Life

In case you were wondering why you don’t see me on Facebook very much anymore

I deleted Facebook and Messenger from my phone. They’ve been gone about ten weeks now.

Back in March I wrote this post about how Facebook is occasionally enjoyable, and how that’s been enough for me to keep coming back despite not enjoying it much otherwise. It got me to thinking: why do I spend so much time in something I don’t really enjoy? That’s when I said goodbye to the apps.

Until a few years ago I genuinely liked Facebook. It was great fun to connect with people from all phases of my life. My Facebook friends used to share more from their lives, writing a line or two about something they were doing, or sharing a photo they took. I know they shared only the portion of their lives they wanted others to see and framed it in only positive light. But it was fun anyway.

Now it seems that most people just share memes and articles. And I don’t usually enjoy the subject matter:

Your posts about the second amendment and gun control aren’t going to change my mind on the matter, or anybody else’s, either. We’re only going to alienate each other.

I consider myself to be politically conservative. Now, I weep for how far off the rails the Republican Party has gone. I pray for its restoration to sanity. Still, the basic principles of conservatism resonate with me. It genuinely hurts when you post things that put down my politics. I am not the monster you make out conservatives to be.

And to my conservative friends, I’m equally disappointed and offended when you put down the other side. They aren’t monsters either. Like us, they are people trying to figure out the best way forward.

To both sides, if you call the other side names (e.g., “libtard”), I’ve already unfollowed you.

I’ve been incredulous over how many shared so-called “news” articles in my feed are thinly veiled opinion pieces or have used poor, even deliberately manipulative, forms of argumentation. Do you actually believe this crap? Have you spent any time evaluating these articles’ illogic? Have you sought to understand these matters from other perspectives?

That leaves the cutesey and heartstring-plucking shares. And oh my gosh, are there ever a lot of them now. At least they don’t make me angry. But it’s not enough to keep me coming back.

In case you are one of my Facebook friends and now feel offended because I’m pointing a finger at you, I’m sorry.

I get it: we are all troubled by the times we live in. We wring our hands, we air our fear and anger, and we seek friends of like mind to help us feel better.

But it is hurting, not helping. It is alienating us, not knitting us together. It is making Facebook a wasteland, not a place where we can enjoy each other even if from afar.

View from US 50 in Martin County, Indiana

If I’ve offended you, here’s a placid landscape photo to calm you.

Even though the apps are gone from my phone, I still check Facebook on my computer once or twice a day. My blog posts automatically post to Facebook each day and I want to see if anyone commented on them there. Also, I follow a couple groups there that remain fun.

For the first couple weeks with Facebook gone from my phone, I was at loose ends when I had idle time. I’ve since downloaded the Kindle app and am reading more books. That feels like a giant win.

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Trail

I can’t go into it all, everything my family has been through in the last year. If you visit here regularly, you know about my wife’s serious back injury and her recovery from it, new jobs for both my wife and for me, selling my old home and finally moving in with my wife, my father’s final illness and death, care of my wife’s elderly parents, and the shocking and unexpected death of our daughter-in-law.

That’s just some of it. There’s more, much more, stories that aren’t mine to tell and so need to remain private. All of it has been a terrible strain on us not just individually, but also on our young marriage.

We’ll be okay. We’ve both known hard times earlier in our lives and have learned how to handle them. We know grace, how to give it and receive it.

We think that the worst of it is over. We think we can now focus fully on us.

It’s a relief. We are happy to be on our path forward.

Life

The path forward

Reflections on the path forward after a difficult time in our lives.

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Life

Grieving Mariah

It’s a very difficult time for my family, as on Saturday evening our son Jeff’s wife Mariah died suddenly and unexpectedly. Mariah was just 25. Here are Jeff and Mariah on the day they told us they had eloped.

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We saw Mariah for the last time on Easter Sunday. She came to our home, excited as we helped her figure out some key steps for her and Jeff’s future. All of Margaret’s kids got together briefly earlier in the day; here we all are. Aaron, Lain, me, Margaret, Jeff, Mariah, Zach, and Zach’s girlfriend Emma.

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The blog will continue cheerfully for the next couple weeks as scheduled posts go live — but know we are devastated.

Goodbye Mariah Rawson! You and Jeff had a long, hard road ahead, but we believed in you.

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Life, Stories Told

Enduring comforters

In this season of change and loss I’m experiencing, it’s remarkable to me what endures.

When I started this blog, in 2007, I lived in my church’s parsonage. It had been vacant because our pastor lived in a house he already owned. The elders knew I was rebuilding my life after my divorce and that my one-room apartment wasn’t big enough for me and my sons. So in 2005 they offered me a sweetheart deal: if I paid the utilities and cut the grass (on a three-acre lot, what a lot of work!) I could live in the parsonage indefinitely. Given what houses like this rented for at the time, they saved me about $1,000 a month — money I didn’t have anyway, not then.

The four-bedroom, two-bathroom house was mostly furnished. I needed only furnish my sons’ bedroom. My sons could easily have had separate rooms, but they were used to bunking together and said they felt most secure that way. They were still quite young at about eight and six years old. Here’s their room.

