online communities

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I’ve been working on the blog this past week. Mostly going back and reformatting the posts I transplanted from my original blog(s) and tagging them appropriately. It’s tedious work, but fascinating to read my long ago thoughts on this and that.

Lost in 2007 right now, which covers Rob and I from courtship to early months of marriage. I thought I’d written more about us really than what I have found. There are a lot of things I didn’t share, which surprises me because I don’t consider myself the discreet sort.

Another thing that’s come up in preparing the holy writing platform is my “fan” page on Facebook. I felt like such a geek setting one up and it’s very grade seven to ask – but if you do read my blog and are on FB, could you “like” me? Or follow me on Twitter?

Ugh, there –  it’s said. Feel like I need to wash the grovel off now.

I’m also looking for blog topic post ideas. I am not quite ready to rant about U.S. politics. Perhaps I won’t ever be. I shake me head and just as I finish someone else down there commits some new verbal atrocity in the name of capturing the 2012 GOP nom.

Long ago, I asked readers to “ask me” about things they wanted to know. I think the project stemmed from a meme. So here’s your opportunity to ask me again, keeping in mind that there are actually places I won’t go in terms of personal revelation or outing family/friends. Leave a comment here or over on my “fan” page.

Sigh, fan page sounds so pretentious.


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Found a great quote on Twitter today:

“…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou

It doesn’t get more true than that.

Specifics fade or morph. They take on lives of their own. But in the end, what drives the things you say or do into another person’s soul like nails into the proverbial coffin are the feelings that resulted.

Good, bad and freak show ugly, what matters at the end of the day is how people feel.

Last evening a friend of Will’s mother contacted me on Facebook.  I haven’t heard from her in five years.  In fact, the last conversation we had concerned her calling on MIL’s behalf to inquire about Will’s burial.

Which I had not invited anyone to attend given the fact that his mother and friends hijacked his visitation and made it all about them and their loss.  Dee and I weren’t even afterthoughts.

At the time, this woman had been acting as a go-between for about six months.  MIL moved shortly before Will went into hospice and refused to allow anyone to tell me her new address or phone number.

And no, there wasn’t any trauma-rama incident that led up to my being persona non-grata.  She just hated me and preferred to let others talk to me and relay information to her.

In our last conversation, I told MIL’s friend that in the future MIL was to contact me herself if she needed information.  I wasn’t catering to her Queen of England fetish anymore.

Okay, I didn’t make the “Queen” comment but I was clear enough.

I didn’t hear from MIL for 8 months and last evening was the first I’d heard from her friend.

“I was searching for friends and thought I would try to find you. I am curious to see pictures of Will’s daughter to see how she is growing up.”

And yes, she referred to Dee as “Will’s daughter”.  I don’t imagine any of his friends remember that Dee is a separate entity with a name of her own.  She’s simply a legacy.

Some Facebook buddies responded to my slightly ranty status update bemoaning having been tracked down. They’d been there and advised using the various privacy tools to limit access to my personal page while still relaying information to interested parties about Dee.

But my sister, DNOS, was more to the point in her reply,

I wouldn’t Annie, you owe them nothing!!!! or completely block em!! It is time to end it!!! All they will do is bring you and everyone else misery!! I know that is mean but I had watch them and that is all I can say!!!!!Well I could say more but can not here.

DNOS is still a bit indignant on my behalf and she is a fierce mama tiger. It was all I could do to keep her from ripping his family and friends to shreds during the funeral.  She did lay waste to one of Will’s pool league buddies who wandered outside for a smoke and ran into her.  He, according to her account, “blubbered like a baby and boo-hoo’d about how he should have been there for Will. And I just gave him a look of disgust and told him he should have before I walked away.”*

My sister is a strong person.  She has no use for the weak, indecisive or those who look back on their poor behavior expecting sympathy. “Fuck ’em” is her motto. You have ample opportunity in life to stand up and be worthy in her opinion.  Regrets are for the useless.

MIL asked me once to forgive her for the slights, dishonesty, malicious attempts to undermine me with the staff at the nursing home and again at hospice.

But I can’t forget what the Social Worker at hospice told me after one such attack,

“She hates you. Be careful.”

