Friday, August 31, 2012

Heartbreak & Love on Facebook

Florence Detlor declined my friend request.  Yes, that’s her real name, Florence Detlor.  She seems like a lovely person but there it is.  I’m rebuffed and I don’t care. 

I did hear that she’s spending all her time responding to those on her wait list.  The wannabes, the hangers-on.   

Everyone who’s anyone wants to suck up to Florence. 

Surely you’ve heard of Florence Detlor:  At 101 she’s the oldest member of Facebook.  Had her picture taken with Mark Zuckerberg and everything; but I don’t care.   

So what if she’s the reigning Queen of FB?  I would still call her out for breaking my heart, but it appears that she didn’t turn me away.  Facebook did!  Facebook inserted itself into my affairs with a hollow apology and an abrupt declaration - Sorry, Florence has too many pending requests for her friendship.   

As I said, everybody and his dog.  

I guess Mr. Z is her social secretary now.  Just because she’s OLD.  Really!  I think he’s getting a little big for his britches.  Who’s he to say Florence has too many friends? 

All right, I’ll admit it.  I don’t know Florence.  I’m not an acquaintance.  We didn’t go to school together.  After all, she graduated from Occidental College before my parents even met. 

But I’m not one of those who just goes about adding “friends” to pump my numbers.  I'm selective.  I have standards.   

You won’t find me “sharing” at random either.  Oh no.  I see a lot of cute puppies in my newsfeed that you’ll never see.   

OK, look.  That sounds selfish and it’s not what I meant.  I’m not keeping the puppies all to myself.  I just mean that I don’t knee-jerk share because the caption says, “Share if you love puppies.”   

As it turns out, I’m a little sick of puppies cluttering my newsfeed because some “friends” with weaker constitutions cannot stand up to the hysterical dares to share.  They seem to think if they don’t re-post every snapshot of every pooch with pleading eyes and a tilted noggin it might look like they don’t love puppies.  We can’t have that. 

And what about those posts that seem to shake their heads in dismay, expressing sadness at how few will re-post this American flag.  You don’t even care enough to click the button?!  You don’t support our troops or love your country?  I see.

How about this one - I love my kids more than life itself.  I will be there for them anytime, anywhere, no matter what.  Share if you love your kids and would do anything for them.

Oh man. 

That’s some sophisticated psychological bullying.  And it’s hard to resist.  Better to go ahead and “share” than to be thought an un-American bad parent by the 687 friends of the friends I’ve forgotten were on my friend list.  Right? 

Wrong! I’m just contrary enough to make this resolution:  If it says, “Share if...” I won’t share it.  You can’t make me.  

I confess it feels a little weird to be so defiant.  I’ve always been a good girl. 

But once, as an adult, I visited a church of the same persuasion I attended as a child back in Oklahoma.  The sermon, titled “Satan Wants You Dead,” reminded me of the myriad reasons I left that denomination to begin with – all the talk about what a bad person I am.   

In the lobby after the service, the minister and his wife greeted me and asked if I’d had a chance to sign their guest book.  “Yes, I did,” I replied, meaning I’d had the chance, but chosen not to.  I was glad I didn’t succumb to the pressure.  But now I understand how they must have felt when they checked the book later to find I declined their request.   

So I think I could deal if Florence herself chose not to add me to her long list of admirers.  I just wanted to be among those showing appreciation since she appears to be a life-long learner and a classy dame.  It’s OK.  I’m not hurt. 

But wait!  What’s this?!  Florence accepted my friend request?!  I was in line after all!  I’ll be her friend #1446!   

Thanks Mark, wherever you are.   

Share if you love Facebook.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Chocolate and the Suggestible Mind

My newest buddy whom I’ve never met, Charles Duhigg, journalist and author of The Power of Habit:  Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, has the best idea I’ve heard in a while that could go wildly awry:  He says to form a good habit, we need only deceive our brains with chocolate. 

Now don’t get me wrong; I’m squarely behind a belief in the brain’s gullibility and the deceptive powers of chocolate.  In fact, I’m a pioneer in the field.  I’ve completed concentrated semi-scientific studies in my own private laboratory.  I’ve applied the concepts and replicated my experiments.  And now that we have a new champion, in the interest of fairness and forward thinking, I’ll don the lab coat again. 

Oh yes.  I’m down with the hypothesis that forming good habits requires chocolate and tricking your brain.  My brain is already so tricked.  And I don’t mean like a teenager’s ride. 

I haven’t told my brain the truth since Spanx.  Or “skinny jeans.”  Or fat free fruit loops.  Having been off the truth train for many miles of track, my brain might not even be able to distinguish fact from pie-in-the-sky fantasy.  Pie?  Where?  I don’t see any pie! 