ParsonageBoysRoom

I had little money to work with. I ordered their beds online from Sears, sight unseen, for about $100 each. Let me tell you, a $100 box spring and mattress are mighty thin and flimsy. My back would have complained to me all day after a night on one of these. But my boys’ little bodies could still sleep happily on anything.

I bought almost everything else on sale at Target: the comforters and bedskirts, the sheets, the bedside table, the clock radio, the lamp, and the plastic tubs that served as their toy boxes. The curtains came from the one-room apartment; I’d bought them at Dollar General. I forget where I got the posters, but they were of my sons’ favorite TV shows.

You can never predict how things will change as life moves on.

Even though my sons slept in my home less than half the time, the mattresses wore out after about five years and had to be replaced. It pays to buy good mattresses.

The boys’ nightstand now stands next to my recliner in the living room. I use Damion’s decorative orange pillow behind my head when I watch TV there. The boys no longer needed their toy-box tubs at some point; I used them both for Christmas-decoration storage. The lamp doesn’t have a use at the moment, but I think it might one day and so I’ve saved it. I don’t know what became of the clock radio. The boys no longer wanted their posters when I moved last year out of the house I bought for us in 2007.

But those black Target comforters have worn like iron. They’re still on the beds I keep for my sons. Garrett’s comforter even got a five-year break when, at his request, I redecorated his room in camouflage. The camo comforter he selected, which cost a darn sight more than the black one, just didn’t last. It had worn thin and was full of holes. Fortunately, his camo phase had ended and I just put the black comforter back on his bed. It still looked fresh — as much as the one that had been on his brother’s bed all along.

When my sons move out, I’ll send those comforters along with them. Who knows how long they’ll last. But while they do, they’ll connect them to memories stretching all the way back to our time in the parsonage.

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Life, Stories Told

Why I stay on Facebook even though I don’t enjoy it much

I’ve not enjoyed Facebook much for months and months. Especially since the election of our current President, the place has become so polarized and tribalized. Angry screeds and narrowminded memes. Siding up and tossing ad hominems.

It’s not fun. I keep thinking I should quit. And then something like this photograph happens.

Me in 2nd Grade

Me in second grade, 1974 or 1975

A fellow I knew in elementary school, someone with whom I’ve not spoken for nearly 40 years, shared it on my wall. It’s me at my desk in our second-grade classroom. The fellow’s mom brought cupcakes for his birthday and photographed the class. He came upon the photo his his mother’s things, made a quick mobile-phone snap of it, and posted it.

What a joy to see this photo! I’d forgotten what a mop top I was, and I had no memories of what that classroom looked like.

But what happened next was truly special. Because I’m connected on Facebook with so many of my elementary classmates, many of them commented and reminisced. And we discovered together that we all felt like our elementary school was a truly special place where we felt safe and cared for. We shared memories of our teachers, of walking to school together, of after-school snacks at each others’ homes, and even of summer fun on the playground. We experienced community in our neighborhood through our school, and we agreed that it was wonderful.

This wasn’t just sticky-sweet nostalgia. We Monroe School alums had a joyful shared experience thanks to this photograph. We compared our notes to find that we all privately felt the same way about our long-ago experience. It validated that experience, I think, for all of us.

In this way, Facebook is like an abusive relationship. It’s good just often enough that you don’t leave.

This gorgeous school building underwent a thorough renovation in 2010. See interior and exterior photos here.

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Life

Ich habe einen Volkswagen gekauft

Ich habe einen Volkswagen gekauft

At last, a new car. A new-to-me car at any rate: a 2013 VW Passat 2.5 S.

With that, my beloved Toyota Matrix is finally gone. I wrote its eulogy last September (read it here) after it developed several problems that would cost far more to fix than the car was worth. One of those problems made the car a safety risk on the road.

But then I dragged my feet on selling it. In part, I struggled to let go of my baby. In part, other priorities kept winning over selling a beater car. In part, I wanted more from it than the $200 my mechanic offered me so he could part it out.

But then late in January it became essential that my family have three safe and reliable automobiles. My wife and I both own Ford Focuses that, despite age and high mileage, are entirely roadworthy. I had to act, and fast, to replace the Matrix.

My wife and I set a budget and I went shopping. That budget was low enough and time was enough of the essence that my purchase criteria were very broad: under 50,000 miles, good reliability reputation, four doors, usable back seat. I looked at a handful of cars and SUVs before coming upon this Passat.

The back seat is cavernous. Our 6′2″ youngest son can sit back there with easily four inches between his knees and the back of my seat. Finally, a comfortable trip car for the family!

The automotive press panned the 2.5-liter, 5-cylinder engine for lacking power compared to the competition. I’ve not driven other midsize sedans, but this Passat has plenty of scoot for me, especially when I drop the transmission into Sport mode. Whee! Fusions and Accords and Camrys must be blazing quick.

The press also criticized the Passat’s generic styling. Can’t say they’re wrong.

After so many years driving inexpensive economy cars, I feel like a real grown up driving this large, comfortable car. But it feels like a wasteful amount of car for me to drive alone to and from work, which is what I use it for most. I take solace in the fact that it gets gas mileage at least as good as my lamented Matrix and my Focus!

Oh, and the trade-in value on a beater 2003 Toyota Matrix: $750. Score!

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