Monday, February 14, 2011

Will I be able to check my Facebook page in heaven?

I have become just a tad bit obsessed with the thought of what happens to our social media pages after we die. 

I know, morbid, right? This thought isn't completely out of the blue. I first started thinking about it when I heard about a situation where the parents of a man who had died unexpectedly sued the wife for taking down his facebook page, which they considered community property after his death. She didn't like having the reminder there, but his parents found some kind of solace by having access to his photos and status updates online.

Facebook has actually struggled on how to best handle this as well. Previously their policy was to automatically remove the profile of the deceased one month after he or she has died, preventing the profile from being used for communal mourning. However,  Facebook amended that policy in 2009, in the wake of the VA Tech shooting, "We first realized we needed a protocol for deceased users after the Virginia Tech shooting, when students were looking for ways to remember and honor their classmates," says Facebook spokeswoman Elizabeth Linder. The new policy places deceased members' profiles in a "memorialization state." Facebook’s Privacy Policy regarding memorialization says, "If we are notified that a user is deceased, we may memorialize the user’s account. In such cases we restrict profile access to confirmed friends, and allow friends and family to write on the user’s Wall in remembrance. We may close an account if we receive a formal request from the user’s next of kin or other proper legal request to do so. Once that is completed, the user will cease showing up in Facebook's suggestions, and information like status updates won't show up in Facebook's news feed, the stream of real-time user updates that is the site's centerpiece."

On a personal level, the Facebook pages of the few people I know who have died since the explosion of social media remain intact and a place where people frequently submit personal messages of peace and hope, especially around the holidays and their birthday. I guess it's not much different than lighting a candle and saying a prayer, except this form of communicating with the dead is viewable to all who have access to the person's Wall (which if they did not properly set their privacy settings before dying could be anyone and everyone).

So, that's what happens with Facebook...what about your e-mail accounts? Would you want a loved one to have access to your email files? Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail all will send a family member a CD of your email folders as long as you provide them with the required information (death certificate, power of attorney and such). Similarly, Twitter will provide an archive of a deceased person's tweets to credible requests. I don't know about you, but I am taking mental inventory now of what's in my email folders. Anything I should delete before anything unfortunate happens?

Technology tends to progress faster than we can plan for the ramifications and consequences of having such open access to people and information. Now, we are seeing companies like Legacy Locker who will store your "digital legacy" in a secure place to be passed on per your wishes in the event of your death (for a fee, naturally). Having contingency plans added to your will for the digital content you leave behind surely isn't so uncommon these days too.

When I went to my Grandmother's house after she passed away last year, I was so moved by the many Valentine's Day Cards, anniversary cards, Christmas cards and birthday cards between my grandmother and grandfather exchanged between the 40s-70s. The cards were so beautiful, and the messages, even when brief, so touching.  I never knew my grandfather and felt like these cards were a little window to his character. Would my grandchildren get the same joy over seeing the first tentative e-mails sent between me and their grandfather? Or the sweet love letters in electronic form that have taken the place of traditional letter writing? 

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Hot Topic.

Bullying is a hot topic these days. It's all over the news and in the papers. Stories all over the place about children who hurt themselves or others in response to bullying.

I know a little something about this, since as a young girl I was bullied for being chubby by a couple of brothers who lived a few doors down. We rode the same bus together, swam on the same swim team and every year of elementary school I was in the same class as at least one of them. It really was torture, stepping on the bus everyday knowing what I faced ahead. I wasn't equipped to handle it. I referenced one of the episodes of teasing here on the blog back in 2006 telling the story of failed valentines' days.

And then I saw my bully on Oprah.

Over 10 years ago, J.S., the older brother, decided to take a bunch of tanning pills to make himself look black. He went down south to live out the experiment of living his life as a black man. He lasted merely a week, apparently crippled by the discrimination he faced as a man of color. I find this somewhat ironic.

I had heard about the segment years ago, but never saw it before last night. Oprah  showed the clip again on a recent episode recapping previous stories she had done on the issue of race. It really was shocking to me. And I did something I never thought I would do. I found him on Facebook and wrote him a note. 

I don't want to post the entire note here, but I asked if he remembered me and I recounted to him the pain he caused me in the constant bullying over the years and the effect it had on my life--both negative and positive. I didn't get dramatic or go into lots of detail, I presented it concisely and with a somewhat removed tone. No blubbering. No accusations. This is how I wrapped it up:

I was really surprised about what I learned of your racial experiment on Oprah. I don't know why I felt the need to sit down and write to you after so many years, maybe it is crazy since it's not like I sit around thinking about this any more. Don't get me wrong, I am not reaching out to you to berate you or accuse you of anything. I am not looking for redemption, an apology or even a response. I bet you don't even remember any of this-- I was probably too sensitive, and maybe you were just "boys being boys". But for some reason I just wanted you to know about it.