See what I mean?  

Given my brain’s current state, I don’t think trying to slip chocolate past the gray matter is going to be all that challenging.  I majored in rationalization at the school of Really, Who Knew?  Therefore, my hopes are high for the prospect of deluding myself into a new life-altering routine starring my favorite downfall from See’s.   

Let’s explore. 

Duhigg (Don’t you just want to pinch his cheek and call him Doohickey?) says the formula for creating a “good” new habit to replace the lifelong familiar self-defeating habit you’ve theoretically extinguished through application of undisclosed self torture is this:  Cue - Routine - Reward.   

In the dark days of bad habits, the formula played out something like this:  Cue – Oh my goodness!  It’s 10am.  Time for my bonbon!   

Routine – locate said confection and consume delicately.  Repeat until shame, guilt or good sense sets in.   

Reward – yumminess. 

When I set about becoming perfect evermore by making resolutions and gritting my teeth, I find that I’m skilled at Step 1, cues.  They’re not that difficult, after all – look at the clock.  Set the alarm.  Gracious me!  It’s already midmorning!  Time for my rejuvenating, healthful workout.  

I’ve even managed Step 2 with reasonable ease and established an exercise routine:  I go to the gym and workout madly for the prescribed 55 minutes.  I get red-faced and sweat.  I stand around after the U-Jam class in my stretchy pants; mop my brow; walk with an athletic swagger and relish the intrinsic value of the workout.  Oh yeah.  I’m good. 

So why does my doofus brain dread the routine and invent every lame excuse to avoid it? 

According to Thingamabob it’s in Step 3, the reward.  I wander afield in cementing the new, more desirable, life-affirming habit because I’ve essentially skipped the reward!  Or, more accurately, I’ve tried to bully my brain into believing that baked banana chips and tofu are rewarding.  No wonder my enthusiasm fizzles!  No yumminess. 

Even the most naive brain can see that eight glasses of water and a celery stalk do not constitute a reward.  All the gold stars and atta boys in the weight room cannot compete with chocolate.  What was I thinking? 

Whatchamacallit says that we need to give ourselves a real reward.  One our brains will recognize as desirable.  Something we already love, like chocolate. 

Instead of a salad, he says, after a workout reward yourself with a small piece (of course small, you nut!)  of chocolate.  That is, if you like chocolate.  If not, then maybe a thimbleful of beer.  Even a Hershey’s Kiss should be enough to make your workout something your brain hopes for. 

According to Dofunny, even though we know the exercise doesn’t cause the chocolate Kiss to appear, like a lab that fetches forever in happy anticipation of his chewy treat - our childlike minds form the association nevertheless.   

After as few as 10 days of repeating the Cue, Routine, and Chocolate Reward, voila!  You’re hard wired for a new life. 

What could possibly go wrong?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Me and Mulder, We Believe

On the “X-Files,” I stood with Mulder.  His motto, my motto:  I want to believe.

In fact, I do believe.  I love the mysterious and the unexplainable because so many events in my life fall into those categories.  Accepting that sensation of ‘something more’ in my daily existence adds a personal ‘God particle.’

And for me, Scully and her skepticism constituted buzz kill wrapped in a wet blanket.  Come on Scully!  Don’t you see it?  The beauty and hope of the enigma. 

It doesn’t take too much to keep me convinced that there’s more to life than the superficial, the mundane, and the rote.  I love knowing who’s on the phone before I answer. Or when I dreamed about the long-lost friend before she called.  

It made me smile when I felt my mother, gone since 1977, urging me to pick up Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Red Headed League” at the library.  Of course I knew she was a red head, but my grandma didn’t tell me until later that mom was an avid fan of Sherlock Holmes.

At a recent dinner party I sat near a lovely woman, “Ms. Jones.”  She’s a retired teacher, so we had our education backgrounds in common.  We chatted and got comfortable.  Then, as though compelled, she told me a story that floated in the halls of her consciousness: 

At home in the mode of creating order and eliminating the superfluous, she found herself sifting through boxes and stacks of papers and pictures and books, making decisions about what could stay and what must go. 

In the process, she ran across a book by Dale Evans Rogers (Roy’s wife of 51years).  The book, Angel Unaware:  A Touching Story of Love and Loss, told the story of the Rogers’ daughter, Robin, who lived less than two years. 

My dinner companion puzzled over the find.  She didn’t recall acquiring the book.  She vaguely remembered the story of the Rogers’ heartbreak, but…?  How did this book find its way into her home? 

