Monthly Archives: May 2012

Looking UP.

I know this is familiar to you. It has to be.

Humor me for a moment. Take a minute and really look around you. Don’t take for granted that you know what is there…

Go ahead, you can do it. Put down the phone. Drop the iPad and back away slowly. Pull your head up from whatever technology you are using and…

L O O K    A R O U N D.

I think I just heard the male thirty-something in the back squeal like a girl and run for cover. Yes, that blinding globe shining in the sky is called the SUN. I know it’s strange and I understand that you may not understand what those bizarre creatures walking around on two legs are…those are called PEOPLE. No, they’re not fantasy, they are real, and they don’t necessarily look like their avatars! If you listen closely, guess what? They SPEAK and they do it in complete sentences longer than 140 characters! Don’t panic! It’s okay! Your hearing is fine! They have voices!

Holy cow. What an amazing world we live in, where people actually speak instead of giving you a precis of their mindset in 140 characters or less and have conversations that aren’t based on what the person before them said on Facebook!

I know it’s strange, but just stick with me.

Now, I understand what a foreign concept I am putting forward, but don’t panic, you’re ok, I’m right here with you. Just sit back, relax, take a breath, look around and actually count the number of people around you who are actually looking UP. I know it’s a stretch to actually make you participate in the Z-Space, but just hang on, you’re going to be okay.

As you’re looking around and counting, I don’t care if they’re looking at the ceiling, the fluffy white clouds in the blue sky above them, the stars overhead at night…look around and count how many people actually are looking UP in relation to how many you see looking down at their mobile device.

Freaky, isn’t it?

If you just swore at the “holy cow” epicness of what you just saw, it’s ok, I do it all the time. The cartoon above does nothing but service my point because here comes the gut check:

Ask yourself, “How many times have I seen that?

Then push further.

Ask yourself, “How many times have I done that to someone?

I just saw that cringe…don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.  But I’ll ask you this simple question, isn’t it about time you fixed that?

Don’t you hate it when you feel like you’ve been left behind to dine alone, your dinner partner a mere technological ghost occupying the seat across from you? Don’t you just hate it when the mobile device your partner is holding feels like it is more important than you are? I know I do.

Tell me if any of these sound familiar:

My date has been abducted by Siri:  How often have you looked at your significant other, after you’ve finally scheduled some “us” time, only to find that they’ve traipsed off with that slut Siri as she uses her wiles and sexy interface to whisk them off to other places? Don’t you just hate it when she happily ushers them to Facebookia or Twitterville in the middle of the restaurant you’re sitting in, resulting in you only getting an “Mmmhmmm” as any sort of response?

The MomCam: How about the parents from the Silent and Baby Boom generations who have discovered the wonders of technology, resulting in their overwhelming need to share your 4-year-old naked ass on a bearskin rug with the whole world via Facebook or Twitter? Here’s worse, when your dinner partner flips their phone around to show you said photo going, “Awwww! How cute!” as you resist the urge to dive beneath the restaurant table in embarrassment thinking “Oh gee, thanks Mom.” What is bothersome here is that Moms and Dads from those generations will not likely understand how “FOREVER” the Internet really is.  Once it’s out in cyberspace, it’s out there forever.  Now just think about YOUR kids and how your happy sharing of all sorts of photos on Facebook will impact their dating lives…

“It’s Urgent”: I know you’ve experienced this one because it’s a classic. It’s where your partner just has to make sure that they take care of the needs of their family, work or friends before they get to you, but you’re the one sitting next to them in the here and now, having to tell the restaurant’s server that you’ll need another minute with the menu (while your mind is already made up, you’re just waiting for the person across the table to stop texting and rejoin you).

“The Double Dip”: Worst one yet is what I term as the “Double Dip”, the significant other who just can’t quite seem to stop texting with their ex while they’re out on a “date night” with you. That one I’m sure has resulted in quite the few arguments.

Yes, that’s right, it’s no small wonder why the world is looking down…after all, you naked on a bearskin rug is just so conversation-worthy. By the way, so is the photo of you barfing your guts up after a weekend bender…tasty. Your need to tweet that you’re so disappointed with the results of Dancing with the Stars or American Idol that you have to send it out right now? That is so worth neglecting your other half? Oh yes, what the Internet offers us through our personal devices is so much more important than the here and now…or the person sitting next to you…*eyeroll*

Note: Any type of texting or manipulating of personal technology while with a fellow human being directly results in you being thought of as a “rude jackass.” Unless it’s GPS directions to your destination, you’re screwed if you’re playing with your phone instead of giving your partner the attention that they deserve.

Actually, I started noticing “neglect due to technology” when I first started back to school at UNLV. Three years ago I was carrying around this really crappy little phone, a white Pantech C150, with which I had no clue what a “text message” was. I had heard of “texting” (thanks to me finding the 30 pages of text messages between my ex and the BHFB), and getting e-mail by phone, but you could say I definitely wasn’t on the leading edge of feeling the need to live life vicariously through technology.

I personally like tangible experiences and actually HEARING people speak and engaging in conversation, but I’m crazy like that.

Think your iWhatever is cool? Oh yeah, back in 2009 I was stylin’ the T-9 really hard, so when my new-found friends at school would start burning up the keys on their fancy-schmantzy smartphones, I knew I was behind the curve. As I saw message after message pop up in rapid succession finally resulting in the question “R U There?”, my shoulders would droop because it took me 10 minutes to tap a reply that said, “Yes.” But then again, I also had this very nasty habit…I made it a point to look up at the sky every day and when my friends would text message me, I would reply in complete sentences with correctly spelled words and no abbreviations. While strolling across campus to get to my next class, I watched the majority of my fellow students running into things, or being face down in their smartphones, as I enjoyed the sunny skies, the warmth of the sun on my skin and *gasp* actually speaking to people.

