Support My Writing

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Purging and cleansing my facebook “friends” list

This was my facebook status today, 30 May 2012:

“A very wise friend gave me this idea and I am going to be simplifying some things. This week is my Friends List Cleaning Week, since many people aren't actual friends, and because we rarely ever interact/communicate, some not at all. Nothing personal just trying to simplify things. I still have the subscribe option. It is pointless to have "friends" who never interact and only lurk.”

So it has come to the point where I currently have 689 “Friends” on facebook. Through the years, I have lost some, deleted some, been deleted by some, and gained many. Too many. I feel lost in a sea of friends, some of which I have absolutely no contact with at all. That is what has brought me to the point where I need to reassess the whole concept.

Obviously, I don’t have 689 “real” friends.  The 689 fall into six categories:

1)      Family (This one is fairly obvious) = People I love and interact with regularly, on facebook and in real life

2)      Professional and business contacts = Connection and interaction is based on mutual professional or business interests on facebook, and may or may not be in real life

3)      True friends = Deep connection, and interaction on facebook and real life

4)      Acquaintances = Casual connection and may or may not interact regularly on facebook

5)      Lurkers or silent non-interactors = People I know, but have absolutely no interaction with in real life or facebook

6)      Social Mediaphobes = People I know, who have facebook accounts, but never use them

** NOTE: Some people I know overlap and are more than one of the above.
 So I go through the list of the six categories and try to decide who I need to purge and I have devised a method to decide.  
Here are the criteria:

Family is off limits:

I am not going to delete any of my current family members on facebook. I am sure they are all incredibly relieved… (That’s a joke).

The silent treatment:

If I haven’t heard a word from a person in over a year- GONE.
If someone who regularly uses facebook, and I can tell they use it regularly by their posts, doesn’t ever comment on anything or even wish me “Happy Birthday” on my birthday, what is the point of keeping that person as a friend. I realize some people don’t get on facebook every day, so if they miss a birthday one year, that’s understandable. I just think it is stupid and pointless to keep friends who never interact or have anything of substance to say.

Ragers and Debbie Downers:

I can’t deal with these types and I am making an effort to cull them from the list. The negative energy they give off could dry up Niagara Falls. Sure, everyone loves to vent and gripe on facebook from time to time. It’s fun!
The Rager is that person who is angry more than five times a week about something idiotic or ridiculous- e.g. “My neighbor put the trash out again and it blew all over the street, this time I’ve had it!” or  Debbie or Donnie Downer with their “I can’t take the people I meet on, they are all big losers.”  Seriously, I have enough negativity in my day. We all love t spill our guts and commiserate, and I can appreciate the desire to vent as much as the next person. There has to be some balance, and don’t overload your friends with every meltdown in your life.

The Political Animal: 

Yes, I get it that you don’t like this party or that party or this candidate or that candidate. If you post about politics more than 4 times a week, I have got to let you go. One of the most important aspects of facebook and social media relationships is sharing common values and attitudes. I can respect other points of view and I do! I have friends of every persuasion and walk of life. The difference is I don’t want to be PLASTERED with partisan or extremist propaganda during election time or hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth about every political complaint. It’s too much. Most of the time, I filter it out, but I am starting to think I don’t need “friends” who are this neurotic about politics.


They’ve got to go. If I see that a person hasn’t commented or posted anything in this calendar year, there is honestly no point in keeping them as a “friend”. It is like bread- there is a shelf-life.
I love facebook for the connections and ability to stay connected. If it wasn’t for facebook, I would have been able to find and reconnect with people I hadn’t seen or heard from in 20 or 30 years! It is a heck of a lot cheaper and easier than a private detective.
Last year, I wrote a post called, “What does a facebookstatus say about the face behind it?” In that post I mentioned people who have absolutely NOTHING to say, EVER, on facebook. I don’t understand why they even join. Does lurking bring them happiness or is it just a morbid curiosity to peer silently into the lives of others? I don’t understand it at all. I know that some people are not as extraverted as others, but if it doesn’t appeal to a person, why join in the first place? And even more puzzling, why send people friend requests or accept theirs?

