February 20, 2010

Bugged by too much information?

It bugs me that I am right. TMI - too much information - is not just those dreaded reports, those Facebook statuses, that make us shudder. For instance, why would anyone thing anyone wants toknow there is no toilet paper via Facebook, or Twitter or Friendfeed.

TMI also is the running of the mouth, the emptying of the brain and heart, the uncensored thoughts of struggle that reveal far more then intended.

TMI is the speeding police cruiser on my highway of information. Speed and pursuit of a vehicle blinds the officer to obstacles, to signs of warning. Only a crash stops the pursuit. Or a block.

How silly I believed that sharing doubts was OK. How ironic that the last message you send  says don't worry.

This post was started on FarmVille, prompted by completing a bug collection. That completion lets me brag to my friends and give them a chance to get a bug for their collections. Completed collections mean FarmVille coins, points and a reward of fuel. Fuel lets you plant, harvest and plow faster.

Online chats strengthen my marriage

Today, I posted on Facebook a simple message that my husband won't see because he blocks FarmVille:
"27 years ago today, I had friends and family over to celebrate a big step for me: My house. Boy, wasn't that a major step - a single woman buying her own fixer-upper. When people came to the party, most learned that the guy I met through my job three months earlier and I had tied the knot that morning. A mere 12 months later, another surprise - the woman who could never have kids popped out a beautiful 11-pound girl on Leap Year Day. Ain't love grand!"
As we celebrate a marriage that, to his disappointment, I decide every day to continue I realize that contrary to what some believe my online chats with others is why I choose to stay with the greatest man who walks in my community. (His disappointment is that I choose every day, by the way.)

No smooth path here

Like most marriages, we have our ups and downs. But this week two friends helped me understand what fuels the ups.

I was chatting with a long-time friend who asked if my husband minded me being online so. He followed that up with this about a former partner, who had objected to his computer time:
"XXX must have thought I was in some chat room with someone, which was NOT the case!
That's what you call a stop moment: Whoa, am I doing something wrong by chatting online? You know I was recalling the TV and radio shows where spouses link chatting with cheating even though I know my friend and I see our chatting just like shared coffee at Starbucks. Not cheating, but continuing our friendship.

Twice in one week? Anniversary week?

That reminded me that just a few days earlier I discovered a pattern of mine: I meet what I can only call soul mates. Lately, those people are online as my places for physical interaction dwindle. But I've always been fortunate to get to know people who uncover my soul with their questions, their observations and, even, their throwaway remarks. They listen and I listen.

This discovery and the chat question stunned me at first. Am I being unfaithful by chatting with others instead of my husband? Or am I becoming more interesting to him by learning new things about myself, others and the world around me.

Online prompts = insights

For instance, on a recent road trip with my husband his comment about traffic - he's a transportation planner who can tell you the different types of traffic barriers as we go by - reminded me about a recent online discussion on driving in Cairo, Egypt. Who knew that city and its transportation woes was an interest for him? But it led to a very interesting discussion for the next hour.

I cannot imagine we would have ever discussed Cario traffic or that he also would like to visit the area  without this online prompt.

Learning to see

Still, I panicked this week when I recognized that a new friend really isn't all that new. Oh, it is a different person but he is very similar to other angels who have appeared in my life. Recognizing the pattern shocked me into silence and a period of self-hatred for once again failing to achieve the fairy-tale perfection of marriage.

The back and forth centered around my discovery of how American I am despite being certified in several diversity awareness programs.

A dinner at a Arabic restaurant, a remark about the man's photo on my Facebook page during a Facebook 101 class and another friend's remark drove home to me that I might know about different cultures but I don't always act with knowledge.

And all of that made me realize how important treating others right is to me, a core value.

Diversity uncovers what love is

See, nothing confidential, just a deep conversation. But, like a bolt of lightning, I realized that I often have these types of conversations outside my marriage. Am I cheating on my husband this way?

Remember, despite my feminist leanings I did grow up watching Leave It To Beaver, reading Cosmos and listening to fairy tales where the prince is enough for the princess forever and ever. And as a former practicing journalist and long-time online fanatic, I know how addicting someone can be.

I shut down and had to think before I remembered other core beliefs, beliefs like:
  • No one person can be your universe
  • You are responsible for you, you alone.
  • You are responsible for bringing something to the partnership.

Some things don't change

Seeking knowledge, making and keeping friends and sharing online and off is how I survive, how I grow, how I am.

My husband knows that - I finally acknowledged his interest while hosting a birthday party in honor of another friend who wisely suggested I wake up and notice my admirer. (Yes, this designated driver took birthday boy to his home before meeting my husband-to-be for time alone. Yes, birthday boy said later he regretted not waiting a day to share his observation.Yes, birthday boy is/was one of my angels.)

Just like my husband knows writing - in my blogs, in my journal, on Facebook - keep me sane, my husband knows I have to keep interacting. After all, he didn't fall in love with a shy person. He's not going to stay in love with a mouse.

And I'm going to keep on choosing everyday to love him and stay with him through ups and downs, through online and offline friendship, and most of all, through life.

