Tag Archives: facebook

Life And Death: No Laughing Matter

23 Jul

People are already making jokes about it.

The first news stories about the untimely death of 27-year-old musician Amy Winehouse started circulating less than an hour before I started writing this post. Within about ten minutes of me first hearing the news, fan pages started to pop up on Facebook.

Amy Winehouse is dead, at least theres enough drugs about for everyone now (with a smiley face emoticon at the end)

Police say that winehouse’s death was unexplained LOL, at that point they were probably stoned on the drugs in her <profanity>

Screw Amy Winehouse, she was a druggy and had death lined up for her

Amy Winehouse is dead…..HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

Now, I don’t know much about Amy Winehouse. I don’t exactly fall into the demographic that stays up-to-date on popular music. However, I do know that she was insanely talented, even though her music wasn’t really to my taste. I know that she was plagued by substance abuse problems. I know that she was young and had a lot of life ahead of her, and that she had tons of potential within her.

I know that her death is unspeakably sad.

These jokes that are circulating, these fan pages that are being set up, and the derision with which some people are treating this story, is a sad statement about how people have become so desensitized to tragedy that they can have a good laugh about it before the deceased has even started to cool down.

Or maybe it’s nothing new. This is not the first time I’ve heard jokes about a tragedy soon after its occurrence: the space shuttle Challenger disaster, and the death of Mozambican president Samora Machel in a plane crash, both of which happened in 1986, are cases in point.

I wonder why this is, why there are people can make light of events like this. One theory is that they just don’t know how else to deal with news of tragedy. There is some credence to this idea, and I saw it in action on the day my father-in-law died. There was a mix-up that resulted in the wrong funeral home attempting to collect his body from the hospital, and when my mother-in-law heard about this, she made a joke about the funeral homes fighting over her husband’s dead body, and she laughed heartily. I believe that allowing a chink of humour into the day was a way for her to cope with the initial shock of being widowed after almost fifty years of marriage.

In the case of more widespread disasters, I believe that sometimes people make jokes simply because they don’t know how else to process the information.9/11. Hurricane Katrina. The tsunamis in Thailand and Japan. The Haiti earthquake.

Sometimes, though, people are just plain insensitive. They don’t feel any empathy either for the deceased or for the newly bereaved loved ones. Or  – and Amy Winehouse’s death is an example of this – they somehow rationalize that because the person lived in a certain way that they do not agree with, it is OK that he or she died.

Here’s my thought on all of this: Yes, Amy Winehouse was a celebrity – a colourful one with a controversial life, at that – and therefore her life was, to an extent, public property. And yes, she seems to have died in an Elvis-like manner that is bound to attract a lot of attention and speculation.

But above all, she was a human being with hopes and dreams and feelings and loved ones. The fact that she had substance abuse problems does not mean she deserved to die. It does not mean it is OK that she died. Her life – and her death – deserve the same respect as anyone else’s. Her family and friends should be able to grieve for their lost loved one without the world making public fun of it all.

I hope against hope that we as a society can somehow regain some of the humanity and compassion that seems to have eroded.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ups/2066092204/)

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For Some People It’s Not So Funny

24 May

It’s almost too easy to make fun of Harold Camping. For the second time the world has, with absolutely no fanfare whatsoever, failed to come to an end despite his predictions. He was so sure of it this time. He said that “there is no possibility that it will not happen.”

Now, I am one of the most Biblically illiterate people around. I know some basics, of course, having been educated in a girls-only Catholic school that’s short on life training and high on guilt training. The Bible story that I know best is the one where Jesus turns water into wine, but I have a vested interest in that one.

As vague about the Bible that I am, even I know that there’s some passage in there somewhere that says the Rapture will pretty much sneak up on us without warning, and that even Jesus doesn’t know when it will happen.

Why Harold Camping thinks he knows something that Jesus doesn’t is beyond me. But anyway.

