Monday, January 30, 2012

A piece of me

I am overwhelmed.

On Sunday I donated a small sample of breast tissue to the Susan B. Komen for the Cure Tissue Bank. I was one of 700 women who gave over a two-day donation event. If all goes according to plan, researchers from all over the world will have access to these tissue samples as they search for a cure.

The process itself was a cake walk. Frankly, the hardest part was getting on the scale. The procedure is the similar to what my dear friends have endured when they underwent a core biopsy to check for cancer cells. The doctor comes in, numbs the area and uses a hollow needle to remove a breast tissue sample. I tried to convince him to remove a little from my waist and butt, but he just laughed. Maybe he's heard that before.

Along the way, I crossed paths with numerous volunteers. I was lucky enough to have more than a passing conversation with a few of the volunteers. My phlebotomist is a survivor of inflammatory breast cancer who now runs a foundation that raises money for research and patient education. My nurse has a sister-in-law who is fighting breast cancer. My surgeon came from Illinois to volunteer his time. I even had a quick conversation with Connie Rufenbarger, the woman who was there from the beginning.

"You started this, didn't you," I asked when I recognized her name on her nametag.

She brushed off the comment. If it were up to her and only her, the idea might have stayed an idea, she claimed. Give credit to the other people who took the idea and ran with it, she said.

I think she was being modest.

This doesn't happen by accident. Connie told me that each donation event costs a couple million dollars. Much of it is raised through in-kind donations, but people like Connie are working to raise money for the next drive. I was privy to a few stories, but I left with the sense that each person there had a story, a motivation for participating.

My nurse said that before she left this morning, she told her husband that maybe today was the day she'd hold the cell that unlocks the mystery behind breast cancer. We know it's not that easy, that there's probably not going to be a "Eureka!" moment that makes breast cancer a diagnosis of the past. But maybe through this event and others, we're a bit closer to the cure than we were yesterday.

When this project was still in the discussion stages, a review group considered this idea and said no way, women aren't going to donate breast tissue. But 700 women stepped up on Sunday to add to the samples already in the bank, and countless others are on the wait list for the next donor event. For a few hours, I was part of a group that is focused on doing things that people said couldn't be done. And that's why I'm overwhelmed. And lucky. And grateful to those who won't stop fighting.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Facebook friend note

Dear young Facebook friend:

Remember when Facebook was new? You sent out friend requests to everyone you remotely recognized, including your friends' parents. I accepted your request, and I've enjoyed having you on my news feed. I love reading your status updates. I love the pictures you take of yourself mugging for the camera. I love reading your answers to "truth is" and hearing about what you're doing this weekend.

However, a few of you are raising my "Mom" concern meter. Sometimes you use your status updates to throw out curse words. Sometimes you drop sexual comments that would make my sailor cousin blush. This worries me.

Now, let's set something straight. I was your age once. Really. It was a long while ago, but I vaguely remember the age. I did enough stupid things to fill a book about stupid things people do when they're stupid. Maybe that means I should shut up and let you do your own stupid things. But I can't do that.

You see, I believe young people do a lot of stupid things because they don't yet appreciate the person they're becoming. It's hard to see the good in yourself when your body is changing and your emotions are going haywire and you're not even sure if the friends you have today are going to be there tomorrow. And, it's hard to see beyond yourself to what's going on around you. That's normal. But I'd like to challenge you to step back for a moment and look at what you have to offer this world.

I've known a lot of you for years, and some of you for months, and every single one of you has something great inside. I love your enthusiasm for life. I love your fun-loving ways. I love that if I post for prayers or good thoughts, you are often the first ones to respond. I love seeing your smiles in those goofy photos. I love that you're not afraid to be yourself and have fun.

And that's why I worry when you throw out profanities and sexual innuendo. You may not mean anything by it, but those words can start to define you. The more you talk like this, the more people start to think of you as the girl who's always cursing, or the boy who likes to talk about sex. The world is full of cursing folks who like to talk about sex. They are not special, nor are they unique. But you are.

Don't sell yourself short. I wish I had a mirror to hold up to you, so you could see yourself as I see you. You're so full of life and energy. You're quick to laugh. You like to be with your friends and make them happy. You're smart. You're beautiful. You're so much more than a few curse words.