You have to understand where I’m coming from when I say that I make it a point to look up at the sky every day. Remember, I lived for seven years tied inextricably to my computer. It was my only way of communicating with people because I was trapped for three of those years in a foreign country with no friends. Mama Kitte, Aunties Susan, Essjay, Kooky, Neems, Mystdee and Twi, Soosi, June, Tae, Doc Arte, Papa Stung, KayKay, even KP…they were the kind souls who were my friends, but they lived in a digital universe where the only way I could speak to them was through technology. For the remaining four years of my marriage, all of them helped me cope with my world that had shrank to half of what it was and that I was terrified to re-engage.

When I put the cartoon I started the post with onto my Facebook page, my Aunt Mystdee said, “BTW, the girl in the picture so looks like you Sheri! Compare her to your profile pic and it’s like they totally used you as a model,” then Aunt Susan said, “Oh wow Sheri that does look like you!!” and I do agree with both of them, but here’s where it gets frightening: The guy in the cartoon? He looks just like my ex-husband. When I put the caption, “I have SO been here.” it was because every evening at dinner, my ex-husband and I would sit just like the two characters in the cartoon.

Every evening without fail, whether we would be having dinner out or staying in when we cooked at home, the entire meal would be him looking at his phone while I tried to make polite conversation. When I would ask him what was so interesting, he would say, “It’s just work.” Well, we all know what was really going on…and I’m not going to revisit it (if you want to, you go right ahead, that’s why there is a post list on the side, just go back to 2009 and start reading).

Much less to say, when my ex-husband hit the door, I realized that the world was a much larger place and I had no choice, I had to get back out in it. I actually stepped out of my home office and found out that the world that I had been cut off from still existed, that people still communicated face to face, but there was an added twist, everyone was carrying a smartphone.

So there I was, back at school sitting in Doc T’s Comp II class, sitting astonished that most students were face down in their phones! Always giving a polite nod and a smile, none of them really spoke to each other, they just politely hunkered down and text messaged. I became perplexed. Why weren’t they looking up? What was so incredibly fascinating that they HAD to text back right away? What was on those phones that was so vital that they had to be face down in it almost 100 percent of the time?

I asked a few of my fellow students and they said, “Well, I’m just trying to keep up” and “Text messaging rocks because you don’t have to give a response right away, you can take your time to think of a response or answer when you have time or when you’re ready.”

Just to further my understanding on the phenomenon, I took time to sit in front of Wright Hall, right across from the Student Union and Pida Plaza on campus, and watch students as they buzzed from building to building. A good majority of the time, if they weren’t walking with a friend or navigating the walkways with their skateboards, what did I find? Students face down in their technology. So much for not feeling a sense of urgency, if a text came through, they were on it faster than anything I had ever seen! But to put the cherry on the cake, I guess they like all of their drama hand-held because they sure seem riveted to whatever was coming through those phones.  Not in three years worth of watching these young people have I ever seen a single one look UP!

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that in our very technology saturated world that the instant information/gratification is highly addictive. I also understand that some people might think that looking up at a sky that’s just filled with clouds is completely useless, that there is “nothing there”, whether they mean it as ‘there is nothing to interact with’ or ‘nothing to see’. I beg to differ on that point. Air, clouds, the sun…um, they all have a purpose, if for nothing else than to take a moment to breathe it in and relax….but I’m crazy like that.

But then after watching the students with their technology-influenced habits, I started to feel really bad for my professors and it gave me a unique understanding of why I have such a good rapport with them.

You see, I’m not like most students. I don’t have a laptop. I carry an actual paper-filled spiral notebook and I fill it with handwritten notes every single semester. When a professor speaks, I look at them and when they say something important, they see me look down and write down what they just said, then I look back up again to give them my complete attention and take in everything that they are trying to teach me.

But I’m not the norm on campus. Most students carry their laptops with them, and to my dismay I was forced to watch, last semester in particular, as a young woman in my Media Law class (who sat one row in front of me), as she would take notes for class in Word, but the moment she was done typing her notes, her interface would go over to Pinterest, and I would be forced to have to tear my attention between what she was “pinning” and what my professor was trying to say. But Pinterest was the least of my worries, because that young woman’s screen flashed non-stop, hopping between Facebook, online shopping (she has a real thing for shoes), Pinterest, then maybe write another note or two from class, work on assignments from other classes and ultimately distract me from what the lesson in class was for that day. It was unavoidable because her screen was literally three feet away and directly in line of sight of my professor and the large screen that contained his lesson. My urge to tap her in the back of the head and holler “Stop that!” or “Pay attention!” was almost irresistible.

But there’s my point bubbling back up to the surface again, but I’ll add some gravy to it just for some added, extra oomph: In focus groups for NSAC, Gen-C told us point blank that the reason that they post all that they do to Facebook and/or Twitter is because of the acceptance they feel because of the responses they get, whether it is a comment, a “Like” or a “Retweet.” Acceptance is a pretty powerful narcotic and with social media taking over our lives at an alarming rate, it’s not surprising that we see more and more couples not putting in the work to make their partner (or friends or family) feel accepted. Actually, when someone is messing with their phone in front of the person they are sharing an activity with, it actually rejects the person sitting across from them. After that, the next stop is neglect.

When it gets to neglect, that’s where I’m going to have to put my foot down. If you’ve reached that point, I’m begging you, put your mobile device down. Don’t reject and neglect someone you love for the sake of your phone! It’s not fair! If they are forced to compete with technology for your attention, that’s seriously messed up and ultimately wrong.