Now he is saying that his date was off by five months, and that the Rapture will actually happen on October 21st, the date that was originally supposed to be the earth-turning-into-great-ball-of-fire date.

What’s he going to say come October 22nd? That he had the year wrong?

I confess that in the last week or so, I have made much mockery of all of this. On Saturday I posted a Facebook status update suggesting that everyone fail to answer their phones after 6:00 p.m., just to mess with their friends. I posted links to post-Rapture animal rescue services, and I shared Rapture-related jokes. I tweeted about what I planned to wear to the Rapture, and pondered the question of whether I would still be able to go on Facebook when it was all over.

Not that I expected to go anywhere. With all of my skepticism and mockery, if the Rapture ever does happen, the most I’ll see of God is his middle finger.

As easy as it is to poke fun, though, there is a serious side to all of this.

There are people who really and truly believed Harold Camping’s prophecy. Some of them based their entire belief systems on the idea that they would be taken to Heaven on Saturday. Some non-believers might be tempted to dismiss these people as stupid, but that’s hardly fair. I would venture to say that many of them were vulnerable, and got caught up at a time in their life when they really needed something to believe in.

Can you imagine their disappointment when nothing happened? It must have been crushing for a number of Camping’s followers. They are now in a position where they are having to re-evaluate everything they believed in, and in some cases, cope with the onset of depression and anxiety. I think it would be a fair bet to say that there will be a sharp rise in mental illness among Camping’s followers, and that is so, so sad.

What about the people who spent their life savings in the belief that they would need the money after May 21st? Some of them are retired, and they no longer have the nest eggs that they had spent years working hard to put together for their old age.

What about the pregnant lady who gave up medical school, and who now faces life as a new Mom with her chosen career thrown away?

Harold Camping and his prophecy have cost many people a lot – both financially and spiritually.

What of Harold Camping himself? Is he an arrogant opportunist who knowingly deceived his followers, or did he truly believe what he was preaching? Is he deserving of sympathy or criticism?

(Photo credit: Kelly Beall)

The Meaning Of Friendship

15 Apr

When George was a newborn, I joined an online group for parents of living children who had also experienced pregnancy or infant loss. Having gone through two pregnancy losses, I was paranoid about everything connected with my new baby. Did those sniffles indicate a cold or something more serious? Why wasn’t he nursing? Was that little bump to the head going to cause permanent damage? Was I actually going to be able to keep this tiny scrap of a human being alive?

In the online group, I found a home – a group of women whose experiences, while all very unique, gave us a common ground. We consoled and comforted one another, offered advice and reassurances, laughed and cried with one another. We became friends. And as you find in any group of friends, there was drama. We had disagreements and conflict. Some people left never to be heard from again, others left and came back.

Seven years on, the core group of us are still friends. The online group itself is not as active as it once was, because most of us are friends on Facebook, and we communicate that way. But we are still as much of a support for one another as we always were. Through seven years (and in some cases, more), we have seen each other through births and deaths, marriages and divorces, relocations, bankruptcies, illnesses, post-partum depression, and even a prison sentence. We have been there for each other through everything.

In 2007, George was diagnosed with autism. As I dealt with the implications of this, including my own emotional fallout, my girls were there for me. Their love and support helped keep me buoyant at a time when it would have been so easy to drown. These amazing women, who had already helped me stay sane through relationship and financial problems, the loss of my father, and my pregnancy with James, once again banded together to help me cope.

And then, a little over a year ago, I found another online group of friends – these ones parents of children with autism. They wormed their way into my heart in the same way my first group had. Although the general conversations centre around different issues, the sense of love and support is present in both groups. My autism friends have been part of my life for substantially less time, but they have helped me over so many hurdles. They tell me I’m a good Mom when I’ve struggle to deal with George’s behaviours. They celebrate with me when he achieves a milestone, and they commiserate with me when a stranger in a grocery store says something ignorant about my child.