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:

No, this category has nothing to do with sexual orientation. It is exactly what it sounds like- no communication. I don’t need to stay friends with people who aren’t going to communicate with me on any level. I am not asking for a lot. How about a “like” here or a comment there. How about a meaningful status that say SOMETHING about you other than what you had for breakfast. I think I am going for quality instead of quantity. I am losing my need to stay connected with every person I have ever known. If someone wants to be a part of my life, I believe they will make the effort to show me, even if it is in a tiny way.
We all have a limited amount of time, energy, and resources. It is futile and wasteful to spend a minute of time or burn a calorie on anyone who doesn’t reciprocate or engage. Why would anyone with an ounce of self-respect continue to pursue or reach out to people who aren’t willing or able to return the favor?
There comes a point where you don’t want to be the only one doing “the work” or making the effort. Even casual relationships need a measure of attention. The key is for both parties to have balance and attempt to give some indication that they enjoy the relationship/friendship/partnership or whatever it is that exists between them.

Obviously professional and business relationships are just that and don’t require the same level of effort. I don’t intend on purging any professional or business “friends”. There is an unspoken understanding that the connection is on the surface and doesn’t need to be attended to in the same way a personal connection should.
Reconnecting is one of the best parts of facebook! It is wonderful to hear from friends who live far away, to include my relatives in Germany, and see their photos and share my own. It is so much easier than email and much more creative and dynamic. The benefits are too numerous to list (maybe another post later), but there is also a cost.
As I stated in my opening line- I am only trying to simplify my life and cut down on extraneous distractions. I CHERISH most of the people I interact with on facebook, for many different reasons.
 I am not trying to hurt or annoy or anger anyone. It is just time to sort it out and clean it up. Life is too short to try to be all things to all people.  I will still have the SUBSCRIBE option.  I hope that when I cut my list of friends down and take someone off, they understand it is without malice or anger. It is simply an exercise I recommend for everyone- SIMPLFY your life and focus on the people and things that bring good, positive, exciting, and engaging things to your life.
Weed out the things that distract or distance you from what you want in life. AND MOST OF ALL- Don’t hang on to anyone or anything that takes up time, focus, or energy from you without giving something, no matter how small, back in return.
So, let me know what you think?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What happened to communication? The slippery slope of lousy language

Poor communication skills have reached an all-time low. This past week, NPR reported that many members of congress have the communication skills of a 10th grader. It used to be the question, “Why can’t Johnny, or Janie, read?” Now the question is why can’t they read, write or speak coherently? It isn’t a literacy issue or problem of a lack of education. Inexcusably poor communication is being exhibited by those with advanced degrees and a good education.
Lousy communication, and shabby language skills, isn’t simply an inability to speak or write correctly. There is also a pervasive and insidious inability to anticipate or understand reactions which result when certain words or phrases are used in conversation or communications.

On the internet, examples of epic communication failure happen daily. Every hour of the day, someone makes a seemingly innocent comment and unintentionally creates a stir. WHY? Because they aren’t able to express themselves or actually state what they mean to say. And then there is that special species of internet creature called a troll, who lives to cause uproar on social media sites or webpage comment sections. They use communication like a weapon. Not a rapier wit or a pen that is mightier than the sword, mind you. These people use words like crude and blunt objects. The messages are ragged, coarse, and ugly.
Poor communication is a multi-faceted problem. I will present three different types of poor communicators. There are so many more, but I only have so much time to delve into this topic today. I will build upon this theme again at a later date.

“That’s not what I meant!”  But that is what you said.

The first type of poor communicator- I will call this person the ABRASIVE COMMUNICATOR, is the guy or gal who apparently has little to no insight into the level of inappropriateness their communications convey. They really don’t “get it”, and aren’t able to understand how rude or obnoxious they sound. They routinely step in the “stuff” and are stunned and surprised when their facebook friends delete them. They don’t get the hint that the words they use are generally offensive or inappropriate. 
A chronic inability to understand what is socially acceptable in communication is often at the heart of misunderstandings that can cause relationships, and even marriages, to break apart. Just as with the law, ignorance is no excuse. It is called, GET A CLUE!  Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result, is the definition of insanity.

#*&^#!!@%*^%  and if you don’t like that, *&#%$%%*#!”

The second type of individual is the ANTI-SOCIAL COMMUNICATOR. These folks are hard to manage in any situation, be it work or personal life. Their communication style is more than abrasive: it is downright toxic, abusive, and mean. Most of the nasty remarks and vitriol that comes out of the mouths, or pens, of these people can challenge the most patient and laid-back individuals. Insults, jabs, crude slurs or nasty remarks are their trademark- think Rush Limbaugh.  Many of them consider themselves to be humorous or superior. In reality, they are usually pompous bullies.

“I have an MBA and I know everything about anything and I can do what I want, even if I’m wrong.”