(Happy anniversary to my number one fan)
Related posts include:
My house became a home

February 19, 2010

Blogging blunders bugging me 'cause the fix is so easy

It bugs me that people don't get the power of language, especially when choosing a name for a web site or blog. What you say, what you choose, matters unless you like being lonely, no one reading your blog, and no one visiting your web site.

If you have a name for something, you have a shorthand for what that something is. But it has to be the right name, one that people will use because when you say it they know what you are saying and can easily repeat it back. The name needs to fit their habits, not yours. It needs to be consistent, with the English language and with your organization.

Power of three

This rant, like most, is prompted by the power of three - three web sites that don't get why choosing a name, a URL is important. So let's be specific without being embarrassing.
  • If you're blogging, make your blog title says something.
  • If you're blogging on the web, make sure the web address is "normal" and attractive to search engines.
  • If you're blogging, do it for more then becoming a part of the trend.


Title tempts readers

Your blog title matters because it should tell us what we will find within the blog and, hopefully, it will help us find the blog.

Two Girl Scout councils blogs - GS Blog and Our Blog - got outed on my Facebook stream this week.

I dislike the GS Blog title for three reasons:
  • It tells me too little.I already guessed that it would be about Girl Scouts since it was a Girl Scout council telling me about it.
  • A blog is a tool, not a title. Most of us don't read a blog because it is a blog but because of the information within - this title doesn't tell me what to expect.
  • It assumes too much. I know GS is Girl Scouts, I don't think that's what the average person calls us, thus that's not what they type in at a search engine.
The blog improves at the site, fulfilling a promise to give you the background of the council and sharing good links. I will say that the blog itself uses photos in a compelling away and most entries are written "blog style," not cut and paste press releases.


Make it easy to find

I carry less love for the other title, Our Blog, for the reasons above. But there's also the problem of identity. Two different people told me about Our Blog and then gave me the wrong blog addresses. One said the title was Our Blogs, indicating the address was xxx.org/ourblogs. The other neglected to say the URL had a B to start the word blog -- xxx.org/Blog

The organization already offers major challenges with its base web site address (too many s's - go ahead say a word with s's and see if you don't have to say "s as in Sam" to the puzzled and inconsistent use of the word southeastern). But now it complicates matters by requiring users to hit the caps key for Blog in the address. That's unusual for users and search engines (apparently even the one on the site, which won't let you find the blog by typing in Blog or blog.)

Capital letters in web addresses are unexpected by users and search engines. If you type a lower case word in a search, most will return addresses with the lowercase word AND the uppercase word.  So blog gets me results with blog and Blog but Blog only gets me results with Blog.

I'm sure the webmaster will add a redirect page from xxx.org/blog to its xxx.org/Blog. I even expect that the site search will be updated so that typing in the word blog or Blog will get you to the blog. But why not follow the conventional styles of the web. It's up to content creators to serve content consumers if we want the content read.


Be consistent

This blog also hits another pet peeve of mine - the lack of care to a page title. So, in this council, the "page" Our Blog sits on has a title of GSXXX Blog, which I like better then the blog title.

Page titles are important to me because:
  • They help me find my way to the page via search engines IF the titles match the content and use English the way I speak it.
  • They help me navigate back to a page via web history IF the titles match the content.
  • They give me, a scanner, a way of knowing what to expect on the page.


Tell me enough

At least the page title has the council's initials because I can't quite tell who the our is in Our Blog.

 Our Blog is launched with this Facebook comment:
"Snippity snap, we have a blog! There are 7-8 of us bloggers right now, talking about everything from board updates to program updates to xxxx strategic planning! Check out our thoughts and ideas:"
Seriously, I don't mean to be harsh but this just raises more questions for me. Let's start with who are the bloggers so that I know why I should care about their thoughts and ideas. I didn't expect to have a list over on Facebook, but I did think I'd find an intro to the eight who will start of this adventure in the blog itself.

They get points for including people's names and job titles in the blog posts themselves (but those titles are another rant for another day because they tell me little.)


Tell me what's coming

But, just as quickly, let's move into what I can expect to find if I take the time to subscribe. Remember the Facebook comment.

There's this from the first entry:
"In an effort to get information across to you quickly and with the utmost transparency, we've decided to start up our very first blog!

Stay tuned as staff, board members, and volunteers update this blog with up-to-date content!   Girl Scouts 4 Life!"
That gets me back to the question of why are you blogging. In these days of multistreams of information, it is important to define what will be found where and use the tools for what they are best at doing.

If you're blogging because it is easier to publish content on a blog then on your site, perhaps someone should look at removing the web site obstacles.

If you're blogging to become transparent, then I expect to find opinions and background and lots of insight while I still have a chance to influence. Giving me the tools to share a blog post isn't enough; give me a place to react, to ask, to share my opinion.

 If you're blogging just to blog, please don't.

February 18, 2010

What I wish I could give: Change

Zyanga, through FarmVille, asked me: What are you giving away today?

Here's my reply, shared over on Facebook with those who play FarmVille:
I'm giving you a Valentine here, but what I really want to give you is the ability to change. You don't really get a choice on this change thing. So what do you need from me? Words? A virtual hug? Or just someone to listen."
  It's a shame more of us don't accept the fact that change is what happens.