As Barnard Hughes sarcastically said in the film Tron: “Won’t that be grand? Computers and the programs will start thinking and the people will stop.

Technology is there to help us, not to hinder us.  But, we’re all susceptible to its’ seductive wiles.  The question is, what are we willing to do to fight against and stop neglecting each other because of it?

Unless it’s aiding in the conversation, your mobile device should be in your purse, pocket or somewhere else when you’re with a fellow human being.

So, here’s my question for you. How willing are you to put down your phone, tablet or other personal technology to give the person next to you some attention? Let’s go further, how about putting it down to give yourself some attention (other than servicing your ego through social media)? How about putting down the mobile device and petting your dog or cat?

Social media is just there to re-connect you, not to be your only means of communication. If you feel that the only way that you can speak to your other half and share your day is via text, you may want to readjust your approach or take a stern look at your communication habits.

Do you know that a lot of arguments start because of text messages that are misconstrued because the person who receives the message can’t hear the tone in which it is delivered? So are the words on a page…and y’all wonder why I sometimes take a bit of time between posts.

One other thing: If you are the person that is feeling the need to ask your other half if you could tape their phone to your head, share my post with them, I don’t mind a bit.  I always publish “Thank You” notes.

Have a great day everyone, and please…just for me…

LOOK UP.

Spring 2012 Semester Wrap-Up

Here we are again, the end of another semester and 12 credit hours closer to graduation. For those of you who are counting, I’ve now completed (I think) 72 credit hours at UNLV. From Nevada School Law back in Fall of ’09 to Media Law in Spring of ’12, I’ve covered a gamut of topics. Here’s the cool thing though…I’ve finished my core requirements for my major – IMC (Integrated Marketing Communications). With the semester completed, I’ve only got 35 credit hours to go – a whopping 3 semesters – then I’m done.  Unless I want my masters (which Ace insists I should do).

What a semester!  For Spring of ’12 I did: Media Ethics with the incomparable Mary Hausch; then I ventured just across the hallway to Prof M. for Ad Copywriting; grabbed my bookbag and a quick smoke to jaunt over to see one of my home-state success stories, the fantastic Dr. B for Media Law (also known as First Amendment and Media) in Beam Hall, then finally I trotted my happy backside all the way back over to Greenspun Hall for my campaigns class with Scorsese (also known as my NSAC class).

All semester long, every Monday and Wednesday, I had very long days.  I started at 10 a.m. with Mary, not stopping until well after 5 p.m. most days because of the time demands of being a part of UNLV’s 2012 NSAC team. Food was scarce, the course load heavy, the topics not easy, but at the end of the day, here I am in my very messy apartment getting ready to do my best impersonation of a backhoe to get myself straightened out again.

Media Ethics

As I’m sure you’ve noticed and gone “WHOA!” yes, I actually just mentioned one of my professors by name.  That’s of course because I asked her ahead of time. As you know, I usually keep most of my professors and most people I write about to pseudonyms, protecting them as best I can.  Heck, even my boyfriend “Ace” is a pseudonym because I want to protect him.  When I told Mary that I was going to be writing my semester wrap-up, I told her about my use of pseudonyms and she just said, “Use my name.”  I’m so very glad she did because I have to gush about spending time in Mary’s Journalism 305 “Media Ethics” class.

For the last three years going to class in Greenspun Hall, I had only heard tidbits and rumor about the Legendary Mary Hausch. Every day I would walk into the building and it was almost like the very mortar between the bricks that held the building together were whispering her name. Everywhere I turned the students raved about her and every day I would hear students talk about her; what they had learned, what they had talked about with her, what influence she held.  Before I even set one foot in her classroom, it was ingrained into my DNA that the woman was a legend and modern-day royalty inside Greenspun Hall.

When the fall semester wrapped, I had already signed up for her Ethics class.  Knowing that I was going to spend a semester with her, I held my breath absolutely petrified with fear as I dared to introduce myself to her.  As I entered the room, I felt like I had walked into the court of Elizabeth I or into the presence of Marcus Aurelius because you can literally feel the air of gravitas that surrounds her, commanding loyalty and respect.  As I approached, I felt like I should have bowed or had some sort of formal salute for her because she’s that imminent of an authority. If you were in my shoes, you would have been shaking too. I mean good gods, the woman was the managing editor for the Review Journal! That’s like being a minor league baseball player that has dreamt of being a Yankee since childhood, then getting to stand in the same room and being allowed to shake hands with George Steinbrenner! If you’ve ever been in a room with someone that important, you know how fast you take a knee with how it humbles you. I remember stammering out an introduction and her looking at me like I was half crazy, but in all, I was glad I did it.

After spending a semester with her, I now understand why I have never heard one single student say one ill word about the Great Mary. More importantly, I now know why I felt the need to bow my head and take a knee when I met her.  Holy lordy, the woman is just all that and a plate of cookies.  I can definitely say I want to be like her when I grow up.  Seriously, she is my #1 pick as a female role-model.  She’s strong, funny, brilliant, beautiful, wise, and she can absolutely make you stand at attention and learn.  I’ve had a lot of teachers in my lifetime who have made visible impacts on me, but Mary stands in a league all of her own.  If there were anyone I’d build a shrine to, it would be her because she has the most effective way of accepting everyone, putting them at ease, but then at the same time she’ll make you stand up for your beliefs, make good decisions and teach you how to hold your ground. But with Mary, it’s not just words, you can feel what you are learning in your bones and you have no choice but to rejoice as it happily becomes part of your DNA.

