Return to Snail Mail: A Personal Handwritten Letter Campaign

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint 

2014 started as my year of gifting good stories. Buying books for friends and family members – mostly my mom and my boys, providing moments of escape from their every day lives. Or sending recommendations of interest to those who keep a running list like I do.

Slowly this gift is morphing into stories of my life via handwritten notes and cards, like a personal history or memoir through correspondence. I’m not quite sure why …

Maybe it’s the thrill of “real” mail or the fact that simple things are important.

More than likely it’s due to seeing old friends and realizing our interactions are social media driven only. We could call or write but why when Facebook feeds run like a life highlights newsreel? Because Facebook is usually the good times without room for the difficult and sad, the intimate moments of life.

It could be the fact that while on vacation my dudes sent postcards to some of their friends, whose parents told me of their excitement upon receiving the quick note. How can we not spread that joy again?

Maybe it’s because we have friends spending a year abroad. Wouldn’t it be sweet for them to get letters from home? To feel connected and not far away despite the distance?

Or it could be thanks to my dear friend, whose daily walk includes checking the mail with her infant. A tradition in the making, I think. Of course they need mail to retrieve from the box.

The reason doesn’t matter much. Only the desire to send some love: signed, sealed, and delivered.

I’ll still give books but they may have a personal story penned in my own hand, tucked between the pages.

Here’s to great stories!

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Twitter Feed Tells All

Twitter Logo

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about being boring. Part truth, part joke conceived in a moment of weakness.

Thanks for the outpouring of love from the WordPress world to assuage my fears.

Sadly (and quickly) I find myself standing at the crossroads of uncertainty and hilarity again. Maybe I will gain some knowledge with this one.

I’ve finally taken the leap into twitter and I have to say I don’t get it; yet. My writer self knows I need to build a platform so maybe that’s part of my apprehension.

But what does my twitter account say about me?

  • Boring?
  • Conservative?
  • Publicly private?
  • Unavailable available?

If I had to wager a guess, my twitter account probably conveys “undecided” more than anything.

Don’t get me wrong I find it fun and challenging to make a compelling statement in 140 characters. Sometimes I can. Sometimes I can’t. I enjoy following close friends and seeing what they have to say throughout the day.

What I’ve realized is my interests are limited. There are very few things I am so vested in that I want to have it streaming to me at all times.

  • Stuff on writing? Sure.
  • Family and friend feeds? Absolutely.
  • Blog buddies? Yes.
  • Everything else? Undecided.

Like the beginning of my blogging life, I don’t know the etiquette; twitter-quette if you will. For example, I don’t believe in automatically clicking follow for someone who follows me. And, when I follow someone and there are too many tweets (about stuff I’m undecided on) in a short period of time it becomes white noise. So almost immediately I unfollow.

Plus it’s a place of promotion; self promotion which I am not good about doing. I’ve noticed people will tweet the link to their latest blog post multiple times. Not sure I’d be comfortable with that … It would be helpful if I only post once a week but still.

Then I agonize over the gaining and losing of followers (again due to writer platform) like I’m day-trader. I shouldn’t worry I know.

Social media is where it’s at … but I will have to have limits. My writer self has a blog and a twitter account. My personal self has a Facebook page. One of my selves will eventually need to be LinkedIn. That’s all I think I can do or handle.

For now, help me move through this latest intersection of concern. What’s your best twitter advice for a newbie like me?

Thanks in advance.

Gail @Undecided @twitterchallenged #confused #amlearning

Welcome to Boring …

I want to be tweet-able and retweet-able. (Okay, so I just opened my twitter account this week.)  I want to be Facebook stalked (only a little). I want to be Freshly Pressed worthy.

But I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I won’t.

Why?

I’ve finally figured it out. It’s something I already knew. It’s what I, as a creative type, fear most. Fear of being uninteresting …

Then I remembered one of the first things I wrote for the Jotter’s Joint … it was a practice run and I never posted it (till now). I hadn’t decided if it was a post or my About page. I thought it was funny.

Re-reading it makes me laugh and it makes me feel better because I was managing my own expectations. I didn’t have grand ideas of success. I set the bar low enough to accomplish my goal.

Here’s what I wrote:

Welcome to Boring …

Why read this blog? 

