Thursday, September 10, 2009

Virtual world or reality? Which one is real?

The subject above may seem redundant, and functionally, it is. Of course "reality" is real, and virtual is, well, virtual. But, take a closer look, and things are not always what they seem.

I was on Facebook the other day (for the tenth time at least) and found myself deeply involved in the posts of others. When I checked my phone the eleventh time to see if someone's "status" had changed, it hit me. WHO CARES!!! A year ago I was minding my own business in the non-social-networking world.

Let me first say I love Facebook. This social networking source is a great way to stay in touch with the goings-on of those you enjoy without having to go for a visit, perhaps pick up the phone for a lengthy conversation, or having to comment. It's like peeking into someone's brain to see what is going on in there. I love being able to see information from my family members, as it make me feel closer to them - more involved. I have enjoyed reconnecting with old friends - those you've always wondered what happened with their lives. I was very resistant to it at first. It's like if you're not on it, it seems wasteful and silly - very egocentric. If you are on it, you feel like you are much more "in the know" and albeit popular.

Speaking of your "friend" list, take a closer look at it. Do you secretly take pride in how many "friends" are on your page? How many of those are on there are:
  • people you see often
  • people you knew from your past that you enjoy
  • family members
  • people you haven't spoken to in years and don't really have anything in common with
  • people from work that you feel obligated to friend

Ahhhh...that is the crux of it, is it not? Obligation is the key word. Why do we feel obligated to "friend" in a virtual word those we would not "friend" in the real world? Maybe I am the only one who feels obligated, but I think that is highly unlikely. Are we really nicer online?!

Sometimes I wonder if Facebook is the ultimate social experiment. It's like a bad high school reality show in the virtual world. People gossip, write tacky things on their status, share drunken (and God knows what else) pictures of themselves, and generally uses it as a source for communication. This reminds me of pre-historic note passing for the millennium.

So why do I often feel obligated to be involved in a virtual world with people who don't enhance my life? The example above about checking someone's status what crazy. There I was, checking up one someone who I "friended" to see what they had said about me - good, bad or ugly. We also check on their friend lists too - don't we ("I can't believe they friended Suzy Q")? Does that really matter? Are you going to "de-friend" them because they "friended" someone who won't friend you?! I know - it's a cycle if insanity at times.

(note, I will leave the concept of "de-friending" for another time!)

Because I felt a sense of obligation when I "friended" this person, now I have a sense of insecurity because I actually can get into this person's thoughts a little more. Is that why we do this? I don't think it's the intention, but often it's what happens. I think my reasoning was keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Often these "friends" give us insight into other things - especially work related - that one does need to be on top of. It's like a hidden camera at work or a nanny-cam at home: you may not think something is happening, but if it is, you want to know about it.

On the flip side, I've really gotten to know and share with people I truly care about. I am able to stay in closer contact with friends and family. I am able to share things about work to those who want the information. It's been highly valuable! I love being able to see people's pictures and have fun little chats online. It's cool that technology can bring us together in so many ways.

I would be interested to hear anyone's thoughts on this. And yes, you most likely know about this blog because of Facebook. Hallelujah!!

One final note. I almost posted "I love Kashi Crunch" on my Facebook page this morning. Why I felt disposed to share that with anyone, or that it matters if others feel the same way, I don't know. Funny what comes out of us, don't you think?!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I must be invisible

I put this as a status on my Facebook page today and it really made me think about some things.

Background Part 1:
I enter into a staff meeting today. There's a large decorated cookie on the head table that says "happy birthday" and I asked someone "what's that for?" I didn't realize what it was. Their response was that it was a birthday cookie for those with August birthdays and rattled off a little of names - they sang happy birthday, etc. My name wasn't mentioned, and of course I have an August birthday. It made me feel invisible.

Background Part 2:
At the same meeting, my boss/owner and the CEO are usually the ones who run the meetings. If one is out, the other takes over, which seems appropriate. Today one was out and the other had to leave, so the Marketing Director and VP took over. Why this bothered me, I don't know. I guess it made me feel like I worked for them. Granted, we work together for a common goal, but seeing them sitting at the head table with an air of authority really made me peeved! I've worked here for 9 years and have seen so many "corporate" types come and go. I know more about the organization that just about anyone. Maybe it wasn't the issue of me not running a meeting, because in all honesty, I wouldn't want to do it all the time anyway! Perhaps I was just overreacting to not being asked. Why does this bother me? I wonder if it's because there is an air of machismo men being in charge, leaving us women-folk to be the subordinates. Ahhh...that may be a better description. They delegate and have brainstorming sessions and get paid well to do it. The women-folk to all the work....because we have better "interpersonal skills" but somehow we get paid less. I think it's because we're lacking a certain piece of anatomy. (smirk)

Thus my post...."I must be invisible." How did I get to this place with my work? I will indulge myself with a little bit of ego stroking - I am very good at what I do. I run a successful team of 58 people (all of whom are me-centric, some more than others) across 5 locations, working part time hours. The problem is that I've devised a system within my team that is so successful that I could fall off the face of the earth and no one would notice. We're stable, we're consistent, and we're generally on the ball. When there's a crisis, it's handled in such a way that those above me never know there was a problem. When there is a victory, all the praise goes to my staff. I have the luxury of a flexible schedule - as long as someone can reach my via cell or email, everything's good. Sometimes it's too good though.