Every Monday morning this semester, you could see me booking it to get to Mary’s class on time because what she teaches, you do not want to miss. But, y’all know me, I’m a walking tardy, so getting to class on-time was a struggle after being up late reading for Media Law, writing ads, researching for NSAC and of course, writing about all of my adventures along the way.  All of it decided to play havoc with me getting to Mary’s classroom on time.

For the last three years, y’all have heard me do nothing but rant about people losing their common sense, not acting the best way they can and the merits of being different.  As you’ve read and cringed with me, most people view being “different” or thinking for ourselves as a bad thing.  Not with Mary.  Mary celebrates being “different” and she also teaches people how to use their common sense to the best of their abilities because having ethics means (at least to me) that you engage your brain and use some pretty common sense rules when it comes to not only writing and being a journalist, but in life as well. She has the greatest teaching style I’ve ever seen because whether we were discussing ethics in advertising or checkbook journalism, even down to source-reporter relationships, it was never just about the job – it was about being the best person you could be in the process.

The best part of it all is that every Monday and Wednesday morning, she made us laugh.  We practically rolled on the floor laughing at some of the really “no-brainer” ethics decisions that people out in the real world just fell flat on. Then there were other days where her wit would absolutely just leave us in stitches when she’d look at a case study and go “Really?” Y’all know how I always say, “If you’re laughing, you’re learning”? Well Mary puts it into practice full force.  I felt like I was in the “Dead Ethicists Society” with the Great Robin.  I laughed and learned soooooo much!  Oh, I so want her to adopt me so I can be under her constant influence.

The only truly hard part of the semester for me was the photojournalism section we had to cover, and what she calls “Dead body day” where we looked at photos published in the media of dead bodies, and to me what was far worse, dead soldiers.  When I looked at the dead soldier pictures, all I could do was think of Ace and how I would never EVER allow a photo of a dead serviceman if I ever ran a newspaper.  Even though my Ace of Hearts is safe, that day, I ran out and called him just to make sure he was okay and knew I was thinking of him.

After spending four months with Mary, I will never look at a news story, photo or anything else in the media the same ever again, not without asking myself, “What is my journalistic purpose?” “Am I maximizing truth telling and minimizing harm?” “Can I tell the story without the photo?” “If the story was about my grandmother, would I do it? Would she be embarrassed by it?” There are tons of other questions to ask myself now and just so I’ll make sure I’m being a good girl (and making Mary proud) I have made myself a special folder for my desk that has all of the Ethics Codes that Mary gave me this semester.  I can promise you they’ll never be far away from me.

I can say without a doubt that after you spend a semester with Mary Hausch that you come out a better person for it.  After going through it I will, without a doubt, scream it from the rooftops that every single person on the planet needs to spend a semester with Mary because it is an experience that everyone should have, taking four intense months to look deep inside yourself and find out what you are going to do when the storm comes and you’re faced with a hard decision to make.  Mary taught me how to distill things down so I don’t feel overwhelmed, but instead I feel empowered to make good, informed, ethical decisions.  She didn’t only teach me Journalism Ethics, she taught me how to laugh while I’m sticking to my guns and making the hard choices.

And that was how I started my day…talk about a tough act to follow.

Ad Copywriting

After being with Mary to start out the day, I would just do a quick jaunt across the hall for an hour and 15 with Prof. M. for one of the classes I had been looking forward to taking, Ad Copywriting.  You all know how much I love, love, love Luke Sullivan’s Hey Whipple Squeeze This: A Guide To Creating Great Advertising so much so that I’ve read it five times and drool wanting to become an ad copywriter.

After figuring out how I was going to approach being an ethical advertising practitioner for the first hour of my day, it was on to trying to figure out (as I had discussed with my editor while we were discussing putting my book together) how not to be “a bastard at the end of the day” as my profession tries to separate consumers from their money.

For my assignments, I had to choose a pair of companies to write for, one for-profit and one non-profit. My for-profit was of course Nissan because that way I could use my research and my findings from my NSAC class to cement my concepts; then for the non-profit, I chose a Veteran’s cause so that way I had research and findings with Ace that I could work from: both very real and very applicable case studies.

To my dismay, 4 out of my 5 writing assignments came back with B’s on them.  Me?  The girl who wants to make this her profession get B’s?  Well, yeah.  Prof. M. sat down with me and helped me understand where the flaws were in my writing.  How I like to change voice and target a lot…nooo, y’all didn’t know that, did you?  But the thing is that she sat down with me and really made sure I understood where and why I was goofing up, making me better in the process.

The one thing that I’ve told everyone about my ad copywriting class is that Prof. M. taught me the business of advertising. She didn’t just let me go off on creative whims or anything else until I was deeply rooted in what the business expected from the copy I wrote, that I had to keep in mind the budget, the audience, practically every small detail to make sure I was hitting everything on all cylinders leaving my copy no choice but to succeed.

In all, I only really have one thing to say about my Ad Copywriting class:  It was like stepping into Godfather II where Hyman Roth looks at Michael Corleone says, “This is the business we’ve chosen.

First Amendment and the Media

My first shout-out for this one goes to my professor, Dr. B. He’s what I consider a “hometown hero” because he’s from a small Texas town himself.  Now what you don’t know until now is that that same small-town Texas kid went up to Harvard and came back a world-class professor.  How a kid from a tiny Texas town adjusted to the Ivy League is something I’ll never be able to wrap my brain around.  Literally, every time I try to put myself in his shoes and think about what it could have possibly been like for him, my mind locks up.  The only thing I have is admiration and an unswerving amount of pride for him.  He did something I don’t think I ever could have done.  His trip from Flea-Speck, Texas to Harvard and back again is one that I can only imagine is filled with tales I’d just love to hear.