Both groups of people are brutally honest in their opinions. They have the strength and the integrity to tell me what they really think, instead of telling me what they believe I want to hear.

From the two groups combined, I have met exactly three people in person.

Occasionally, someone makes a distinction between online friends and IRL (“in real life”) friends. To me, there is no such distinction. Just because you communicate with someone primarily through email or Facebook, that doesn’t mean they are any less real. The only word in the equation that means anything to me is “friends”. And that is truly what these people are. I cannot imagine my life without them. I do not know how I would have weathered the storms of the last few years if they hadn’t been there to keep me afloat and give me reality checks when I needed them.

This post is dedicated to my friends at PALC_group and Parenting_Autism. Thank you for being the wonderful people you are. I love you all.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ilamont/4329364198)

My Life According To Facebook Surveys

6 Apr

My brain is feeling kind of overloaded today. There’s a lot going on at work. There’s a lot going on at home. We’re starting transition planning for George, who is being discharged from the therapy centre in August. We have to figure out new childcare arrangements for James, who a few months from now will no longer be eligible to attend his current daycare. There’s some big event happening at the end of the month (something to do with a wedding? Something?)

My brain in danger of blowing a fuse. So for today’s post, instead of tying to actually think hard enough to write, I am completing one of those surveys I keep getting tagged in on Facebook.

OK, here goes…

1.What was the last thing you put in your mouth?
Chocolate. Women need chocolate. It’s a scientific fact.

2.Where was your profile picture taken?
My current profile picture is a “World Autism Awareness Day” logo that I lifted off of a Google search results page.

3.Can you play Guitar Hero?
What the frick is Guitar Hero?

4.Name someone who made you laugh today?
James. He told me the following joke this morning:
Why did the chicken cross the playground?
To get to the other slide.

5.How late did you stay up last night and why?
I stayed up until 11:20 p.m. because I just *had* to beat a friend’s score in Bejewelled Blitz.

6.If you could move somewhere else, would you?
Yes. I would move into my bed and go to sleep for long enough to eliminate my ever-growing sleep deficit.

7. Ever been kissed under fireworks?
Now there’s a stupid idea. Fireworks make me way too jumpy – all of those sudden loud bangs.No way would I be able to enjoy a nice leisurely snog.

8. Which of your friends lives closest to you?
I have a friend who lives three doors down from me. Can’t get much closer than that.

9. Do you believe ex’s can be friends?
Yes, as long as no-one’s waving guns or knives around.

10. How do you feel about Dr.Pepper?
I like Dr. Pepper about as much as I like root canals.

11. When was the last time you cried real hard?
Probably a month or so ago. Things were rough.

12. Who took your profile picture?
It wasn’t taken, it was created. I don’t know by whom.

13. Who was the last person you took a picture of?
Gerard’s mom had a picture of Gerard’s dad sitting on her dining room table. I wanted to scan it for inclusion in my wedding slideshow, so I took it off the table and put it in my bag.

14. Was yesterday better than today?
According to my son James it was. He woke up this morning, and two minutes later declared that he was having a bad day.

15. Can you live a day without TV?
Technically I do. I mean, the TV is physically present and switched on, but I hardly ever get control of the remote for long enough to watch anything I actually like.

16. Are you upset about anything?
No. Life is beautiful.

17. Do you think relationships are ever really worth it?
With all the stress I’m going through to plan this wedding, they’d bloody well better be!

18. Are you a bad influence?
Me? Of course not!

19. Night out or night in?
I’m old and boring, so I like relaxing nights in. But once in a while my inner rabble-rouser emerges and wants to PARTY!

20. What items could you not go without during the day?
My coffee. My BlackBerry. My sense of self.

21. Who was the last person you visited in the hospital?
I stayed in the hospital when James was there. I don’t know if that counts as “visiting”.

22. What does the last text message in your inbox say?
“Huh????”

23. How do you feel about your life right now?
There’s too much on my plate but I’m happy.

24. Do you hate anyone?
Yes.

25. If we were to look in your facebook inbox, what would we find?
A lot of stuff about the wedding. A lot of stuff about blood donation.