The third type of poor communicator is not as rude as the two former communicators, but just as incredibly annoying and difficult to deal with. It is the CLUELESS COMMUNICATOR. Everyone has come in contact with someone who is simply unable to express a thought or idea that makes sense. Random words or inexplicable sentences are strung together without any logic, thought,  or meaning. Working with someone who can’t write a simple email, let alone a presentation or complex deliverable, can drive a normal person insane; especially if they refuse to accept that they can’t write well and that the work they are putting forward is garbage.

I don’t know what happened to communication in the last 30 years, but I honestly believe that something has gone terribly wrong on many levels. Poor grammar, inconsistency, lack of attention to detail, careless mistakes in spelling and usage are just beginning of the list of shameful communication practices.  

Perhaps most people don’t care or aren’t aware, or maybe they are too distracted to notice; but I, and many others like me, notice and we are mad as hell. It is awful to see a website with mistakes and depressing to know that someone either didn’t care enough or wasn’t smart enough to do the job right. Is there no shame or conscientiousness?  How did that happen? When did it become tolerable?
So we have our three prototypes of poor communicators. All three are annoying and maddening, for different reasons. At this point there are probably more words on the internet than grains of sand on the beach; but what is being written, and how it is communicated, is a collective linguistic and literary sea of sewage? Are we valuing quantity over quality?  Does anyone THINK before they speak or write?  Is John or Jane Q. Public concerned with how they express themselves? All signs point to ABSOLUTELY NOT! Proper and civil communication has little to no value, and it is destroying our ability to understand and be understood.

So what can anyone do to improve communication in their personal and professional life?  First and foremost, PAY ATTENTION! THINK! REFLECT! If people would put a little more thought into the words that came out of their mouths, or the things they wrote, and how they wrote them- I sincerely believe it would create a more insightful and civilized atmosphere, which in turn would  improve intellectual capacity, human relationships and quality of life.  

Call me crazy, but I dream of a day when words are seen as the valuable and precious things they truly are. If the average person could gain an ounce of appreciation and passion for proper, correct, and polite communication, imagine how things would change! How amazing would it be if there was a movement towards a more civil, thoughtful, mature, and professional style of communication? If that happened, I honestly believe it would change the world for the better on so many levels.

Change often begins one person at a time. Before speaking or writing, take a moment and think about the real value of quality, civil, and concise communication.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

In honor of my mother: A Mother's Day reflection on Alzheimer's

                                                          My mother and me 1965

This Mother’s Day has more meaning for my family than it has in past years. Our beloved mother, Gisela Ullmann Rodriguez, is still with us in body- but the wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother that we have known and loved for 50 years, is not wholly with us this year.

My mother is slipping away from us. There isn’t anything that can be done about it. She has what appears to be a form of Alzheimer’s disease.

It all started around January of 2010. It started with very little things, and it didn’t really become alarming until we noticed she was forgetting birthdays and other details she would NEVER in a million years, have forgotten.

When I was growing up, my mother was one of those “SUPER MOMS” who worked outside the home in addition to being an incredible homemaker. Even after working in an office all day, she had an amazing dinner on the table every single night. We were very proud of the fact that she was a valued professional in the workplace, and she was an incredible role model for my sister and me.

As I got older and became a mother to my own children, I could never understand where she got her drive or energy from all those years. She and my father raised my sister and me to have a very strong work ethic; but I could never believe or understand how she managed to accomplish all the things she did. She was renowned for her drive and ability. She lived up to her German roots and never forgot where she came from.
In addition to being a driven wife and professional, she has always been a devoted and patient mother and grandmother. And while she could be very stern and serious, she has always had a great capacity for love, compassion, and generosity.

She retired in December, 1999, from a very stressful and demanding job as an Office Manager/Property Manager of a local condominium. Sometimes she worked close to 60 hour weeks. It wasn’t unusual for her to be on 24 hour a day call and have to go to work on weekends. Always the consummate professional in every regard, she was a relentless advocate for residents, as well as staff.