But, being that he’s a Harvard man, you better believe he’s one tough cookie considering what he’s teaching. This is media law we’re talking about and it’s filled to the brim with all kinds of things that just make you go, “Do what?”

When I was a kid, when something really dumb would happen and “common sense would done fly out the winda'”, my father would never fail in exclaiming, “Do what?!?!?!” Yep, that was a lot of what happened in the cases we looked at in Dr. B’s media law class.  From Westboro Baptist Church to all sorts of things, I finally looked at Dr. B on Monday just minutes before the final exam and said, “Sir, it seems to me that every time someone’s common sense wins a Darwin Award, we end up reading about it.” He just laughed and gave me a “Yep.” LOL.

From Libel to everything First Amendment in between, we covered it. From the Marbury v. Madison all the way to Jerry Falwell versus Larry Flynt. I found out what I could say and couldn’t say on my blog, even down to the copyright and trademark laws that applied to it. It was four months of court cases and articles about people who had justified means to complain, all the way to people whose common sense ‘done flew out the winda’. Man, my brain is still gasping for air from that.

I do have to say though, sitting through a semester with Dr. B was a hoot. I don’t know if it’s just me, but some of his inflections (how ever much Harvard was just dying to assassinate any and all of his hometown style) gave red flags to me as to what was important and worth digging into further. He was really a nice man that I really enjoyed being around. He made me laugh as well and I tell you what, I’ll be digging up more of his articles that he’s published in the Washington Post, that’s for sure.

NSAC Campaigns Class

Sorry to say, but I’m just going to have to give you a teaser for my NSAC class because it’s getting a whole post all of it’s very own.  There are so many details and so many adventures just for that one class, I’d be here for the rest of the day on the wrap-up.  Last time I checked, when I go too long, y’all like to skip to the end, so I’m just going to wrap up NSAC by saying we got sixth place overall, fourth in presentation.  I’ll go more into the distinction in my next post.

Many Thanks

I’d like to thank Mary for just being her and being such an inspiration.  In my C-PTSD filled world where I thrive on approval from strong female role models, she gave me so much compassion and so much love that I can never thank her enough. Her class being the first on my daily school schedule made me get out of bed, put my feet on the floor and dig in for the ride because I never wanted to miss a single moment with her. She single-handedly kept me from giving up mid-way and gave me the hope and courage to keep going.
Along the way I learned how to write better, I learned how to make my ads fit with the business of advertising, I learned the letter of the law that keeps my profession in check and how to use it should I need it, and I learned that heart is the name of the game and part and parcel of the “business I have chosen.”  And I just happened to get inducted into Phi Kappa Phi and Kappa Tau Alpha this semester too.

So, that’s it.  12 credit hours more for the pile. It’s summer again, so get ready for more on the NSAC, and a shift to more fun topics, namely Ace and I going over to the VA for more PTSD sessions with Jay, movies and the rest of the adventures that keep me young and always an Eternal Sophomore.

Before I forget, I need to give the wrap-up a song of the day…a tune that often played on my car stereo on the way to and from school: Flo Rida’s “Good Feelin'”

Amazing…Happy 3rd Birthday Sophomores!

Well, the day came and went and I forgot to observe it, but the Sophomore has officially turned three and we’ve started year four in the best way possible: With hope.

As most of you know, I didn’t start writing about my experiences until I went back to school. Speaking of, I’ve got a few close-ups to share about the semester along with what you’ve come to expect, my regular semester wrap-up coming soon.

But in it all, when I realized I had forgotten to mark the third anniversary of my life after marriage, I was looking into Ace’s beautiful blue eyes. It was then that I realized that counting the years really didn’t matter anymore, that it is my experiences now that are the ones worth counting, not torturing myself that it’s been three years since a woman who looks remarkably like a Basset Hound decided to steal my ex-husband…ask my editor, he’s seen her picture and gone, “OMG. You’re right! She does!” Followed directly by, “He left you for her?” Yes Smith, he did. I guess I have to be grateful for her because if it wasn’t for her not caring that my ex-husband was married or that my ex-husband had no sense of self-control and a bad case of seven-year-itch, I wouldn’t be where I am now: Phi Kappa Phi, Kappa Tau Alpha and on the Dean’s List Honors, surrounded by the most brilliant minds I could ever ask to be influenced by.

Aerosmith said in the song “Amazing” that “Life’s a journey, not a destination.” My friends from the Myst Universe can totally understand that sentiment, after all, life in Uru is all about the journey and each journey cloth you touch – the equivalent of remembering the important parts along the way. It is all about learning how deep your cavern blood really flows, living without pride and embracing the art of the selfless. After three years of writing, I can honestly say that I believe that my quest to find life again after marital demise has had it’s touch points; and all the while each touch point has had a hand print on each memorable moment, preserved in words that have had their moments of kindness, gentleness, tastefulness and, how ever much I tried to avoid it, the inverse as well. It has definitely shown me that my cavern blood needs to run a lot deeper to make sure I get everything I should from each experience I have.

Year three has seen the very rocky introduction of Ace. I honestly think the man may well qualify for sainthood after being with me, but all during our ups and downs, he’s been the rock (albeit sometimes he gets them caught in his shoe) that has really shown me that strength exists in places we don’t even consider and that trust combined with preconceived notions don’t mix, you just have to take that leap of faith and know that your partner is going to catch you – good, bad or worse. I can’t say enough good things about my Ace of Hearts. I really wish someday I could meet his mom and say “Thank you” for him because I don’t know what I’d do without him.