26. Say you were given a drug test right now, would you pass?
Yes. My life is very tame.

27. Has anyone ever called you perfect before?
Sure. I’ve been called a perfect bitch, perfectly stupid, perfectly stubborn…

28. What song is stuck in your head?
The signature tune from Caillou. It makes me want to set my face on fire.

29. Someone knocks on your door at 2:00am, who do you want it to
be?
Someone knocks on my door at 2:00 a.m., they’re getting the what-for from me. They can damned well come back at a reasonable hour!

30. Wanna have grandkids by the time your 50?
No! I don’t want my boys to be knocking up girls when they’re 17 and 15, thank you very much!

31. Name something you have to do tomorrow?
Getting out of bed will be a good start.

32. Do you think too much or too little?
Some days I’m thinking so fast, it feels like I’m trapped in a pinball machine on steroids. Other days, my thoughts are kinda like lazy slobs that refuse to get out of their Barcaloungers.

33. Do you smile a lot?
Yes, I’m a natural optimist. I spend a lot of time grinning like the Village Idiot.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/codemastersnake/5169004822/)

Extreme Makeover: Blog Edition

18 Feb

If you are reading this…

Cripes, that sounds like the opening line in one of those videos where a guy has been murdered and is now telling his family, via videotape retrieved from a safety deposit box using a previously hidden key, whodunnit.

Anyway.

If you are reading this, then you will have already noticed that my site looks different. I’ve gotten rid of the oppressive black background and the small font that you needed a magnifying glass to read (why did I ever like that theme, anyway?). I’ve gone to something light and airy, kind of like you do when you move from a small shoebox apartment to a large open-concept house.

I’ve added pages! The About page tells you a little bit about myself – it’s riveting stuff, really – and tells you how you can get in touch with me. Go to My Family to learn about – well, my family, the key players in the drama of my life. And Upcoming Races will tell you about – you guessed it – the races I am registered to participate in. More pages will be added soon – some about autism, some about running.

I have a blogroll! My favourite blogs are now listed in the sidebar. If you’re not listed and you’d like to be, send me a link, and as long as your blog isn’t about something totally inappropriate, like Justin Bieber, I’ll add you to the list.

I even have – drumroll, please – a Facebook page for my blog! Check it out, and “like” me – because, you know, everyone wants to be liked.

Blowing out another set of birthday candles

2 Dec

When I woke up yesterday morning, I felt a little bit down. It was my birthday, and for some reason I was thinking that very few people would remember or care. The previous day had been torture for all of us – it had been a very rough day for George – and none of us had managed to get much sleep. I think that at the start of my birthday, I was suffering from exhaustion as well as emotional fall-out. For a variety of reasons, I just wasn’t expecting a lot from my day.

Then I turned on my computer and checked my email. There were about a dozen birthday messages waiting for me from friends and family members. I opened my Facebook page and my eyes popped as I saw birthday wishes from about fifteen more people. It was only six in the morning and already I had received birthday wishes in one form or another from almost thirty people.

Wow.  Maybe my birthday wouldn’t be so bad after all. I got myself dressed and looking semi-presentable and left for work.  My pathetic self-pity tried to follow me, but I knocked it on the head and fed it through the paper shredder.

In the middle of the morning my Mom called.  This is always a highlight of my birthday. Even from the other side of the world, my Mom manages to make me feel special in a way that only Moms can. Later in the day, I got a call from my brother. He was calling from a cell phone in South Africa, so we had only a brief conversation that I struggled to hear in the chaos of the bus station, but it was so lovely to hear his voice and know that he was thinking of me.  And all through the day, the emails and Facebook messages were pouring in.  By the time I got home from work last night, I was feeling touched by all of the kindness, and truly humbled that so many people had taken time in the chaos of their own lives to think of me and wish me well.  Even today, the wishes are still coming in.