In previous posts, I have written about my family. It can’t ever be stated strongly enough that my mother was the glue that held our family together. In her prime, there was no problem too difficult, no issue outside of her ability to cope. In dealing with her daughters and grandchildren, she was often tough, but always fair and compassionate. You didn’t want to aggravate her or make her upset, but even if that happened, she was quick to forgive us and move forward (not so much with my father).
                                                           Gisela Ullmann age 11

My mother, Gisela Ullmann Rodriguez, has been the epitome of the modern woman. Born in Köln, Germany, a couple of years before the onset of World War II; her life began amid chaos, danger, and deprivation.
She came into a tough world at a very tough time. She was a child of war, and that experience has been a defining one throughout her entire life. As a small child, she lived in a world of uncertainty and dread. Her house burnt in a bombing raid and the family had to relocate with relatives far from the city life she was used to in Köln. Her one salvation was the strong extended family bonds and the resilience of her mother’s family, which held them all together throughout the years of deprivation and danger.

When my grandfather returned from his years in a British Prisoner of War Camp, she didn’t recognize him. She was ten years old. War was the thing she knew best, and that had a powerful impact on her.

My mother loves my husband, David, because he is, to her, the embodiment of the things she knows and admires most. She respects and admires his ability to DO things and makes things happen. She has a soft spot in her heart for him because he reminds her of her father- a man with many strength, and weaknesses, a man who knew about war and hardship, a man of action and determination, and a man with rough edges and charisma.

                       My family of origin- father, Pablo, sister, Lisa, me, and mother, Gisela, in 2011

Nothing pleases my mother more than seeing someone do an honest day’s work. It isn’t that she didn’t like to have fun; she just wasn’t very good at it. Relaxation and rest has not been her strong suite. In her world, she reserves the highest respect and admiration for those who provide service to others. She sees something familiar to her in David’s soul that none of us in the family have- a first-hand, personal experience, and understanding of war- and all of its sounds, and smells, and sights. They both have lived in war, and that is a bond that is beyond our comprehension.
I could write a book about my mother’s life. She has led a fascinating one. Nothing glamorous or very exciting, but extraordinary in her ability to confront extreme difficulties and pull together under extremely stressful circumstances.

That is why it is almost unbearable to accept and fathom what is happening to her. It is so unexpected and out of character. How could this happen to someone who was so detail-oriented and never, ever, forgot ANYTHING?! She remembered EVERY friend’s birthday and anniversary. Her memory was almost annoying, as she rarely forgot even the most mundane details. Her mind was truly like a steel-trap.

And now, more and more, she can’t recall what happened 20 minutes ago. Sometimes the things that happen in life are crueler than you could have imagined possible. Because the worst part of it is that the things she remembers most vividly are those things that happened during her difficult childhood- war, separation, loss, and family. I fear for a day when that is all she remembers.
So we are grateful to still have our beloved mother with us. We still enjoy her company, and she enjoys us. We have to adjust, and that is a character-building experience. Is it ever? We aren’t alone. There are millions of families who have, or are, or will be, going through what we are now going through. We take it a day at a time. Our love and our time is more precious than ever. Each day she remembers is a cherished gift. We don’t squander it as we did. We don’t take it for granted.

                                  Pablo and Gisela Rodriguez - beloved parents and grandparents

Friday, May 4, 2012

Loyalty shouldn't be blind, deaf, or dumb: The danger of the "true believer"

It is a word that is thrown around very lightly, but what does it really imply?

Definition of LOYAL
: unswerving in allegiance: as a : faithful in allegiance to one's lawful sovereign or government b : faithful to a private person to whom fidelity is due c : faithful to a cause, ideal, custom, institution, or product

: showing loyalty

obsolete : lawful, legitimate

Related to LOYAL
Synonyms: constant, dedicated, devoted, devout, down-the-line, fast, good, faithful, pious, staunch (also stanch), steadfast, steady, true, true-blue

 Antonyms: disloyal, faithless, false, fickle, inconstant, perfidious, recreant, traitorous, treacherous, unfaithful, untrue
- From Merriam-Webster

                                                                Chinese symbol for Loyalty

Whether it is to spouse, family, country, state, faith, political party, or any other person, place, or thing- I often wonder, how “loyal” is loyal enough? 
We live in an age where very few things last forever and vows are not taken as seriously as they once were. The statistics tell us that more than half of all marriages will end in divorce; and all you have to do is read the disturbing statistics on incidences of marital infideltiy to know what loyalty means to some people.
The Latin word for loyalty is Fidelis. That is the root word for FIDELITY. Obviously, most married people expect their spouse to be loyal to them in regards to being mutually exclusive within their own relationship. Infidelity in a marriag involves lying and deception.
But the type of "loyalty" I am speaking of doesn't have anything to do with the relationship between a husband and wife. I am refering to the concept of loyalty in relation to beliefs and institutions.
So what does "loyalty" mean in 2012? I suppose that depends on an individual person’s character and their dedication and love for whatever it is they are loyal to. You will often hear people RANK the order of their loyalty.
“First, God, then my family, then the New York Yankees.”  Or whatever it is in their life that they given their loyalty.
 So, does that mean the person isn’t a good American if they didn’t rank the U.S. in their top three? And what about their school? Are they loyal to their Alma Mater? Why did family rate SECOND? Does that mean they don’t love their family the most?