We’ve also seen the ups and downs that go along with PTSD and relationships.  It’s not easy being in a relationship to begin with, combine it with an illness like ours and you’re in for one hell of an adventure.  It has taught me that we really don’t get the most out of our experiences unless we feel that we’ve dug in and really taken part in them.  Ace took a girl just fine with being a recluse and made her go out into the world.  He’s still loving to push me beyond my boundaries, so much so that he’s told me (which as you know is very hard for him to do) that he’s proud of me and how far I’ve come in the 10 months I’ve known him.  I can definitely now say that it’s all about the commitment.  You gotta commit.  It’s like deciding to go skydiving, you either jump or you chicken out.  From my view in the cheap seats, the jump is well worth it.

So as we say goodbye to number three and start in on the long-awaited number four, I can definitely agree with Aerosmith when they say, “From all of us to all of you out there where ever you are: Remember, the light at the end of the tunnel may be you.  Good night.”

And so to celebrate the day, Aerosmith’s “Amazing.”

Trust Issues

As we all know, all too well by now, that I don’t trust easily. That I trust anyone is close to a miracle. After multiple trips to the pyre and PTSD symptoms on top of it, getting me to trust is like trying to hold the sun in your hands, an impossibility.

We all have our little issues I guess. From what I hear, even people without PTSD have trouble trusting. Others have had so many bad things happen to them that well, trust just isn’t high on their priority lists.

But, I’ll tell you a secret. I got this guy… (and that is such a subtle 9 1/2 Weeks reference) See, he’s one of those guys who is so frustrating at times that I want to pull my hair out. Other times he’s Mr. Romance, so much so that it makes it hard to believe that he’s real. That he could be a hero in a Sherrilyn Kenyon novel is no small stretch. However, when you have someone that frustrating and that wonderful all in one body, that’s where we get into tough territory.

You see, the classic Kenyonesque hero is incredibly heroic but at the same time extremely emotionally damaged. Go get one of her books, pick any one of her heroes and they’re all basically the same. They each have a very hard, traumatic past which precludes them from really being emotionally touchy-feely on the outside. Underneath though, oh wow, those guys have romance “on lock” and they are faithful as my darling DalPal Lucky. That’s why I love her characters so much. They are just riddled to high heaven with trust issues and broken hearts, but it takes the heroine in every novel, from “Bride” who is every bit of a size 16 in the book “Night Play” to the little 5’2″, 100 pound pipsqueak “Dangereuse” in “Sins of the Night” to help those guys find what they were missing in the middle of their chests, essentially dispelling their trust issues so they can live happily ever after.

Ok, so back to my guy…I don’t even need to tell you do I? I’m sure you can guess by now that I’ve got my very own dyed-in-the-wool Kenyonesque hero. But with all heroes we have to make sure not to place them on too high of pedestals because it makes it impossible for them to recover should they fall. Oh let’s just say it out, if place your guy up too high, you risk forcing him to land with a very loud, resounding “thud.” The whole trick with guys that wonderful is not to put them in a no-win scenario. Place them up too high, and that is exactly what you’re doing.

Well, since our last trip to “Jay” the therapist, Ace and I have been doing wonderfully. I’ve been battling my flight reflex, he’s been biting his tongue and we’ve both tried our level best to not trigger each other. But if you know anything about PTSD, you know that triggers are going to happen even if you do your damnedest to avoid them.

It seems all semester long, before going to see Jay and after going to see Jay, I’ve really been putting in the work. I’ve been worrying about our triggers, our this, our that, everything else but what I should have been keeping an eye on, namely school and this cluttered excuse of an apartment of mine.

Here’s where the loud, resounding “thud” comes in.

Remember, the addict brain knows only one thing, what it is screaming that it wants, nothing else comes into play. Well, the other night, I got triggered hard. It seems as in my attempt to be “committed” I overextended myself to the point I realized I had been neglecting myself and my personal needs. My addict brain had become addicted to being around Ace. I didn’t care about anything else, he was the center of the universe. So, when I finally realized that my addict brain had tripped me up again, I got into a fight with him. I had placed him so high up on the pedestal of importance that when I expressed my need to take care of me, I unintentionally forced him to land with a resounding “thud”. Poor guy. I feel really bad for him – he’s got to deal with me and I’m not easy in the least – especially when I’m triggered.

I had originally planned to spend four days out at Ace’s, hanging around the pool and working on my suntan while I studied for my Media Law final. When I saw myself getting distracted and my books not being cracked through day one, I realized I needed to get back to my little cave and really focus. Even though I had everything I would need at my fingertips over at Ace’s, my flight reflex kicked in HARD. But you have to realize something, I have been fighting and winning against my flight reflex for close on to a month. When you fight it for that extended period of time, when my PTSD is bad enough to begin with, that’s almost an eternity. Sorry to say, I cracked. I couldn’t fight any longer and the more I fought, the more constricted I felt which made my flight reflex even stronger. I was triggered beyond being reasonable.

Now remember, I’m used to betrayal, violence and overwhelming “epic suck” in my relationships. To go a solid month without a fight, just wrapped up in bliss was enough to make me so suspicious that the other shoe was about to drop, well guess what, I dropped it for myself, leaving poor Ace in the cold, not fully explaining that I had realized that I needed to hunker down on my books for finals without outside interference.