Now, you may read this and think that you need to defriend me. Please don't. I'd miss you. You add life to my news feed, and without you, I'd only have political comments that tick me off and descriptions of what other adults ate for dinner last night. I'm not your mother. I can't ground you for using curse words, and I'm going to tell your mother if you continue to use them.

But I hope you'll think a bit about what I've said. Your light is shining so bright right now. Don't hide it. Don't cheapen it. Don't let the ugly words overshadow the beautiful person are you are. You are awesome. Awesome. Believe it. I do.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A middle school fairy tale

Once upon a time there was a little girl who liked to look pretty. Let’s call her Becca (not necessarily her real name.) Becca was a cute little girl who looked pretty in everything, even during the summer before kindergarten, when she refused to wear anything but bike shorts. Alas, that is a story for another day.

Becca grew into a beautiful young woman, although she suffered the plague of adolescence and did not see the beauty. When Becca entered the eighth grade, she began to talk about the eighth grade dance.

“Mom,” she said, “When the eighth grade dance comes, I’ll need a nice dress.”

Her mother, who didn’t wear a formal dress until the senior prom, assumed that meant Becca would wear something she might wear to church or to a nice dinner. But no, Becca said, everybody would be wearing a party dress. Her mother then wondered if Goodwill would have any party dresses that had been worn once to the eighth grade dance. But no, Becca said, everybody would be wearing something brand new.

The mother, hereafter known as the Extraordinarily Generous Mom, took Becca and her girlfriend shopping at the local mall, where they tried on a number of party dresses. Some were too short. Some were too long. One made Becca look like a smaller, cuter, less orange version of Snookie, which Becca thought was a compliment. It was not.

Finally, they found an adorable black dress that was fitted enough to hug Becca’s figure, but not so skin tight that she would need industrial strength undergarments. The dress was even 30 percent off, and the the Extraordinarily Generous Mom bought it and a fun necklace to dress it up. Because the dance rules said all dresses must have straps, Becca and her Extraordinarily Generous Mom took the dress to the tailor's to have spaghetti straps added.

(Note that mothers of boys merely had to find a nice dress shirt to go with the khakis their sons wore to church, dinners with grandparents and an occasional sports banquet. Lucky!)

The dress was finished on the day before the big dance. Becca tried it on at the tailor’s and looked unhappy. She assured the nice tailor that everything was fine, but once she was in the car with her Extraordinarily Generous Mom, the tears started to flow. The dress was hideous, she said. She looked ugly in it. It was too big. It was too long. The color made her look horrible. The Extraordinarily Generous Mom rolled her eyes and said, “You will wear this dress. I’m not buying another.” More tears. Didn’t Mom understand? Becca had been looking forward to this dance all year and now it was going to be ruined.

“Didn’t you ever feel this way,” Becca asked her Extraordinarily Generous Mom.

Extraordinarily Generous Mom said no, she had been a grateful child who would never want to waste her parents’ hard earned money. But then she remembered the haircut.

On the weekend before senior pictures, the Mom went in for a haircut. Her hair was between lengths, so she foolishly asked the stylist to keep it long in back and short in front. Consequently, the 18-year-old walked out with a mullet. Remember? “Business in front, party in the back!” The Mom had a head full of thick unruly hair, so we’re talking “stick-up-the-butt business in front, blow out party of 16-year-olds with no sense of decorum in the back.”

The 18-year-old was devastated. Beauty shops were closed on Sundays, and pictures would be taken at school Monday morning. She sought consolation Sunday from her cool aunt who lived down the street with Grandma. Cool aunt looked at her and said, “Come on, let’s see if we can find a haircut place.” They went out to the local mall, where a wise stylist sent the partying 16-year-olds in the back packing and took the business world from the front. The 18-year-old’s hair was shorter all over, but it looked much better than the mullet. (Did mullets look good on anyone?)

With this memory, the Extraordinarily Generous Mom turned the car to the local mall. They looked at one store and found nothing. Becca noted a new store across the street called Charming Charlie. Check them out at Perhaps they would have a dress.

Charming Charlie, for those who haven’t visited yet, is a store full of fun jewelry, accessories, shoes and apparel. To the relief of Extraordinarily Generous Mom, the prices were beyond reasonable. Becca looked at the dresses and decided there was nothing there. In desperation, Extraordinarily Generous Mom went up to one of the women who worked there, who turned out to be the general manager. The general manager’s name was Janey, and she also had a 14-year-old. Janey was sympathetic and optimistic. Bring the dress in, she said, and we’ll see what we can do.