I think the idea of feeling invisible lends itself to a greater notion. Are there times that we're too successful for our own good? Are we often taken for granted, with others not giving our hard work and sacrifices a second look? Have I pigeon-holed myself so much that people don't see me fitting into another position or taking on other responsibilities? Can I be anything else other that what I am now? Many times in the last year I've contemplated pursuing another line of work, but always hold back a little. I can't imagine giving up the part of the job I love. Teaching is a passion for me, not just a hobby. I love seeing people enjoy fitness and complete things they never once thought they would be able to do. If I took on a different full time job, I would have to give up that one thing I love the most. At the end of the day, the trade off isn't worth it, or at least it hasn't gotten to that point yet.

I think we all harbor a deep-seeded need to be needed. We secretly love the idea that if something happened people would wonder how they could ever manage to move forward. We crave the idea of being needed, we live for being accepted and supported. When you get to a place where people are comfortable with your talents, often we feel taken for granted. How do we deal with this? It's a balance after all. Once has to be both independent and reliant at the same time. We don't want people to need and want us every minute of every day, yet, getting some feedback is reassuring. Even a "how are you" or "everything going ok?" is nice once in awhile.

Am I alone in this? Am I unreasonable? Am I insane? Or do I need to increase my meds, have a glass of wine and chill out? I would love your feedback!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

What's Up With the Flamingos?

I love pink flamingos. Not because they win beauty contests, have historical significance, or taste great. No, I'm attached to pink flamingos because of the ideas behind them. We keep a large plastic pink flamingo proudly displayed in our front flowerbed. We had two, but they were stolen. Now we have the lone soldier who migrates around the front yard. I don't know what the neighbors think about it, but since it's not their property, well, I guess it doesn't concern them!

There's a hometown garden/nursery store in Austin, TX called "Pots and Plants." Actually it's in Westlake, but that's close enough. To make sure I'm citing a real place, check out the website Every year, Pots and Plants puts out plastic pink flamingos on the front of it's property as a sign of spring. During football season, it's not uncommon to see burnt orange and crimson flamingos arranged like a football lineup. In the winter, the pink flamingos hibernate and plastic penguins take their place. You can always tell the seasons are changing by the flamingos.

Now, that's not so bad, a bit irreverent, but a fantastic marketing concept! 

Westlake is a suburb west of Austin, TX. It's a higher income area with great schools and is well known for it's snob appeal. I lived in Westlake during high school (Go Chaps!), having moved their from the more elitist Highland Park of Dallas. Back then, mind you this was 20 years ago, Westlake was already known for being the rich kid school of the area. Now, with many people migrating to the area from California, it's snob appeal and "we're just a little better than you" aura is growing. Think gated communities and rules on what you can display in your own front yard.

About 10 years ago, my husband and I stumbled upon an article about the flamingos at the Pots and Plants nursery. The community of Westlake was fighting the nursery about their right to display their flamingos. The idea was the flamingos brought down the value of the area, making it look trashy, attracting the wrong type (immigrant flamingos?!) of people, and generally making a mockery of Westlake. Gimme a break. This is Austin, Texas, the freest place in the state. In response to the communities arguments, Pots and Plants did exactly what I had hoped - they put out MORE flamingos. Touche! At some point the nursery wins the battle, Westlake got over itself, and now it's a bit of a landmark for the natives - people, that is, not flamingos.

OK, so how does this relate? We live in Lubbock, Texas. If you have never been here, well, it's in the panhandle of west Texas. The terrain is flat, the wind blows, and it's very conservative. There are more churches in Lubbock than any other place I know. While you can order an alcoholic drink in a restaurant or a bar, you cannot buy alcohol within the city limits. We're the home of Texas Tech University and Buddy Holly. 

About this same time, my husband - then boyfriend - and I started building a home. The neighborhood at the time was a new one with many retirees. Our home was between two retired couples, both with large religious statues in the front flowerbeds. A school principal lives across the street.

At the time, Alan had long blond hair. It was so great. He drove a black sports car, and listened to lots of loud music. Those who didn't know him sometimes thought he might sell drugs. Little did they know he's just a fun loving guy. We met the neighbors on the west one evening:

Them: "How long have we been married?" 
Us: "We're not married." 
Them: "When's the big day then? Surely it's right around the corner?"
Us: "Nothing scheduled yet. Here. Come by for a beverage some time!" (Alan hands them a business card with the words "Alan and Rachel are shackin' up! Come by the house for a free adult beverage!"

After that we didn't see them so much. A bit standiffish, they were. Perhaps we didn't fit their model of the perfect neighbors. Thinking of Pots and Plants, we put two very large and very bright pink flamingos in the flowerbeds. It was our way of saying don't judge us, don't make assumptions. We'll do our thing, and you can do yours! Kind of like a "right back atcha" to the establishment.

Since then, numerous pink flamingos have found their way to the White home: glasses, ornaments, pictures, flags, refrigerator magnets, and even a wine bottle holder. We have a pink flamingo Christmas tree every year.

So, when you get tired of doing what everyone expects, your rut gets too deep, or you want to fight the good fight, become a follower of the pink flamingo. Hold your head high, act gracefully, and be the beautiful bird that you are! 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Test Entry

To all who might be reading this entry, this is a test blog!