This post started on FarmVille, a social media game that offers the player a prompt and space to share some words while giving neighbors an opportunity to adopt this ugly duckling and wait for it to turn into a beautiful swan.

Believe in the end

An ugly duckling, which I know one day will become a swan, crossed my path today. It inspired me to think and prompted me to share this online:

I've just learned how much I've been feeling like an Ugly Duckling. But God has been thumping me on the head in so many ways that I realize I need to change.

I need to enjoy this time of being an 'ugly duckling' because none of us know just what or when we will transform. In fact, I'm not sure I think we only transform once.

 This post was started on FarmVille, a social media game started on Facebook, that prompts players to share information when posting bonuses, treasures, requests and announcements..

February 14, 2010

Health rant: Medicine fails on paper, in person

Health care advocacy is so tiring, whether we advocate for ourselves, our family, our friends, or the past.

Forget the battle for a fair, affordable health care plan in the United States. Worry about the loss of family doctors or general practioners in the land of specialization.

Remember the people who are crafting the national policy are the ones who created Medicare, which reimburses doctors, hospitals and pharmacists less then the medical community gets from patients with health insurace through employers or self.

Part D not for dummies

Remember also the people who are writing the details of a plan to ensure those who need help can get it before dying are the same people who created Medicare Part D, a prescription program for our parents, grandparents and others who should gain respect just by the shear fact they've lived past 62.

Instead, the smart guys who created Part D make our people choose a new plan each year - I had 48 plans to consider for my mother, 60 some for my stepdad, and, a high of 84 plans for another person.

That required inputting what medicines at what dosage are being taken now - do you know what prescriptions you'll need next month, much less all year? Then, you chose the plan that covers the most prescriptions, or at least the most expensive prescriptions. Remember, though, there's a clause that says the insurance company can stop covering a drug at anytime.

Part D not for the sick

Let's not forget the donut hole - that area where you get no help from the plan of your choice after you pay. First, you pay a deductible for your drugs and then you get some help from the plan for approved drugs. But once you reach $2,830 in total drug costs (total drug costs, not your share), you get nothing until your out-of-pocket cost reaches $4,550. Then, you usually get all or most of your drug costs covered. The meter is reset each year.

It's easy and scary to find out your drug costs by asking the pharmacy. For instance, one drug I take costs about $1,000 a month and I pay a $20 co-pay. I  pay that same co-pay for drugs that cost less then $10. 

But think back to Medicare Part D. If you need nearly $3000 worth of drugs in less then a year, aren't you sick enough to require help, not ignorance, for the rest of the prescriptions.

So I have no faith in the crafting of a good for me/us national health care policy.

New D - insurance denials

I'm not encouraged either by the insurance industry. January is the month of denials, when people learn that the insurance they thought they had disappeared either correctly or wrong. First notification comes when the pharmacist asks for $525 instead of an expected $25 co-pay.Blame all the new year changes that sneak in.

This is also when you review the expeneses of the past years as you prepare for taxes. I confess that I cried while sorting out what went where for what. Perhaps broken toes highten my sensitivity. But paying for and tracking my daughter's treatment of breast cancer continues to annoy - doctors and institutions that don't send itemized bills, or bill the wrong insurance or forget to bill until months down the ine.

Calling for 1 doctor

Equally disappointing is how the changes in distributing medicine in this century can harm us unless we are our own medical advocate, staying ontop of the literature and medical advances.

For instance, a new issue of Neurology talks about the possibility of bone problems for those who have multiple sclerosis. The scariest phrase for me is "Even most neurologists don't know about this." Oh, we should?

Certainly, I've never told mine that I've been breaking toes and the same foot over and over and over this past year. 

For the record, on Thursday a doctor suggested I up my intake of Vitamin D to counter what's become an ongoing problem.. On Friday, I broke a few toes. On Saturday, I get a magazine that says those with multiple sclerosis are at risk of bad bones and should up their Vitamin D.

Did we hurt ourselves when we lost family doctors, someone who knew us, our family. Have we lost in this age of specialization - each doctor treating parts with coordination staying with the patient?

I'm overdue for a visit with the man I believe in charge of my multiple sclerosis. (A big snowstorm meant I canceled the last appointment; some expect an earthquake in March in Michigan will prevent the next one.)  So this new development worries me.

I like the doctors in my medicine stable and enjoy their williness to avoid duplication via sharing of records. But I hate going to all of them, to any of them. I never know what to say to which one despite notes. And, after all of these years, I still can't tell when it is time to get their help and not rely on their previous advice.

Tell the guy who specializes in the nervous system about my poor foot and toes? Tell the foot doctor about an eye problem? The eye guy about .....

Many days, I want to return to the doctor who treated me as a child. He knew my parents and grandparents so I didn't have to remidn him which of those were diabetic. He knew. I'm sure I wouldn't have to remember what to tell him other doctors treated because I'd be at a one-stop shop, which sounds very good today.

Right now, I'm looking for something to stop the aching toes, knowing that only time, especially time off my feet, will remove that challenge.