Becca put on her dress and Janey proclaimed that it would be easy to dress up and accessorize. Extraordinarily Generous Mom snuck away to look at cute little turtle necklaces and dream of the day she could spend money on herself. In the meantime, Janey treated Becca like a fashion model, bringing a selection of belts, necklaces, shoes and earrings. Other employees made suggestions, including a jeweled belt that accentuated Becca’s waist and added flair to the dress.

For the next hour or so, Janey worked with Becca, giving her advice on creating a new look that complemented the dress without overwhelming it. She scoured the store for shoes. She brought out an assortment of jeweled headbands. The tear-provoking dress was now a winner. Extraordinarily Generous Mom bought everything – shoes, belt, necklace, earrings and headband – for a mere $54 and decided Charming Charlie was the best store in the world.

The story doesn’t end here. Extraordinarily Generous Mom knows there will be other episodes throughout adolescence, where her daughter can’t see the beautiful person in the mirror. But thanks to a little luck and Janey’s magic, Becca will smile tonight when she puts on her outfit.

And the Extraordinarily Generous Mom can go to bed dreaming of the day when she goes to Charming Charlie and asks Janey to transform her from frumpy middle aged soccer mom to Extraordinarily Generous and Cool Mom. But that’s another story.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Parental truths

Remember when our children were never sick?

Sure, most of us can recall nights with fussy toddlers and days of doing multiple loads of laundry to try to wash the germs out of the environment. But, when children are babies, parents like to believe their children are rarely sick, and they credit that robust health to something they did:

Mom 1: I exclusively breastfed for 16 months, and my baby is rarely sick.

Mom 2: I think my children are healthy because I stay home and don't expose them to daycare germs

Mom 3: Actually, my doctor says that daycare germs are good for children, because it helps them strengthen their immune system. My kids may have been sick as babies, but they've been the healthiest kids in their elementary school.

New parents are pretty intent on having perfect children. I imagine this has something to do with the belief that we have the power to control our children. We're bombarded with messages about how to make our children smarter! healthier! less prone to obesity, diabetes, nearsightedness, attention deficit disorder, fussy eating and learning disabilities! We invest our time in these articles, and we spend our money on organic veggies or simple wooden toys that cost four times what we'd pay for a plastic toy at Target. Surely, this investment is worthwhile, and we reassure ourselves by pointing out our child's strengths and giving ourselves credit for each one.

By the time the kids are 'tweens, parents start to realize that we're maybe not as on top of the parenting game as we thought we were. Maybe the stuff they teach in the book doesn't work, or maybe we've decided to ditch the book in favor of cutting parental corners on occasion. Sure, the book says kids need a consistent bedtime. But our kids balk at going to bed on Friday nights, and we tell them to turn off the lights when they come to bed, because we can't stay up as long as they can, at least not on a Friday. Still, parents don't yet want to admit their parental gaps. Instead, we learn to redirect before the conversation turns to our little dears.

Mom 1: Did we hear about Susan? I ran into her at the grocery store, and she says her 12-year-old is a holy terror. She's talking back, refusing to do homework and texting boys. (Note: Mom 1 does not want to discuss the fact that her own 'tween broke her bedroom door last week slamming it during a tantrum. Instead, she will focus on poor Susan's troubles.)

Mom 2: Why does she put up with that? If she were my child, she'd be grounded for six years. I refuse to let my children act like that. (Note: Mom 2 hopes nobody saw her own 'tween standing on the sidewalk last week, screaming that she was going to run away, and if she wants to fail all her classes, she can!)

Mom 3: That's nothing. Have you seen Marsha's daughter? I saw her at the park last week, and she looks like a 20-year-old. Her face was caked with makeup, and her clothes looked two sizes too small. I can't believe Marsha lets her out of the house looking like that. (Note: Mom 3's daughter is obsessed with her "boyfriend," and Mom 3 caught them alone in the daughter's bedroom last week when they were supposed to be studying in the family room.)

Twelve years after the cute and cuddly stage, parents aren't ready to admit that this parenting gig isn't quite what we signed up for. We don't want to relinquish control to these little humans who are flexing their independence muscles, trying to assert their individuality by refusing our advice. We go out and buy more self-help books, and sign up for more classes, and hang onto the hope that we still have some influence on our children. And according to the experts, we do. They're still listening. Our words and actions may still influence their actions. But we're also starting to realize that we aren't perfect parents, and we cannot control our children's every action.