Because you don’t have anything better to do. You don’t have a life. You’re friendless and alone. You’re tired of the well intentioned, deliberately positive, motivational, blogs selling happy. Or maybe, you’re a recluse; suffer from paranoia, or worse. Afraid of technology but sitting here reading this with a tin foil hat on hoping I can’t read your thoughts or transmit signals to your brain.

So why not read my blog? 

It fits right in with our “random” loving culture today. In a time when we can select and self deliver the kind of news … special interest stories … celebrity drama to our phones or laptops or iPads. Where we can follow our friends’ every move from waking to sleepless nights via Facebook or Twitter feed or better yet by subscribing to their blog.

Let’s face it … this is just another opportunity in our information overloaded lives for you to examine and criticize, ponder and pontificate on the boring things that happen in someone else’s life; my life. It’s a chance to offer up your opinion on what matters in my world, from the mundane to the monotonous.

Why read a boring blog? 

I have no idea. It’s just the stuff I think about on my drive to and from work. It doesn’t get much more boring than that …

So maybe my expectations were too low here but I didn’t want to be disappointed. Then I started posting regularly and I was sucked into this belief that my blog had to be perceived as great. It didn’t matter if I thought it was great. And it stopped mattering if there were readers, even one reader, who thought it was great. I started measuring my success by the stats and not by how flexing my creativity made me feel.

I will always have pangs of wanting others to claim I’m great but I realize that ‘great’ is a relative term. Being tweet-able or Freshly Pressed aren’t my yardstick (although I would be happy if it happened).

I will remind myself often that I am measured by my enjoyment in blogging and my growth as a writer. When I forget, all I have to do is go back to my About page and read my reasons for starting the Jotter’s Joint. This is one writer’s world and you’re welcome to be a part of it.

So, today, just a reminder … manage to your own expectations!

Unplugged, Turned Off, and Tuned Out

Reading for unplugged times.

My family and I are addicted to technology especially my 5 year old who is bored in less than 5 seconds if we make him turn off his 3DS and play with … gasp … a toy.

Our boys get an hour of TV before going to daycare. An hour of TV when they get back from daycare. And, thankfully, they only get TV at daycare for special events tied to curriculum.

Sometimes they get a half hour (or more) of video game time or computer time. And those are on the days when I’m diligent and stick to the schedule. The weekends are a completely different situation; and not in a good way. That’s a lot of plugged in time for little dudes.

So it’s up to me to set the example and it’s hard. I didn’t realize how much I relied on my electronic interfaces.

I check Facebook and Instagram constantly. I hit refresh on my email every few minutes, hoping something new will pop up. I watch my blog stats real time, as if they’re changing so rapidly, while I watch TV. I have new blog posts in my Reader that need to be read and commented on. Then there’s Netflix and Hulu which allow me to watch entire seasons of shows back to back. There’s so much to see.

For my husband, it’s Words with Friends and a plethora of podcasts. We are always wirelessly wired.

Still trying to finish 2009 scrapbooks.

Can you relate? Maybe you have some other social media to keep up with like Twitter or Pinterest or Google Plus or Tumblr or fill in the blank … am I right?

Well, I’ve made a commitment to go on an electronics diet this summer. Notice I put a time limit on this “goal”. I am making an effort to consume a little less TV, video games, phone time, computer time, etc.

To support my diet, I’ve purchased a hardcopy book instead of loading up new fiction to my Kindle. I actually went to the bookstore with the boys and we all picked out new books. I can’t remember the last time I purchased a physical copy of a book.

But when I tell them to unplug and get a book, I can do the same … Life in these gaps of being unplugged is interesting.

I started with 20 minutes … we didn’t know what to do. We looked at each other but not in the eyes for fear we might spontaneously combust. I bit my nails and held my breath. We all watched the timer countdown the minutes. The boys cried, “Why?” at the highest decibels. We were all relieved for the 20 minutes to be over.

I didn’t plan well. It would have gone better if I had organized an activity to fill the time for the first go round … Now I know … I have a list of options they can do independently or as a group. Some are fun and others not so much …

  • Play outside
  • Read a book
  • Scrapbook (we have vacation pictures)
  • Board games (we just started Pokemon trading card game)
  • Chores (we are working on folding laundry)
  • Family conversation

Activities, like these, where they can flex their creative muscles or just relax and unwind from the barrage of information and images that are always coming at us.

It’s important to note that we aren’t “making up” that “lost” 20 minutes in other parts of the day. We’re cutting back.

