. Lots of time for quiet work and reflection, long walks or runs, occasional chats with other writers, if there are any around.

I could only manage a short visit this time around, which has been a sort of torture. When I go away like this to write (which I’ve only been able to do a handful of times) it takes me a half day at least just to shake off the distractions and rhythms of my everyday routine and get into a groove. This time was even harder as I’d taken a few weeks’ break from the novel I’m working on while we were dealing with all our house stuff. (Update: We found buyers for our house last week!) Still, I’ve managed to get about ten pages down, which I’m content with for two days’ work. Especially given that I had some real-world (i.e. day job) intrusions on Friday. C’est la vie.

I do get some writing done at home, in the midst of work and household responsibilities and the kids and all the rest. I aim for few hours a week. But it’s hard. Not just carving out the time itself,  but carving out the mental space. I can retreat to my office for a couple of hours in the morning before I dig into my day-job work, or settle in with a latte at one of the local coffee shops. But I feel like the rest of life is sort of peeking in the window at me: The groceries that need buying. My inbox filling while I write, and looming deadlines. Thoughts of the hectic evening and morning routines ahead.

I am much more productive when I can step away from it all; dwell in the dream that is whatever I’m working on. I’m going to apply to a couple of residencies this spring and summer. I’d like to go to this place. I’d love to go to this place, and have applied twice, but not gotten in. My stuff may not be “literary” enough for them, but I’m just going to keep on applying every year until I wear them down and they take me. Heh.

Funny, I don’t really miss the girls while I’m away on these jaunts. I mean, I’m happy to come home to them. But I don’t feel any sort of longing.

Lately, though (segue to next topic in this rambly sort of post…) I’ve been feeling a certain longing for them even when I am home. I think it has to do with moving, or maybe with turning 40, which I did last week. Or maybe just the number seven, which they are, and which feels so much bigger than six.

Elsa's letter to Narnia.

Elsa’s letter to Narnia.

I want them to stay little. I want it to slow down. I want them to build me trains out of paper (Clio’s latest “present” for me, to move toys and things around, she says) and draw “I love you mama” pictures forever and ever. These days, any time they want to crawl up on my lap, I let them. I spend more time with them at bedtime, just talking and cuddling.

I don’t want this to be the last or even the second to last year they believe in the Easter bunny. I want them to keep believing in magic. I am clinging to them in a way I never have before. A desperate kind of clinging.

And I’m also haunted by this sense of  doubt — this wondering if I treasured their toddler and preschool days enough. So much was so hard and intense and exhausting about that time. I wish I’d been more patient. I wish I hadn’t wished them older and more rational and less whiny and needy. And yet I know that even as I had those thoughts I did my best to push them away. I periodically reminded myself to treasure, treasure, treasure. Seize the day, instead of just looking forward to the end of the day. Stay in the moment. Be mindful. But mindfulness is so hard. Especially when you’re in the thick of parenting.

And then sometimes I feel just downright angry that there’s been the whole stupid cancer thing right in the middle of this blossoming that’s been the girls’ fifth and sixth (well, technically sixth and seventh) years. You know, no big deal. Just cancer. 

I don’t know. Maybe I’m having a touch of late onset seasonal affective disorder in response to this endless, brutal winter. Or maybe it’s the limbo-ness of our situation right now,  still in our current home, but on our way out. Limbo is hard. And transitions are harder for me than they used to be. I haven’t had a life transition quite this big in a long time.

Maybe once it warms up for good I’ll feel better. Maybe I’ll be infused with the spirit of resurrection tomorrow. Even though I don’t consider myself Christian anymore, on Easter I can’t help feeling Christian-y. Or Pagan-y, I suppose. Out of darkness, into light and life. Not a life that’s the same as before, but one that’s new, and beautiful in its own way, and maybe more enlightened. (Buddhist-y!) And hey, why not Jewish-y while I’m at it? Out of Egypt, into the promised land.

Hallelujah, y’all.

Last Easter.

Last Easter.

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Also last easter