If we still don't believe that, here come the teen years. The teen-age years serve to humble the proudest parents. Even good teens defy rational thinking at times, and the more challenging teens make us wonder what business we ever had getting into this parenting gig. We struggle, yet we're afraid to tell other parents about it. After all, the other parents all seem to have such perfect children. They're all perfect parents. We're the parental failures.

And finally, someone 'fesses up. The kid is driving her crazy.

Mom 1: Last night, we received a call from the school. Apparently our daughter was caught making out in the janitor's closet. That's not how we raised her.

Cue the confessions. Mom 2's daughter is failing gym and refuses to go to summer school, potentially sacrificing her high school diploma. Mom 3's daughter is in therapy, because she's convinced she's ugly and fat, and last month she made some threatening remarks in a school diary that resulted in professional intervention. Or maybe the kids are just mouthing off. Every. Single. Evening. Mom 1 cautiously admits that her daughter called her a bad name, and she called her one right back. Mom 2 laughs and says if she's lasted this long without losing her temper with her teen-aged daughter, she's behind the curve. Mom 3 admits that the best part about putting her daughter in inpatient treatment was getting a slight break from the daily battle.

It takes a decade and a few years, but eventually the truth comes out. Our kids aren't perfect. We aren't perfect. Don't walk by our houses between 6:50 and 7:10 a.m. on a school day unless you want to hear nagging and screaming with a dash of sarcasm and eye rolls. This wasn't in our plan. When they were cute and cuddly, we imagined we'd beat the odds and raise respectful, talented, happy academic overachievers. We held them as babies. Read to them as toddlers. Volunteered in the classroom. Bought them the cool clothes. Helped them with homework, at least until they knew more than we did. What happened to the perfect children?

Heck if I know.

I do know, however, that I have come to cherish parents of adult children. Remember them? They were the ones who laughed when we produced a funky looking pacifier, claiming it was going to reduce the need for braces in the future. They smiled knowingly when we sent out the emails proclaiming that our darlings won the classroom spelling bee or scored the most points in a game. They withheld their comments when the public bragging came to a screaming stop. And more importantly, they shared their successes.

"It gets worse," one friend warns me. "It gets worse, but then it gets better."

"We went through high school knowing that he could do better, but his grades were horrible," another tells me. "Then in college, he suddenly decided to turn it around."

These veteran parents do more than calm us down. They give us hope, as we look at their well-adjusted, adult children who are successful citizens even if they didn't go to Harvard or make the World Cup team. They reassure us that the journey is worth it, although we may need to readjust our expectations. Perhaps most importantly, they reinforce the notion that we eventually have to let go of our own dreams and help our children discover their own passions, even the passions we never imagined.

So parents, speak up. This isn't a competition. It's a journey we're taking together. We need to be honest, so we can support each other. Nobody's child is perfect. Some are better than others, but I don't think any parent gets out of this without occasionally wanting to assume a new identity and move to a small town in Montana.

Let's hope that someday we'll be the ones telling new parents to hang in there, because it was all worth it.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Life lessons

It's official. I am 45 years old. Halfway to 90, if I should be so lucky.

In preparation for the big day, I challenged myself to come up with 45 things I've learned so far. I'd like to say I've learned all of the important things, but many of the lessons elude me. However, I've compiled a list of things I've learned over the years, in hopes of reminding myself that age does bring a measure of wisdom, with plenty of room left for more.

Lessons from life – chapter 45:

  1. When you find a swimsuit that fits, buy it in at least two colors.
  2. Dogs make life better.
  3. If you date someone you don't want to introduce to your closest friends and family, re-evaluate the relationship.
  4. Being a parent is much harder than it looks when other people are doing it.
  5. Be honest if you want something from someone else. Dropping hints rarely works.
  6. When you said you'd love "for better or worse," that included the things about your beloved that drive you absolutely bonkers.
  7. Don't buy the least expensive item. Pay a little more for quality.
  8. Life doesn't always seem fair. There are always people who are prettier, smarter, richer and more successful. Yet life seems to even out. Focus on what you are, not what you aren't.
  9. Keep in touch with important people in your life.
  10. Sometimes if you pretend you know what you're doing, people will believe in you. And sometimes they'll see right through your little ruse.
  11. It's better to be a little overdressed than a little underdressed. It's better to bring a little more than not enough.
  12. For $3 and some change, you can buy a carry-out order of chips and fresh salsa from Cancun's Restaurant. Really, there's no reason to buy salsa at the grocery store ever again.
  13. It's never too late to say thank you.
  14. Don't move to a retirement community when you're single and in your 20s. It's not fun.
  15. Hate wastes valuable energy.
  16. The English language has more than 200,000 words, so you can rid your speech of the words that hurt: retard, faggot, stupid.
  17. Do not forward a mass email until you have checked it out with Snopes.
  18. Everyone should have at least one friend who can make you laugh until you cry.
  19. There's a fine line between healthy competition and unhealthy obsession. If you're not enjoying the journey because you're focused on the finish line, you're probably taking things too seriously.
  20. Everyone is good at something.
  21. Listen to the little voice. When your gut is telling you something isn't right, it probably isn't right.
  22. When someone your age dies, you realize that getting older is not the worst thing that can happen.
  23. Your dreams for your children may not come true. Sometimes our kids don't want the gifts we want to give them.
  24. Your child's accomplishment is not yours. Go ahead and be proud, but you don't own the accomplishment.
  25. "They" won't have a cure for everything by the time you get older. Turn down the music and wear sunscreen.
  26. Your perception of beauty will change over the years. So will your perception of "old."
  27. Cats always like to walk over the keyboard when you're trying to use the computer.
  28. It's great to have the heart of a child, but sometimes you need to be the adult.
  29. Occasionally you have to let go of your skepticism and just believe. I believe there's a lot I will never understand about this world and beyond, and that's OK.
  30. Sing out loud in your car. People can assume you're using a hands free device.
  31. If you really hate your new haircut or color, give it a week. If you still hate it, go back and ask for a fix.
  32. Things that annoy the heck out of you now may not seem like such a big deal in 24 hours.
  33. You will need math skills again one day when your child needs help with her math homework.
  34. Exercise is a lot more fun when it's over.
  35. Everyone should visit Hawaii at least once.
  36. We will make mistakes. We are wonderfully human. Don't get so hung up on mistakes that you forget to move on.
  37. You don't have to convince everyone to agree with you. You may even be wrong.
  38. It is possible to gain three or four pounds overnight if you indulge a bit too much in the evening. It is impossible to lose three or four pounds overnight, unless you have a horrible stomach ailment.
  39. Some of the worst times in life really are the precursors to something better.
  40. Bring an Ipod to your child's sports games. Listen to your favorite music and resist being pulled into any sideline drama.
  41. Throw away any underwear you wouldn't be willing to wear to a doctor's appointment.
  42. I should never wear the home team jersey on game day, unless I want to jinx them.
  43. A jalapeno plant produces lots of peppers.
  44. Success is a combination of hard work and luck. Work hard, but give luck credit where it's due.
  45. Love is so worth it.






Wednesday, December 01, 2010


His name was Ed, and I suppose he was middle-aged. That means he was probably younger than I am now, but when you're in your 20s, anyone over 30 is middle-aged. I was assigned to do a newspaper story on him, to be featured on December 1,World AIDS Day. Ed had AIDS.

He lived alone in a little one-bedroom home in Florida, far from his Chicago family. He had medications lined up on his windowsill, a constant reminder of the illness he lived with. He was plain spoken and not afraid to talk about AIDS, or as he called it, "hiv disease." The "hiv" was lowercase, he said, because he didn't want to give it any more power. Ed had a picture on his wall, a drawing of the Biblical Daniel in the lion's den. That was his inspiration, he said. He was facing down a lion of disease without fear, even though he knew the odds were against him. He believed God had his back, just as God had Daniel's back.

I was young and gung ho. Look at me, writing about this disease that grabbed the headlines. Give the girl a star. Every year, more people were affected by AIDS, and more people died. The medications back then were just a Band-Aid, something that probably gave people like Ed a few extra months of life. He was a man living a death sentence, and I was the reporter who was going to tell his story. I gave myself so much credit in those days. It was Ed's story to tell. He told me what it was like to live with hiv disease. He told me about how he kept the disease a secret from his parents, even when they visited and saw the line of medications on the windowsill. A few weeks after they headed back north, his mother called him. "We're going to talk about your damned health," she said. The only thing he wouldn't talk about was how he contracted the disease. If Ed was gay, he didn't say so. I didn't press him. He didn't want the focus of the story to be on how he got the disease. He wanted the story to be about how he had the disease.