I am not at all sure what prompted the friend’s request for photos. I messaged back that she should inquire with MIL for photo access as I have sent her pictures recently.  She replied with a “thank you” and not much more.  I suspect that MIL sent her looking for me on FB with the intent of gaining access to real-time information via my page.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the hunt has even led them to this blog or the others for which I have written.

I have enjoyed five years of pretty much total anonymity from Will’s family and friends on the Internet.  Longer than I should have expected but given their mercurial temperaments and historic lack of interest in how Dee or I was faring, perhaps it’s more of a surprise to be found at all.

I haven’t forgotten the feelings associated with dealing with a single one of them. I was the Cinderella of care-taking and then of widowhood, and I broke all manner of polite society (which is funnier if you know the people I am taking about) rules by moving on and eventually remarrying.

Gut instinct says this is first contact.

*On a side note, DNOS informed friend and MIL’s sister that no way in hell would they ever see Dee again after the funeral. I knew nothing about this exchange at the time. In fact, DNOS was under orders from me not to start anything with the in-laws, whom she held in great contempt for their failure to be much help. She especially disliked MIL for her antics while Will was in hospice and when we arrived at the funeral home to find that MIL and friends had set up camp and taken over, it was all I could do to hold DNOS back. I wasn’t in the mood for a Finnegan sort of wake.

A columnist in the Daily Mail and Globe (Christie Blatchford), which is the Canadian equivalent of USA-Today minus the excess pictures and celebrity suck up section, wrote her Saturday piece about bloggers. Her disdain for the genre and the poor writing. She holds the common opinion among those of us who can write that writing is not for everyone. I agree. Writing is a gift that some of us are born with and develop over the course of our lives, but it isn’t something that just anyone can do. It’s like singing or dancing or painting. It’s an art. Having said that, I don’t think being a person of average writing skill should preclude anyone from writing and seeing that writing published somewhere. There are people who sing and dance and paint who haven’t much skill either but sometimes that’s not the point. We all deserve an artistic outlet regardless of whether we are truly talented. What someone might call a hobby is someone else’s great soul fulfilling passion.

I think what puzzled this columnist the most is why anyone would put what she considers to be no more than a diary up on the web for public display. The simple answer is that writers, good, average or really awful, want to be published. The only medium to which people have a fairly democratic access is on the Internet. To someone who writes for a living, and to whom the finished product is a matter of a paycheck, it would probably seem odd as well that anyone could write for free or without benefit of copyright. However, to someone who just wants to write and would be happy of any audience, blogging or Facebook or just an online community can be a welcome opportunity.

Another point of contention the writer had was with the concept of online communities and the idea that you can have relationships with “virtual” people. Like most who have never truly experienced this, she falls back on the snotty superiority of the fact that she not only prefers REAL friends, she actually has them too. While it is true that there are many people for whom online communities are their only social outlets, it’s not true for all people. The majority of those I have met via message boards have families, friends and rich REAL lives. They came to the different boards during times in their lives when they hadn’t anyone in their lives they could connect with for various reasons. One group of women I have been messaging with for over six years now came to be when we met on a site called BabyCenter. We were all “older” women trying to conceive and most of us didn’t have peers are our age to relate to when it came to trying to get pregnant in your late thirties or early forties. As we one by one became mothers, we moved our group to a private message board and continued to share our lives with each other because by this time we were friends who had move to talk about than just ovulation charts and birth stories. Two of us became widows in the time we have known each other. There have been location and job changes. New babies to celebrate. Some of us know each other offline and those of us who travel quite a bit meet up from time to time when things can be arranged. I wouldn’t consider any of us freaks or even freakish.

I met my husband Rob through an online community for younger widowed people. We started off as email pals much in the same vein as the old pen-pals of yore. Another member of the same community is a friend to the point that she attended our wedding, and there are several others we keep in contact with via email and their blogs. The community itself has produced a viable offline network of events and countless friendships and romances (some that also have led to marriage) have blossomed because of this. I think it is easy to look down on or even make fun of online social networks but it would be a mistake to think that everyone engaged in this rather recent means of meeting people is just for the desperate. My husband’s two twenty-something daughters have met some various nice people via Facebook and we use the site as a way to keep in touch with them and with extended family and far off friends. In a world where we are so far from the “neighborhoods” we grew up in and Grandma doesn’t live just a few blocks over anymore, it’s a good way to stay connected.