On opening the cover, the mystery deepened, for there she found Dale Evans’ signature.  A signed copy!   

She leafed through the pages and saw that the story is told from the viewpoint of the child as she looks back to earth from heaven.  Her sweet voice recounts the trials and trauma of coming into the world with multiple devastating birth defects.  The intended ‘take away’ is that throughout their ordeal, little Robin brought joy to her parents, pulled them closer to each other and enhanced their lives in myriad ways. 

My dinner companion shook her head, unsure what to make of her discovery.  The story, while touching, had no special significance for her.  Still, without reasoning why, she knew she would keep it.  She found a spot on her bookshelf and tucked it in, then moved on to the purging at hand. 

Later that week with order restored in her home my new friend received an invitation to the 40th year reunion of students she’d known in her classroom.  She prevailed upon her husband and they attended the event. 

She felt honored and happy to be among her former students and to find them doing so well.  Many of them approached her with hugs and fond stories of their adolescence and her contribution to their successful lives.  

As the evening drew to a close a final alum came toward her saying, “Remember me, Ms. Jones?”   In fact, Ms. Jones didn’t have a strong memory of this student. 

“I’m the one who lent you that book….Angel Unaware.  Remember?” 

Well of course she remembered, now.  She studied the face before her and listened to her former student’s story of the troubles in her life.  Remarkable.   

And the book had been a loan!  Of course, Ms. Jones made arrangements to return it to the one who now needed its comforting message. 

Now tell me, Scully, how was it that Ms. Jones unearthed that forgotten book and gave it a ‘safe’ place in her bookcase just in time to be reunited with its owner?   

Coincidence?  Sure, Scully, I’d like a neon sign saying ‘a merging of the cosmic consciousness created this meaningful episode of seeming serendipity.’   

But even without it, I believe.

Friday, August 10, 2012

To Mars ~ Kicking and Screaming

I would have moved to TEXAS.  That should give you an idea of my sweet, loving, altruistic nature.  I was willing to forsake my Okie sensibilities and relocate to TEXAS if my husband’s job required it. 

OK.  I’ve quit gritting my teeth.  My fingers have unclenched and I can type again.  I can go on.

My point is I can embrace change if I must.  I’ll drink lemonade all day and carry a sow’s ear purse.  TEXAS is one thing.  But I don’t know if I could move to Mars.

Oh, don’t kid yourself.  Ever since they navigated the rover Curiosity onto the surface of the red planet, NASA scientists have been talking right out loud about Mars being the next home for civilization.

As you know, Curiosity is the Hummer-sized robot now snooping around near the Gale Crater, at least 36 million miles away, on Mars.  Curiosity’s stated mission: not only to see if Mars could ever have supported small life forms called microbes, but also to determine if human beings could survive there someday!
In fairness, the last time I encountered a new colony of any significance, it was in my son’s bedroom. 

He was thirteen at the time, a critical age for glandular development and unintentional science projects.  A good kid, but he was unencumbered by attention to detail or – to his way of thinking – superfluous habits of hygiene.  Suffice it to say that contraband snack food, wet towels and gym socks produced a simulated Petri dish next to his laundry basket, complete with a thriving culture of unknown bacteria.  

So, objectivity requires effort.

But in spite of this, in the spirit of adventure and anticipating the inevitable, just as I did when it looked like we might have to move to TEXAS, I’ve done some advance reconnaissance.  The NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s website provides an animated interactive geek, “Dr. C., Your Personal Mars Expert,” to answer questions for those of us bold enough to ask.
Dr. C.'s social skills however, mandate a safe distance from actual living beings.  When I asked if it’s true that we will someday colonize Mars, he took an uppity attitude right out of the gate, prefacing his comments with “If you mean will humans ever colonize Mars…”  Who did he think was asking the question, Wall-E?

Totally uncalled for.  But I held back.  I took the higher ground.  If a cartoon needs to make itself feel important by talking down to me, well!  Where would that argument go anyway? 

He went on to say, “On this site, we prefer the idea of ‘establishing communities’ on Mars as opposed to ‘colonization.’”  So, even self-important line drawings have to be politically correct.

But establish communities we will.  In fact, Dr. C. spends the next few lines telling me what a lot of work it will be to accomplish such a task.  We’ll need liquid water, he says, and oxygen at the appropriate pressure for humans to breathe. 

Duh.  I could have been a nerdy interactive animated cartoon scientist stating the obvious.  That’s always been one of my strong suits.  But when he went on to say that in order to live on Mars, we’ll need 'comfortable' temperatures and protection from Martian dust, an idea began to form in this Tulsa girl’s mind.