After the story ran, we stayed in touch. Again, life back then was all about me. I selfishly called Ed when I needed perspective on life. A rotten boyfriend had nothing on living with AIDS. I'm not sure why he let me ramble. Maybe he needed something to distract him from the row of medications on the windowsill. Maybe he needed someone who needed him. Somehow we became buddies. When he was hospitalized with an infection, I visited him. He was Ed.

I generally felt quite proud of myself for befriending the guy with AIDS. God, how I'd like to shake my 20something self. But Ed, I think he had my number. A few weeks after the story ran, he brought in some homemade cookies for me. Yup. Homemade. By a guy with AIDS. Put your money where your mouth is, Lori. Even back then, we knew you couldn't catch AIDS from cookies. But before I took the first bite, I had to swallow a bit of pride.

I did a follow-up story with him the next year. That year, I was braver. During our conversation, I asked him to tell me he contracted the disease. He tried to change the subject, but I was going to be a real reporter this time. Just tell me, I said. He laughed, shook his head and grabbed my tape recorder. "I was screwing around. I was partying and having sex and screwing around and I got AIDS." I pushed a bit more. Heterosexual or homosexual sex? I asked. He looked right at me. "I don't know." I wrote that in the story. I'm sure some people recoiled when they read it. I'm sorry, Ed.

I left Florida while Ed was still alive, and we kept in touch minimally, the way people kept in touch back when email was just in its infancy and "friend" was not yet a verb. My new job in the corporate world took over my life, and I was at that desk when I received a phone call from a mutual friend, telling me that Ed had died. Damn that hiv disease.

I think about Ed every year on December 1, as I read about World AIDS Day and think about the two stories I wrote that were going to change the world. I'm sorry I didn't change it, Ed. I'm sorry I didn't tell you how much you enriched my life by letting me into your home and sharing your world. I wish you had been stricken a decade later, as maybe your windowsill would have had a different and better combination of drugs. I wonder what you told God when you met Him. Did you tell Him about Daniel and the lion's den? Did you thank Him for having your back?

During the other 364 days of the year, I don't give much thought to AIDS. AIDS is much scarier when you're young and single and – Mom, don't read this next part – you occasionally do things you know you shouldn't do. AIDS isn't in the headlines as it used to be. Magic Johnson is still alive. Who would have thought it? But Ed is gone. Still, he's going to be with me forever. He let me tell his story, and for that, I am humbled and honored.

Here's to you, Ed. I know God still has your back.


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

How do I love Facebook? Let me count the ways

I have a few people in my life who don't "get" Facebook. Their reasons may have some validity. One friend just doesn't need another time-sucking activity in her life. Point taken, said the woman with way too many time suckers. Another believes there is no reason to reconnect with people she lost touch with. I think she's missing out, but hey, her loss.

Like most people, I had to set some Facebook parameters. Facebook is my time killing playground. My playground, my rules. If you're using your news feed to spout annoying political opinions, you're hidden from my news feed. If you're using your status update to spout political opinions I respect (note I didn't say agree with; there's a difference), you may or may not be hidden. It depends on how much spouting you're doing. Occasional spouters are left alone. Chronic spouters can go hide. Your mileage may vary. You may use Facebook to have mind-changing political discourse with some friends. That's the beauty of Facebook. It's your playground, too.

You may be saying, "What? How could Lori, the former journalist and supporter of the First Amendment, advocate censorship?" Despite what some people like to cry, the First Amendment does not grant the right to say what you want without repercussions. It gives you the right to say most things without fear of being arrested and thrown into a dingy prison cell with no hope of ever seeing the sun again. I can promise that I will not have people arrested for spouting political discourse. I'll just hide them.

Who else might be hidden? People who tell me about their sex lives, whether they're being specific or posting the results of a quiz that describes them as "hotter than a burning ember." People who use lots of foul language. People who Vaguebook. Look it up. It's a very apt term for those status updates that say, "I am bitter" or some other alarming sentiment, causing friends to say, "Honey, what's wrong? How can I help?" A true Vaguebooker gives cryptic answers, like, "We'll have to get together later," or "I hoped you'd understand," or "I'm going to have to work through this alone." Hide, unless they provide adequate entertainment value.