Clearly there are issues with loyalty and what comes first, and what it says about a person. We judge people by what they are loyal to and what is most important to them. We admire people who show devotion and honor and dedicate themselves to a cause or institution. It shows that they have character.But does it always, or is there something darker? Is loyalty ever a bad thing, and can it be twisted to support things that are wrong or broken?

There is a lot of chatter on the internet. If you haven’t already experienced that phenomenon, just go and read the comments under any controversial, or not so controversial, news articles or commentary. This person is accusing that person of not being “loyal” or a “good enough” fill in the blanks, because they disagree with them.

“When we are debating an issue, loyalty means giving me your honest opinion, whether you think I'll like it or not. Disagreement, at this stage, stimulates me. But once a decision has been made, the debate ends. From that point on, loyalty means executing the decision as if it were your own.” - Colin Powell


As everyone who knows me is well aware, I am a very vocal supporter of the military and their families. Working for the Department of Defense, Army, and VA for many years has solidified my respect and concern for that cause. My husband is a Veteran and we live in a city where you can’t throw a rock without hitting someone who has served at one time or another. I believe it is a noble and honorable calling and I admire the values the military stands for.
Having said that, I have been accused at times of not being an ardent or loyal supporter because I don’t blindly support or defend situations and actions that have occurred within the military. That is always hurtful and disappointing, because I consider myself extremely loyal.
For some people, loyalty must be blind and without the slightest word of criticism or dissent. I am terrified by the true believer- One who is deeply, sometimes fanatically devoted to a cause, organization, or person. I can't fathom how a person isn't able to allow questioning or dissent in any situation. Blind loyalty is dangerous and empty.

Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it”. - Mark Twain


“My loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to the country begins.” - Manuel L. Quezon

So let’s exchange the scenario I just described and insert any other “thing” in our lives that we pledge loyalty to. Spouse? Family? Church? Country? Team? Friend? Party? Fraternity? Employer?

The strength of a family, like the strength of an army, is in its loyalty to each other. – Mario Puzo, The Family


Does loyalty mean I can never question or disagree with the thing to which I have given my loyalty to? Am I never permitted to voice concern or doubt? Does that make me disloyal; or worse, does it make me dishonorable?

Think of times when you have felt that someone was disloyal or betrayed you because they broke trust or let you down. When I think of times in my own life when people I really love let me down and I felt like I had lost their loyalty, it was incredibly painful. It is a very bad feeling.
So where do we draw the line? There is a huge difference in being disloyal to someone or something and having differences of opinion or concerns. I can love someone, but not love their actions. I can be loyal to something and still have opinions which are negative or critical.
The loyalty part is the devotion and the fidelity. I love my country and will never turn my back on it. I may disagree with what is going on, but that doesn’t mean I will move away if they elect someone I don’t like. Loyalty doesn’t mean blind and ignorant obedience or mindless adherence. Loyalty shouldn't require a person to go against their values or bend to the will of another without mutual respect or consideration. That kind of dysfunctional loyalty is how tyrants grab power and people lose their basic human rights.

“Sometimes party loyalty asks too much” - John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Disagreeing with one's government, church, or spouse is not betrayal or disloyalty. Seeking to improve or heal division or disagreement is healthy. Pretending to accept and even love something that is broken or dysfunctional is not honorable. Blind and ignorant devotion to a cause or entity is empty and pointless. It is a loving act to seek to work towards a better atmosphere or condition. It is the most unloving and dishonorable act to excuse or ignore anything that could potentially hurt others or one's self.

 “It seems we are capable of immense love and loyalty, and as capable of deceit and atrocity. It's probably this shocking ambivalence that makes us unique.”

- John Scott


Think twice, or ten times, before accusing someone of disloyalty, whether it be to country, church, Soldiers or Veterans. It is fine to have a personal opinion, but when it comes to loyalty, unless you know the contents of that person's heart and soul, you should keep your opinion to yourself. Questioning a person's loyalty to their country, their family, or their principles is dangerous territory. Let your conscience be your guide, but don't try to guide the conscience of another.