There’s liquid water and oxygen in Oklahoma.  In fact, from April to October, they come packaged as a two-fer in the form of mold-inducing humidity.  That’s thanks to the ‘uncomfortable’ temperatures - read 'blazing heat' - that Okies have endured since God made goat cheese.
And as for protection from dust, Martians should take a lesson from Dust Bowl Okies!  We know dust.  Our dust is red too!  Just like Martian dust. 

And you’ve seen those pictures; there’s not a lick of shade on Mars. 

Just like Oklahoma…Hmmm…

This whole community-building concept is starting to smell like a sham, a cover-up, a pretense to relocate Okies from earth to another flat, dusty, humid, twangy colony of fried food and mosquitoes!  Not me buster!

My momma didn’t raise any fools in Oklahoma!  No!  You’ll have to roast a lot of roosters to find me sleepin’ at dawn. 

I ain’t goin’ to TEXAS; and I sure as shootin’ ain’t goin’ to MARS!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Party like it's 2012

Some of us seem to have let it slip from waking consciousness that we are all on a cosmic surfboard, sliding down the face of a big wave into oblivion. 

Not to be a downer. 

But admit it - you forgot about the End of Days.  Did you even mark your calendar?  December 21st?  Hello!  

That’s why these mid-year reviews are crucial.  If we don’t look back and gain our bearings, it’s easy to veer off course. 

OK.  I forgot as well.  I’ve been cruising along, or some might say lurching.  And I’ve made some questionable choices given the countdown. 

Shopping at Costco for one thing.  That’s stupid.  We have enough Q-tips and dental floss to carry us into a new millennium, if only there were one on the horizon.  As it is, even MacGyver would be hard pressed to make good use of such a cache of hygienic staples. 

On some kick or another I bought oatmeal!  At Costco!  OMG!  The Quaker’s face is so big on the box it scares the cats out of the pantry!   

So, there’s that. 

I see now that this case of Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Popping Corn will not reach its expiration date before we fly off into the ether.  I can’t watch enough movies between now and then to come out ahead on the cost-benefit analysis. 

One can only hope that at the key moment, each 100-calorie pack will burst, adding fun to our finale, and perhaps marking the one and only occasion when all kernels pop.  

All this inventory assessment began when, in the interest of course correction, and as it turns out, doomsday preparation, I checked my New Year’s Resolutions for 2012.   

Tell the truth:  Can you remember the promises you made to yourself?  Why do we treat ourselves so shabbily?  Lie, lie, lie!  

And how can we persist in being so gullible?  Oh!  She really means it this time.  She’s going to meditate every morning before a healthy breakfast.  It is the most important meal of the day!   


But in spite of the ocean of evidence to the contrary, I cannot accept that resolutions constitute a charade.   

Case in point:  Despite what felt like a firm and sincere resolution, I never made a pie in 2011.  However, resolving to learn to make a flaky-crusted pie brought me closer to…people who make flaky-crusted pies!  I got a lot of good slices of pie out of that rez.  On hearing my resolution, which I trotted out routinely in kitchens around town, unsuspecting non-resolvers couldn’t wait to let me judge their prowess.  And I must say they were all good. 

So in the final accounting, which is near, all was not lost even though the letter of the resolution was not met.  The spirit of it swam a la mode. 

On review of my 2012 pledges of improved living, I’m stunned to discover that in spite of the shrinking timeline, of which I was well aware, I resolved to “keep up my fitness goals”!   

Puh-lease!  Whatever was I thinking?  That’s like finding yourself floating toward the brink of Niagara Falls on a chocolate raft and saying, “Oh, better not nibble!” 

So all this time I’ve been walking and walking!  For what?  On the appointed day, even we fatties will fly. 

Perhaps the key contract with myself for this, our last year on the planet, was to have an Elvis party.  It’s demoralizing to admit that to date, I have acquired no yellow-lensed aviator glasses with muttonchops attached.  I don’t have his and hers white sequined jumpsuits, nor red scarves.  I haven’t sneered into the mirror since I don’t know when.  

But wait!  What’s this?  A life-sized cardboard cutout of young Elvis?  Gold lame’ suit…  Twig of hair falling just so over the forehead…  Curled lip…  King Creole!?! 

I did do something!  I made progress on my resolution!  Good golly Miss Molly, I said I’m having a party, and I’m having a party!  I’m having an Elvis party!   

Oh yeah.  I can pull this together and create an exit befitting the End of Days.  I’m getting a karaoke machine and some blue suede shoes.  It’s not too late!  An Elvis party! 

Thank you.  Thank you very much.