Anyhow, after the above discourse, you're probably thinking, "What the heck is she doing on FB? She obviously hates it and wants to hunt down Mark Zuckerberg. No, I don't. Loved the movie, though. And I love Facebook. Here's why:

  1. I no longer forget people's birthdays. I am horrible about remembering birthdays. I typically turn over a calendar page when it's the 10th of the month, meaning I miss everyone who was born on the 1st – 9th. But, thanks to Facebook, I can actually wish someone a happy birthday on their actual birthday. Caveat – you must be on Facebook and list your birthday to enjoy this benefit.
  2. I can look up people I used to know. As a rule, I stay away from anyone I've dated. Until I met Matt, I had awful taste in men, so most of the guys I dated were idiots. Old school friends and coworkers, however, are a welcome find. Newspaper people have this strange fraternity. I guess when you've lived on Ramen Noodles as you work full-time, struggling to pay off student loans while the general public refers to you as vermin, you have a sort of camaraderie. Hence, I enjoy reconnecting with my fellow and former scribes, photographers and other talented folks.
  3. Family members start to make sense. When I was a teen-ager, I'd attend the family reunion and ask my mother to identify relatives. She thought I was interested in my heritage. Frankly, I had my eye on a cute 16-year-old, and I was hoping he was my second cousin's friend, rather than my second cousin. I know, apparently this is legal in some states, but I preferred to stay several family degrees of separation away from someone I wanted to date. Anyhow, thanks to Facebook, I'm finally starting to make sense of some of our large extended family. (Grandpa had two brothers and seven sisters. They all had kids. Need I say more?)
  4. Games. I have great memories of watching game shows in the '70s. I watched many of them at my grandmother's house. "Family Feud" was a favorite. Grandma used to always remark about how Richard Dawson sure did like to kiss the ladies. I'd sit there with my extended family, listening to my grandmother, mother or aunts shout the correct answer at the TV. I dreamed of participating. It would be better than the time my mother appeared on the local game show, "Bowling For Dollars," and won $9. Anyhow, with my family we could certainly plan on winning the $5,000. Plus, my grandmother would get to kiss Richard Dawson. We never made it to sunny California for the show, so I have to be content playing it online. Yes, I know Facebook apparently compromises my privacy with this application. Have at it, Facebook. You now know that I'm a bit addicted to "Family Feud" and I hide the Vaguebookers.
  5. Other reminders. See No. 1. I tend to forget things. But, if my group or organization is on Facebook, they send out timely reminders. Bring canned goods to church on Sunday. Don't forget the neighborhood party on Friday. Facebook even reminded me to vote. It's like having a wife. A wife who remembers things.
  6. Pictures. Seriously, if it weren't for Facebook, would you really have any idea what your second cousin's children looked like? Thanks to Facebook, not only have I seen pictures of my second cousins' kids, I was able to follow another second cousin's labor. All 30something hours of it. Fortunately, she was rewarded with a really cute baby, who gets my arms aching. Baby pictures tend to do that these days.
  7. Pictures, part II: Facebook is an exhibitionist's dream come true. Thanks to modern technology, you can see pictures that document every part of the day. You can see self-portraits. Formal portraits. Goofy pictures. You may not talk to these people, but you saw what they did last summer.
  8. Parental supervision. When the child wanted a Facebook account, we made a deal: She needed to friend us and give us her password. Now, tweens and teens tend to want voluminous friend lists. Consequently, you get a friend request from many of your child's friends. Friend them. How else can you see what they're saying to each other? Plus, you can call them on it when they're careless enough to drop a curse word or call someone a "retard."
  9. TV shows and other products. You really don't reap a lot of rewards when you "like" a TV show or a product. Maybe you get an occasional preview, or you can wade through comments that say "(TV show star) is so hot." But, anyone who knows me understands why I had to "like" Pop-tarts.
  10. Time's a wasting. When it comes down to doing the laundry or checking Facebook, Facebook wins. Cleaning floors or Facebook? Facebook. Writing a story due tomorrow or Facebook? Facebook. Homework or Facebook? Wait a second, are you done with your homework? Get off that computer RIGHT NOW and finish it. What can I say? I spent 30 minutes writing this. You just spent a few more reading it.

Long live the social media.