“Like Foxhounds and other true Christians….”

The New York Times Book Review interviewed Wendell Berry for their By the Book feature.  The entire thing is great but the last quote grasped the breath in my lungs and held it clutched in time:

Q: What you plan to read next?

A: I am 81 years old. By now, I know better than to make plans. Like the foxhounds and other true Christians, I’ll follow my nose.

I have a foxhound. She’s loyal, true, grateful, empathetic, and full of vivid life energy that is nondiscriminatory: all people are her friends. She just assumes this and greets everyone we meet with the same curious love. She also, true to breed, keeps her nose to the ground. Everything is about what is right in front of her. She will miss sounds and sights and all distractions if something smells fascinating.

My sweet Savannah, a foxhound rescued from a kill shelter after being dumped by off season hunters. They are perpetual problem in our area; they breed the dogs and then discard them.

My sweet Savannah, a foxhound rescued from a kill shelter after being dumped by off season hunters. They are perpetual problem in our area; they breed the dogs and then discard them.

 

As for, “other true Christians”…I now understand why many dog owners prefer dogs to people. My personal faith is caught at the moment in a suspended state triggered largely by modern Christianity and the caustic reaction I’m having in regards to women’s issues, discrimination, and hate driven politics. It bugs me there are so few women in the biblical narrative (and I don’t believe for a second that 12 guys went traveling for that length of time and range without girls around) and I hit a major as-of-yet-unscalable wall when it comes to being able to contemplate anything related to the cross. Focusing on how a group of maniacal degenerates diabolically tortured and murdered another human being in front of his own mother has become intolerable for me. Her utter agony of watching that happen to her child isn’t something my system can handle imagining. Any celebration of the reason behind it or the so-called justification of it makes me recoil. I understand from the advice commonly given to those who grieve that focusing on the life they lived, rather than the way they died, is healthier. I lean into that.

I still stand in church and participate and follow the lifestyle of my people but I do so from a place of confusion and unrest, particular when it comes to identifying within a loaded label that means so many different things in 2016’s America. All my love and respect to my fellow parishioners, who are truly some of the very best people I know; it seems more manageable to me to live in community and think about the way Jesus lived than any other spiritual tenant told.

I tend to think that Mr. Berry is onto something (as he often is). Keep my nose to the ground. Try to disregard distractions. Approach life with a trust that first, all people are friends. Animals often gets things right.

Seasons of Change

The featured image is my curled parsley, a mammoth plant next to a few others that actually took off and grew this winter. There are a few herbs I’ve never grown well in Florida and lo, and behold, all they seem to have needed is the right season.

Three varieties of Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, Dill, and Oregano….all stunted, bolted, and dry in the spring, summer, and fall, found their glory in the winter. Who knew?

Probably a bunch of real gardeners, that’s who.

I’m going through some changes too. I’m working full time outside of the house for the first time in 20 years, launching 2 of my kids- one as expected and one too abruptly for comfort- and closed my freelance business. I’m re-positioning my time, attitudes, resources, and energies into the way life has changed this year, the way I expect it to need to be for the next several, and the way I want it to be when the next page turns.

I’m giving myself some stuff too.

  • I’m making my writing dream the recipient of the web-business knowledge I’ve accrued over the years.
  • To the start of every business day, I give to my writing practice my first energy, my first hour.
  • In order to devote time to craft, I’m giving my commute: an hour or two spent each day in the car.
  • Under, “if you build it, they will come”, I’m giving my business website to my name, to my hopes that one day I’ll have books in print and platform to promote them.
  • I made my movie and food reviews public, as well as my more writerly status updates, because its time to be brave and put my writing out there again.

I’m investing in my dream by taking action steps. Like the parsley planted  in a different season that took of when the elements were right, I hope my words do the same.

Jacksonville Images Pinterest Page

I didn’t always think so but Jacksonville is a pretty great place to live, a combination of “the best kept secret” and “rising star”. I already feature my favorite images from around town, usually just shot with my iphone while in the midst of other living experiences, here on this site and in my blog posts. Taking a moment to appreciate the little things, the glimpses of ordinary beauty, breeds contentment and gratitude: this is an exercise in blooming where I’m planted.