I really didn't know what to expect in return, if anything. Would he lash out at me for over-reacting? Would he ignore it? I decided before I sent it that the response didn't matter. I said what I wanted to say. I didn't write him with any expectations. But, to my surprise, within an hour of sending it he wrote me back. This is what he said:

Hello Terra,
I remember you and your brother and sister well. The house you lived in is still the Walker House to my mind. I do remember teasing you and am glad that you wrote me cause I feel very guilty about it. I was often callous and cruel with my words. Probably still am sometimes. I'm a writer now and sometimes think to myself that is where I learned about the positive and negative power words can have. But feel very bad about the people who paid the price so I could learn that. I apologize for hurting you and wish you all the best.

What do you think? I am still processing this since it all happened last night. The response is nice to see, I am genuinely glad he replied and actually apologized. But what happened, happened and those scars may never fully heal.

I think I got more out finding the courage to write him than getting a response. I feel good about that.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snowy Day

Even though the roads were bad and trains were a mess, I trudged to work in the City today. I would rather have stayed cozy and warm under the covers! At least the walk up to the train station was super pretty from all the snow that fell overnight. How I miss snow days...watching TV with anticipation hoping "Montgomery County" is called off for school and then going out to sled the hills of Hillandale.  

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Winter, you win.

I am not a fan of winter. 

Yes, I love a good snow storm, I just hate to commute in it. I have more scarves and hats than any one woman should own, but I abhor donning them day after day.  A couple of years ago Damir and I went to Mexico for my January birthday, and I find myself really longing right now for warm shores.

But more than getting sick of the cold, it's a struggle for me to get through the winter. Long prone to depression, the winter months and lack of light really do me in. It helps now that I can recognize and attempt to combat these dark days, but it is not easy.  At the end of each autumn, I see myself falling down the tunnel towards darkness but feel incapable to reverse the course. The feeling is like being in a bad dream and you know you are dreaming but can't seem to wake yourself up to get out of it.

For me, depression isn't about being sad, it's more about withdrawing into myself, obsessing over the negative elements of my life, eating (hello carbs!), combating anxiety attacks and being very short tempered. I also tend to get sick a lot in the winter, which may or may not be related.

I think winters will always be hard for me, but some better than others. This one so far has been pretty okay, which I credit to the massive increase in Vitamin D I am taking. Last winter my doctor tried to strong-arm me into going on anti-depressants, but the recollection of so many bad side effects is still too fresh for me to acquiesce. Thankfully this winter seems to be a little better.  And thankfully I have a husband who is very adept at handling my ups and downs.

The last few weeks, I have been surprisingly social, thanks to the visits of a few out of town friends. Connecting with those close to me certainly helps A LOT. I will be heading up to Boston for a long weekend in a few weeks which will also be great. Those bambini are the perfect role models for experiencing pure unadulterated joy over the simple pleasures of life.  What if we never stopped feeling exhilarated by a game of peek-a-boo?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


A week from today, January 11th, 2011 will be 1/11/11. In case you didn't know there's a lot out there on the internets about the significance of 11/11.

But 1/11/11 holds a different meaning for me: the unforgettable birthday of my grandfather, Merton Walker.

Dad with Pa back in the '70s or early '80s
Next Tuesday would have been his 100th birthday so Damir and I will be honoring his memory in a way Pa would heartily approve: we're going to make his favorite meal-- lobster dinner with all the fixings.

Thank god he was crazy for lobster and not beets.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Condiment Confrontation

A few months ago Damir and I got into a massive fight about garlic mayonnaise. It's funny how something so innocuous can be the catalyst for such an explosion of emotions.

Months before this fight we were out to dinner somewhere and Damir asked for some garlic mayonnaise for his french fries; a European predilection he can't leave behind, not that I blame him. Garlic mayo and french fries are a magical combination and for anyone who solely relies on ketchup as their dipping sauce of choice, I strongly urge you to try this out. Anyway, he asked for it and the waiter went into the kitchen and the chef made it special just for Damir. He was delighted.

Now he asks for it wherever he goes when getting fries with his meal. And this drives me crazy. The problem, my problem, is that often they won't have it and the chef isn't so nice as s/he was at the other place. And then Damir is sad. At least, that is my perception. I always cringe when he asks for it.

Returning to the night in question, Damir asked for the garlic mayo and the waiter didn't have it. Damir had been cranky all night and looked dejected when the waiter wouldn't even ask the chef. For some reason, this caused me to either roll my eyes or make a noise that was the equivalent of rolling my eyes. As much as Damir's requests for special waiter favors drives me crazy, my reaction to his request drove him twice as nuts.

And then things spiraled quickly downhill. A very rocky unhappy slope. The argument didn't last long, but it was definitely one of the few low points of our 5 year relationship.

I mentioned this altercation to my mom the other night while having a general discussion about the difficulties of marriage. She asked me, "Why do you care?" Good question. I never thought about it. Why? Why should I care if he gets his first choice of sauces? It doesn't effect my personal enjoyment of the meal. The best I could come up with is that I hate that he asks for special favors and also hate to see him disappointed. I feel as though it's MY fault they don't have the garlic mayo, especially if I picked the restaurant. I feel responsible for his disappointment.