Well, that ended in a fight. Excuse me while I lean forward and have my forehead hit my desk with a resounding “thud”. When Ace and I fight it’s not pretty, and it is, as I said in Love, War and PTSD, roughly the equivalent to a nuclear explosion, charring us both. We never know whether or not we’re going to stay together after each one. Well, long story short, I had placed him up so high that I felt that I was being neglected, that I wasn’t as important as he was.  Basically, I gave him no alternative but to land with a resounding thud when my triggers became more than even he could handle. And as you know, when I get triggered, it triggers him. So not good on so many levels. Believe me, I hate my illness right around now. Oh I so want the bullies I grew up with to pay my therapy bills…

As we all remember all too well, when things went south with my ex, we know where he went, straight to the BHFB (that’s the Basset-Hound-Faced-Bitch to those of you who are new). To boot, he would lie to me as to where he was, so after that being the umpteenth relationship that had been like that (remind me sometime, I’ll tell you the story of my 28th birthday, that one will make you cry and very grateful for Spago’s Creme Bruleé), so of course my suspicions and my gut instinct said that trust was out the window, that I couldn’t believe a single thing that came from any man or anyone for that matter.

So, when Ace and I go south like we unfortunately do (hey, it’s part and parcel of a triggered couple), after two days I thought he was through with me for good. I thought for sure that he’d be out with his buddies doing ‘the gods only know what’. So, I did the most stalkery thing because I wanted validation that I was being screwed over again. I’m so ashamed, but it ends funny… I got into my car thinking “oh, he’s not going to be home… he’s so going to be out with his buddies… oh, when I get over there, his truck is going to be gone and when I text him he’s going to tell me he’s at home… I bet he’s going to have no issues lying to me…” and so on.

Well, as I pulled up to his house, in the driveway was his diesel-driven steed. My jaw hit the floorboard of my Prius. He was at home! He wasn’t out doing the gods only know what! He hadn’t lied, he hadn’t done anything at all! Actually, he was re-arranging the furniture in his room so I’d like it better!

What I found could have knocked me over with a feather! But before I could fall over in shock, I had to remind myself to ask the simple question,”Why would I be shocked to begin with?!” Of course you already know the answer, this really doesn’t have anything to do with him. It all has to do with my emotional baggage and all of the horrible things that other people have done in the past. I just feel so bad. You all know how I hate it when each of us is forced to do battle with things that we didn’t cause or do. For me to make Ace go through that, I’m having an overwhelming amount of guilt. Serves me right for my stalkery weakness, I got exactly what I deserved, a smack in the head that said,”Why the hell did you doubt him for an instant? You know that’s not right. He’s never let you down. He didn’t deserve for your resolve to falter.”

You see, I’ve been trying really hard to overcome my trust issues and give Ace the fighting chance he deserves.  I’ve also learned that if I let go of my expectations and plans, and simply trust him, things turn out better than I could ever dream. So over the course of the last month, I gave myself a little mantra: “Trust Ace and everything will work out fine.” However, PTSD sometimes doesn’t like to listen to reason, it doesn’t hear  you when you’re trying to tell it to shut up and just let things roll along. What’s worse is that sometimes you don’t even know that your illness is what is causing all of the bad things that are happening around you! Intrusive memory likes to remind us to be ready for pain and bring our past traumas right in front of us so that we’re not battling what’s happening in the present, instead we’re fighting a battle from the past that has nothing to do with the here and now.

I really don’t like my illness right now and I don’t think I really have to like it at all. Right now, it’s messing with my relationship and I don’t appreciate that very much!  But, like any issue we deal with, it’s all about baby steps and it’s all about running as fast as my feet can carry me into Jay’s office next Tuesday.  Oh, I’m so overdue!  I completed step one, which was to commit.  In the immortal words of Agnes Gooch in Auntie Mame “I lived.  Now I’ve got to find out what to do now!”

Well at least if I get forgiven for my latest trip into Posttraumatic Stress, I’ll be able to say I have a guy who is strikingly similar to Vane, the hero of the Kenyon novel “Night Play”: He likes a girl with a bit of meat on her bones.  And I quote from page 267 of the paperback when Vane tells Bride she’s beautiful the way she is,”Meat is for the man, bone is for the dog.” I’m just grateful Ace is that same way, he loves me just as is and says he’ll leave me if I get too skinny.

For the song of the day, a little something I heard in my weak “stalkery” moment – Gavin DeGraw “Not Over You.”

90’s Nostalgia

Ok, let’s put this into context.  Since I can’t publish this post until after the competition, I’ll date it for you.  It’s February 13, Whitney Houston died yesterday and I’m knee deep in research for the NSAC competition.

The last few weeks have been about nothing but finding the one thing that connects Nissan to the Millenials.  We found it.  Everything for the Millennials right now is about the nostalgia that these young people are now experiencing.

In your 20’s, you get to look back on all of the fun things that happened in your youth, from the toys you played with and the activities that you participated in (like playing outside) to the boy bands you loved. For me, I had a love for Duran Duran.  I was torn between John Taylor and Nick Rhodes.  As a teenager, nothing said “Rebel” to me more than a boy that had the courage to wear eyeliner and still be a man’s man, so I’ll just leave my nostalgia trip into my teens right there.

As we all know, as I hit my 20’s, I became a hippie revivalist.  I love bell bottoms, Jimi Hendrix, the whole gamut all the way to wanting my own Summer Of Love.  It’s a very tangible emotional connection to me because my rebellious nature enjoys their anti-establishment view of things.  Along with that, being a hippie revivalist of the 90’s, I was also into the grunge scene from Mother Love Bone to Pearl Jam and Nirvana.  (I still love Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters, who doesn’t?)

Now comes the comedy, which brings us to my activities for the evening.  I just got done watching videos of the Spice Girls, *NSync, The Backstreet Boys and a few other 90’s tween bands.  Ok, someone call the dentist, I think I have cavities and a severe case of sugar shock going on.  By the way, my gaydar totally tripped off when I watched Lance Bass…how anyone couldn’t know that kid was gay back then is beyond me, but like I say, I don’t care if you’re blue, green, aquamarine, gay, straight, whatever, I’ve got respect and love for you all the same so it doesn’t matter if that kid was gay or not, it’s just surprising that people didn’t figure it out until he came out.