When I got home yesterday evening, there were flowers and a birthday dinner and cake and presents. As I sat there among my family, the feeling of being loved and appreciated settled on me like a soft snowfall.  How had I thought, that very morning, that people would not care?

Turning 40 worked out well for me. I became a citizen, received a marriage proposal, and after a rough start, I had a great running season. Now that I’m 41, I look forward to more great things. My wedding, for one, which is just five short months away. Now that I’ve joined a running club, I expect to go from strength to strength. I have started the process of conquering demons from my past and making positive changes to my personal life.

And next year, I will not start my birthday by feeling sorry for myself – life is too good for that!

Social uncommunication

1 Nov

Today is a big day for the autism community.  It is the day of the global communication shutdown, in support of individuals who spend their lives on the autism spectrum.  Those participating in the shutdown are voluntarily doing without Facebook and Twitter for a day. The idea behind this is for us to experience for one day what our loved ones with autism go through as part of their daily lives – the frustration and feeling of lostness that comes with not being able to communicate.

For all intents and purposes, Facebook and Twitter do not exist for me today.  The only thing that will be posted under my name to my Facebook wall will be the auto-publish of this post.  If anyone tags me in comments or pictures today, I will not know it. If anyone messages me – either privately or to my wall – they will have to wait until tomorrow for a response.  I will not find out until tomorrow morning whether anyone helped me win Fast Money in the Facebook Family Feud app.  I have not gotten to see anyone’s Halloween pictures, I don’t know how my Scottish friend’s job interview went, I don’t know what anyone’s up to today. Much of what happens today I will probably never know about, because by the time I get back onto Facebook tomorrow, it will be old news.  Same with Twitter.  If anyone is waiting on the edge of their seats for tweets from me, they’d better settle in for the long haul.

It’s an interesting experience, partly just because of the habit of it. Giving up Facebook for a day is a bit like giving up smoking for a day (actually, there’s an idea: a global non-smoking day in support of those affected by cancer). I remember what it was like when I gave up smoking fourteen years ago. One of the hardest aspects of it was simply breaking the habit of physically picking up and lighting a cigarette after a meal, or as an accompaniment to my morning coffee.  Similarly, it is now my custom in the mornings to pour myself a coffee and drink it while first reading emails, and then seeing what’s going on in Facebook Land. I almost clicked the Facebook icon today just because it’s what I always do.

So what I am I learning from this experience? Do I feel a better sense of understanding for what my son lives with?

To be honest, probably not. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I do feel the frustration of non-communication. I do feel that I am cut off from a part of my life that I have grown to be dependant on, and in a sense, I am feeling a sense of what it is like for George. But I am mindful of the fact that I am doing this by choice.  I know that it is a one-day thing, and that tomorrow I will be able to catch up on much of what I am missing today.

George lives with his social communication difficulties day in and day out. He has not chosen to separate himself from the world. He cannot make the choice to wake up tomorrow and be fully verbal and socially conversant.  Tomorrow, when I return to the world of social media, George will still have autism.

I am still glad that I and thousands of other people have done this. Maybe, in some small way, this global effort will make the world a better place for George and people like him.  Maybe the people who have chosen to be a part of this shutdown will, in the future, be a little more tolerant of children they see having meltdowns in public. Maybe someone will give a job to someone with autism. Maybe a politician, somewhere in the world, will vote in favour of a bill to help special needs individuals.  If a child has trouble getting a point across in a classroom, maybe the teacher will recognize the possibility of autism instead of dismissing the child as “stupid”. Maybe a doctor will finally listen to a mom who has been begging for an evaluation referral for her child. Maybe this shutdown will lead to a lot of little good deeds that will have a ripple effect throughout the world.

Today will not enable me to know what it is like to be autistic. But it does give me hope for a future in which people with autism are recognized as valuable, integral parts of the fabric of human society.