Which is totally stupid and irrational.

So after this conversation with my mom the other night, Damir and I talked about it. What's funny about it is that he admitted to feeling equally uncomfortable when I do things like as for a room or seat upgrade when we travel, which I do whenever possible. Or when I send a dish back that isn't to my liking. But he decides just to sit back and let me do my thing and not worry about it. I need to follow that lead. How is asking for a special sauce any different than asking for a special seat?

Mom was saying to me that one of the biggest challenges of marriage is understanding that the things that drive you crazy in your partner are a reflection in some way of your own issues. That you need to look at your gut reaction and examine it to see what is the true root cause of the negative response.

I don't know entirely what the answer is here, but I am certain it's not about condiments.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Kitchen Confidential

Now that the blog is back up and running I find myself struggling what to write. Not that I can't think of anything to write about-- quite the opposite. I want to tell you about my quick Christmas trip to Boston, the lamest of lame New Year's Eve and marriage lessons from an unexpected source. I also want to write about the daily experience as well, and maybe that's as good a place to start as anywhere else.

Right now I am writing on my lap top sitting on my bed in my room that's about 12'x12'. My in-laws are in their perennial spots on the couch in the living room watching Spanish TV. No, they don't speak Spanish. They don't speak English either so I suppose a Spanish channel makes as much sense as an English one, but still that makes me laugh. The other night my father in law was watching TV in Chinese. I have no idea what he was getting from it; I don't expect a trip to Beijing is in the cards for them anytime soon.

Damir is at his cousins' who live around the corner watching some football.

I am super hungry, being 8:45pm and well past dinner time, but I haven't yet found the strength to venture to the Dreaded Kitchen. The kitchen is disputed territory in our home. I have conceded the living room and the dining room, but the kitchen still remains hotly contested. Yes, I have considered putting a hot-pot, mini-microwave and fridge in our small bedroom to make the kitchen obsolete entirely, but let's face it: one cannot live on ramen and cheetos alone. Or so my doctor says. So I continue to fight the good fight. Well, of course I am exaggerating. There is no fighting, it's more of a tug of war. But war, yes, yes it is.

Exhibit A: Small.
The main problem is that our kitchen is super small, clearly designed by a man who never cooked a meal in his life, and really only one person can cook at a time. I have been patiently waiting for my in-laws to finish dinner so I can go in and cook in peace without getting in anyone's way or anyone else getting into my way. Even when Damir and I cook a meal together we are bumping and shoving each other (with love) to get what we need. 

My mother in law is a great cook, no doubt about it. And she cooks a lot. No cookbooks, no ready-to-eat. She makes good stuff all from scratch. Every week there is fresh bread she has baked. Right now (I moved and now writing in the kitchen for inspiration) I am staring into a bowl of doughnut concoctions that she made a few hours ago. Diet? Huh? Everything she makes is traditional Yugoslavian... stuffed cabbage leaves, meat pies, meat stews, meat casseroles. Lots of meat. But hearty, flavorful food. That takes forever to cook. Hence, when she is home she is constantly cooking. This is a problem for me, though I like what she makes, I want to make my own stuff too. I actually like to cook.

When I moved in I brought all of my kitchen utensils and tools with me. And most of it remains down in the basement except for a few critical pieces, since they had most of it here already. But for some reason my stuff that did make it into the home frequently gets broken or goes missing. I am not sure why... if it is purely accidental or a form of covert warfare. But it drives me crazy that it seems like the things I bring into the house are not wanted. That's my perception, but I have no evidence to say that it's 100% true.

That brings us to the story of the two microwave ovens.

Microwave A and B
When I moved in the family had a older small microwave oven (the one on the right above). It didn't work so well, but well enough. Cooking options were limited with just one heat setting and a timer on a dial. Yes, I use the microwave liberally. It's useful when I get home from work so late to pop in a burrito or lean cuisine for dinner. So this past summer Damir and I made a trip to BJs for some staples and see these great microwaves on sale with lots of bells and whistles. So on a whim we bought it and brought it home. We dismantled the old microwave and put it to the side until we could take it out to the trash. 

The new microwave arrived with much fanfare. We showed his parents-- look what we got for the Dreaded Kitchen! Showed them the basics and moved on. 

Fast-forward a few hours. In my bedroom I am getting ready to go somewhere and my ears perk up to hear a funny sound. What was that? Was that... was it? The old microwave's done chime? No, it couldn't be. We got a NEW microwave. How could I possibly hear the old one's chime of done-ness? Surely I was hearing things. 

But no. I peaked into the kitchen and see the old one stacked up next to the new one, as it still lies today in the photo above. My mother-in-law quietly reinstated the old beast of a microwave when I wasn't looking. In protest of the new? Out of confusion of how the multitude of buttons work on the new one? In an effort to shun anything I bring into our home? I don't know the reason. And I never asked. I just let it be. Though every time I look at it I think it is mocking me.

One of the big lessons I have learned since moving here is that there are some fights that just aren't worth fighting for. Everything doesn't have to be done my way.