Oy veh.  I’m holding on to Eddie Vedder’s Doc Marten’s for dear life.  I have a severe need to cuddle with a piece of Kurt Cobain flannel as well.  Mid-way through going through the hundreds of vids on YouTube, I had to boot up “Smells like teen spirit” to even get a rational view of the world.  I am absolutely just mortified and repulsed by all of that sugar rah-rah.  Matching suits?  Ok, yeah, The Beatles did it, but oh wow, my 40 year-old body can not handle watching that enormous expanse of mass media induced sugar.  I dare you, go back and watch a few hundred pieces of tween media from the 90’s and I swear to you your teeth will hop out of your mouth, look at you and say, “Really?”

I mean, it’s bad enough that we’re going through Pokemon, but to hear grown men, I’m talking 22-year-old men, swooning over Tommy the Green Power Ranger, it’s enough to make me want to vomit.  I cannot believe what is coming out in the focus groups I’ve been doing.  It makes me want to run screaming like a madwoman into the night going, “NO!  No more!  I can’t take it!”  Seriously, I’m beginning to believe their whole lives were sponsored by some toy or some boy band.

But then, oh yes, I had to hear from my sweet darling Amanda (who I love dearly) say, “If *NSync put together a reunion tour, I would BUY THAT TICKET.”  When she said that, I nearly keeled over.  Oh, my body internally convulsed and I prayed for the ’03 Mitsubishi Eclipse commercial featuring Dirty Vegas’ “Days Go By” and remembering sitting on the balcony of The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel surrounded by movie and rock stars, watching The Eagles at the hotel’s opening.  By the way, watching The Eagles live totally rocks.  Don Henley on drums for the win.  Ok, for all of you Gen-X’ers who need a bit of help, here’s a link to Henley’s “Boys of Summer” to ease the sugar shock.

Don’t get me wrong, while the other students in my class were mere tweens dreaming of getting their parents to take them to a Spice Girls concert, I was impersonating Baby Spice at the nightclub I was working at, in a dance team skit for “Wannabe.”  This was of course followed up by me getting up and doing a solo as Meredith Brook’s “Bitch” just to get the sugar sloughed off my body as quickly as possible.  But getting up and doing an edgier song was never enough, I had to follow it up by raving to some of the great electronica of the late 90’s.  Oh yeah, when I booted up the Spice Girls tonight, my body involuntarily convulsed with all of that sugar going on.

It’s not easy being 40 and going down memory lane with these young people.  I want to keep my mind open, I really do, so I did my best to stuff all that sugar down my gullet without throwing up, but oh man, it was a rough one.

On their list of things they love from their childhoods I could understand, like No Doubt or Third Eye Blind.  Those I could get into, after all, who doesn’t love Gwen Stefani?  But things like Pogs, Arthur, The Magic School Bus, Rugrats, Doug and other things just flew over my head.  Sailor Moon?  Really?

I guess I’ve gotten old, or simply my love of all things “groovy” go over their heads just as much as Tamagotchi goes over mine.  When they said “Tamagotchi” in the focus group, I went “WTF’ie?”  Even after Wikipedia’ing it, to the shame of my technojunky background, I still don’t know WTF it is!  LOL

Yeah, their sense of nostalgia is completely different from mine and I’m doing my best to embrace it.  My fave though is my gal Lizzie who, when I asked for soundtrack cuts, gave The Spin Doctors and 4 Non-Blondes.  Bless you Lizzie.  Bless you.

But, I’ll cap this off with the commercial idea that sprang from my head after hearing Amanda wanting to buy a ticket to an *NSync reunion show…it’s my idea of a perfect Superbowl ad to kick of a campaign.  I’ll leave it to you to judge it.

Fade up:
A girl driving an orange *NSync themed Nissan Versa pulls up to a stoplight, girl bops to the sounds of the song “Bye Bye Bye” as the radio blares the song and out the rolled down car windows.
Another car pulls up, this time a black and blue Backstreet Boys themed Nissan Versa pulls up, the sounds of the song “Backstreet’s Back” come out of the speakers as the radio blares the song.
Each girl has a small photo of their boy band icon framed and attached to their sun visors.
Each girl lowers the visor, blows a kiss and says a line to the photo, disparaging the band supported by the other car.
An “imaginary” Nick Carter from the Backstreet Boys appears in the passenger seat of the Black Versa, looks at the driver and says, “You’re not going to let her get away with that, are you?  Show her what it’s like to be a part of the Backstreets.”
An “imaginary” Justin Timberlake of *NSync appears in the passenger seat of the Orange Versa, looks at the driver and says, “C’mon baby girl, you can take her.  We’re *NSync, you and me.”
The “imaginary” passengers disappear as the two girls glare menacingly at each other, revving the engines of their cars, getting ready to drag race when the light turns green.
As the light turns green, before the girls can hit the gas, a Nissan Leaf goes flying by both of them with Britney Spears’ “Oops, I did it again” blaring out of the stereo.
Logo fades in:
Nissan. Innovation for You.  Innovation for All.
Fade to Black.

I don’t get to write that ad for competition because I’m not on the “creative” team.  Oh well, at least I get to write it for my Ad Copy-writing class.  Do you think an ad like that would go viral?  I’d say yes and I’m positive Amanda would hit “share” on Facebook in no time flat.

But that ad will never see the light of day besides to you nice folks.

My semester thus far can be summed up in a single word: Stymied.