It occurred to me that the collection is growing. It would be great to see them in one place, widen the audience, and curate them all together in one simple directory. Hence, I’ve got a new pinterest page dedicated to Jacksonville Images.

Photo taken at Clark's Fish Camp in Mandarin

Photo taken at Clark’s Fish Camp in Mandarin

12 Reasons Why I Am Not Leaving Facebook in 2014

The word on the street is that there’s an exodus taking place: people are leaving Facebook in droves. The buzz about teens leaving has been around for awhile- Mashable even did this nifty statistic chart showing the age contrast of Facebook users since 2011. And to be sure, there are some gaps there. Articles like this one highlight some of the negative feelings attributed to Facebook. Then, right around the new year, The Huffington Post sent out this post on 11 Reasons Why You Should Leave Facebook in 2014, which quickly became viral for those making resolutions, specifically among the “I hate Facebook” crowd.

There are some good points to consider in all this leaving. Privacy concerns are certainly valid- and Facebook does not have the best reputation for protecting user privacy in recent years. Some users object to feeling tracked or becoming a commodity. They don’ t like having their habits watched. There’s more than one soapbox shouter out there protesting the way Facebook decides what you see (and what you don’t). Even more disturbing are the stories of Facebook making people sad, like the Utah Valley University study that concluded,

 “those who have used Facebook longer agreed more that others were happier, and agreed less that life is fair, and those spending more time on Facebook each week agreed more that others were happier and had better lives.”

I can’t say I’ve never experienced a little jealousy online now and then. What I can say is that I’m in no rush to throw the baby out with the bathwater, or unplug off the internet grid, and I won’t be leaving Facebook in 2014. Here’s Why:

  1. I work from home. For the last 9 years I’ve worked online, from home, and with the exception of my family, can easily go for a string of days without seeing another soul. While that might sound charming in a romanticized version of Little House on the Prairie: The Long Winter, its actually quite difficult at times. Social media has risen commensurate with the rates of work-from-home habits and I can see why. Facebook is my water cooler. I use it as a buffer between tasks at my desk- a way to take a quick break and see what’s up.  I can participate in a conversation on my terms- quite helpful when one is multi-tasking and managing as much as I am.
  2. I like staying up to date on what my friends want to tell me about themselves. Sure, we curate what we want others to see. Sure, this might not present the most well-rounded and accurate truth of who we are. But c’mon people- hasn’t that been the case forever? I’m not going there to see all the nitty-gritty intimate details about the people I know. The ones who share that kind of information are boundary-crossers in my book, and that also tells me something about them, and I usually feel grateful for the low-stakes revelation of that and adjust my interaction accordingly. But everyone else? What they choose to reveal about their likes and dislikes, ideas, thoughts, families, feelings of gratitude, smiles-of-the-day…well all of this helps me see a new side of them. This has enriched relationships that are even already quite close, like those of long-standing friends and family. I think I can say in all honesty that my relationships are better for expression than without it.
  3. I keep my lists to people I actually know. I can’t help but wonder if some of the Facebook haters out there just burned out with ridiculous levels of saturation- feeds full of faces and information that they don’t know and don’t care about- because they “friended” everyone they could find. Sorry Charlie- you confused Facebook with Twitter, at least in my opinion. Each platform has it’s strengths. They are not always interchangeable, no matter that you can cross post and duplicate much of your content. The people on my Facebook friend list are actually friends. Or, they are people I’ve met (in person) who I interact with with the expectation of friendship.
  4. Word-of-mouth is still the fastest way to spread the news. I read the Sunday New York Times for relevant world and cultural news. I use social media for breaking news and to at least be a little fluent on what’s trending. I almost never “watch” the news on TV.  But if something big happens, its still on social media first; this is especially true for anything local.
  5. Crowd sourcing is groovy. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve needed to find something, had a question that required an answer from the voice of experience- and by putting it out there on Facebook, received an instantaneous and diverse plethora of options. Facebook wasn’t always like this but now that’s achieved the mass that it has, I source as often in my feed as I do my searches in Google. Well, almost.
  6. I learn stuff from people I find relevant. I guess Your Feed May Vary…but mine is full of friends sharing art, helpful articles, happy news, regional experiences, opinions…and these all matter to me because the people behind them matter to me. I prefer this over TV and other outlets that try to tell me what matters and who should matter. This could change if ads become audible commercials that auto-play. But for now, I glaze over the ads and pay attention to what my friends have to share because I find it interesting.
  7. I don’t find my self-worth online.  Social media can be a dicey playground for the insecure and the vain alike. A picture is supposed to show us who you are and when it comes to the amount of selfies you post, less is probably better than more. It helps to feel secure enough in your own appearance and abilities to not need a lot of ego stroking and validation online– the one’s who don’t are the usually the ones saying they felt invisible or, they’re the one’s posting a new selfie 4 times a day or, they’re the one’s who get mad and stalk off because they think everyone else is bragging about being better than them. I think social media might possibly just magnify whatever issues we already have- so if your opinion of yourself is determined by others, heal that first instead of blaming Facebook. It will follow you wherever you go.
  8. It gives me a place to express.  I used Twitter to learn how to express a thought in 140 characters or less. It taught me to write shorter sentences. I use Facebook as a writing tool as well. Writers love having readers; Facebook naturally provides that. So I use my status updates as way to practice the best way to convey thoughts, stories, ideas and questions. The instant feedback is right there! Where else can a writer find that? What I say and how I use it is under my own control- I see that as powerful opportunity to attempt to sharpen my own skills and perhaps, do something good. This has worked for business growth as well- as evidenced by the way pages can allow a business to use Facebook to interact and develop their audience connection. As a creative and as an entrepreneur, I see this as one of Facebooks’s current greatest benefits.
  9. Boundaries will always matter, no matter where you go. Recently there were several stories about how Facebook ruins marriages. My feelings on this go back to the “social media magnifies what’s already there” that I mentioned above. If you’re a cheater, its certainly faster and easier to accelerate your sinnin’ on Facebook. If you’re a stalker, you’ve usually got a great way to feed your demon. There’s a long list of fairly innocent blunders we’ve probably all made a few times as we navigated what’s become internet etiquette. I’ve definitely learned a few awkward lessons along the way. But at the end of the day, boundaries are necessary everywhere you go. There are things you don’t say out loud and things you shouldn’t do. Anonymity or privacy online doesn’t change that. If you’re leaving Facebook because of a boundary issue, it will follow you- promise.
  10. I like learning new things, new ways, and dislike ruts. I always get a kick out of the people who groan and gripe about the many Facebook changes. “Oh no! The columns changed!” “I hate this new look!” On and on and sometimes away they go. Do we all remember how much things have changed since 1990? Remember when “smartphone” wasn’t a word? ADAPT people. This is when we live. Things change. Faster than before.
  11. I still remember (and enjoy) the delight of being able to connect with people I’d lost contact with in one big room. I joined Facebook as soon as it was public. It was thrilling to think of someone long lost, and to search their name, and voila! Up popped a recent photo! A way to chat! A way to reconnect! My oldest friend, the one I went to kindergarten with, is on my Facebook feed. I have friends from all the places I’ve lived, ones from before my divorce and after. Friends from my children’s baby years and play dates; friends from work, friends from 6 churches. There isn’t any other way I could do this is one place, with such ease, every day. It’s beautiful.
  12. I don’t let teenagers be my guide. Okay, so yes, teenagers are leaving. I have three of them and none of them care for the site much anymore. Which is actually fine by me! I understand they don’t want their parents and grandparents and priest all seeing what they do everyday. I can keep tabs on their lives without stalking their walls.  Reasons 1-11 are all better with my peer group anyway. Our teens are cool. They are smart and innovative and I’m sure they’ll come with great new ideas. They will do this elsewhere, as they always have, and it will be exciting. But I don’t have to follow their every trend. I like it over here with the grown up’s; the water (and the wine) is fine.

Instagram is new hottie, along with Snapchat, Vine, and others. I use those too, though I doubt they’ll top the centrality of Facebook. And, don’t look now: those other sites aren’t fundamentally so different as to avoid the snare that too much social screen time can cause period, no matter where you go. The New York Times recently coined a “new” condition for us to fret over: Instagram Envy.

Photo Taken on the Baldwin Rails-to-Trails bike path, Jacksonville, Florida

Photo Taken on the Baldwin Rails-to-Trails bike path, Jacksonville, Florida