Slowly I am increasing the time of being turned off and tuned out. And slowly, we are adjusting to being without our gadgets. The boys know that unplugged moments are going to be part of our lives.

It’s getting easier … I’m realistic. I’ll never do away with gadgets in our home. Like I said, we’re junkies. And it’s not a bad thing but moderation is key.

The funny thing? When I pick up my iPhone or open my computer, it’s waiting for me. Patiently waiting for me. I’ve been pinged or notified that something happened. I didn’t miss it. I only delayed it.

Been working on this blanket for way too long. Before my boys were born.

And, being unplugged means I have interesting things to post or share, or so I think, because I took the break to live a little life.

I’ve noticed that my boys, who no longer take naps, are a little less crabby when bedtime rolls around. There is a lot more conversation about characters they’ve made up and stories they want to write or play out as live action. Less is more in terms of gadgets especially as it relates to creativity.

I’ve also noticed that as a Momma, I’m a little less stressed out. I don’t respond to their meltdowns with frustration because I’m not harried or weighted down by being connected like I’m on life support.

So tell me, how do you intentionally unplug? What would you do if you weren’t plugged in? What changes do you notice when you’ve had a break from being connected?

 

 

“Like Totally” vs. the Like Button

Like: A Word Between Generations!

I was on my way to work when I had this strange thought. Like Totally vs. Like Button. Like:  One word … two generations … different uses.

The like of my childhood comes from Valley Girl the 1982 song by Frank Zappa.

Valley Girl (film)

Valley Girl. She’s a Valley Girl. Valley Girl. She’s a Valley Girl. Okay, fine. Fer sure, fer sure. She’s a Valley Girl. And there is no cure. Okay, fine. Fer sure, fer sure. She’s a Valley Girl. And there is no cure … You know me, I’m like into like the clean stuff. Like PAC-MAN and like, I don’t know. Like my mother like makes me do the dishes. It’s like so GROSS. … Like all the stuff like sticks to the plates. And its like, it’s like somebody else’s food, y’know. It’s like GRODY… GRODY TO THE MAX. I’m sure. It’s like really nauseating. Like BARF OUT. GAG ME WITH A SPOON. GROSS. I am SURE. TOTALLY…”

The song later gave way to Valley Girl the movie circa 1983 with Nicholas Cage. It’s like one of my favorite teen flicks from like the 80s. And being from Southern California, I was like totally one of those girls, like for sure. Like were you?The word like was an intentional “um”. It filled the gaps between words. It meant multiple things. It was like way cool. Like totally tubular. And, unfortunately, it took me like years to like work it out of like my vocabulary. Like you know?

There are some similarities to another era gone by e.g. Maynard G. Krebs of the Dobie Gillis TV show or even Shaggy of Scooby Doo.

Some may consider it wasted words. Not useful, just popular culture. For me I look back on this cultural phenomenon with fondness. Like enough reminiscing already.

It still gets used in this way by this generation but it’s less intentional. Their true like comes in a different form.

facebook like button

facebook like button (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

For this generation it’s the like button. The like button is a way of sharing your opinion or showing support and loyalty. It acts as an acknowledgement. It’s the “amen” corner in the church of “you feel me?”

“Like me on Facebook.” Some of you may even choose to like this post. Click to like is an important part of the culture today.

Even my 7 year old (soon to be 8) wants to be a part of it. He knows its importance.

He is in the process of building his birthday gift list. He’s researching possible Power Rangers Samurai toys on Amazon (with my supervision of course). He keeps asking if he can add things to the cart and when we tell him no, he wants to know, “When can I get my own cart?” We all know that answer, “When you get a job.”

But last night he asked me, “Mom, can I click on like for this Bull Zord?” So we had to have the conversation about how the like button works. How he would need his own Facebook page which he’s too young to have. Instead he’s decided he’ll start a blog or website (still too young). I guess that’s one way he can access a like button. Amazing isn’t it?

I wonder if the social media generation will look back on the like button with the same fondness and nostalgia that I have for the age of the valley girl. What do you think? Will the like button just be a phase in our history as valley girl speak has been? I believe it will be around longer.
What a difference a generation makes!

What other words or phrases or attitudes have morphed into something new based on how each generation represents it? I’d love to hear what you come up with.

Like totally have like a great day and like click the like button …