My Dead On-Line Self

grey skulls piled on ground
Photo by Renato Danyi on Pexels.com

I have reconciled myself to the fact that my posts make many people uncomfortable. Perhaps I am giving voice to questions about suburban life and marriage that are better left unsaid . I have a screen name but Snarkychaser is hardly anonymous since it is linked to my profiles on Face Book and LinkedIn. Moreover, it is loaded with pictures of me. My more recent concern is not how my online self appears to society now, but rather what will my online image continue to say about me after I am dead.

When I began my blog, I realized that it was a vehicle to discipline my thinking in short posts. Ultimately, always in the back of my mind, I write it for my two children. One day, they will read what I have written and understand me. There have been times when my teen aged daughter has asked me not to post. She says that I do not understand the internet. She is wrong. I do. She just doesn’t really understand me… yet. She is worried that people in our small community won’t “get me”. I know that and I don’t care. I also realize that very few of us understand how much the internet legacies of our social networks and blogs will ultimately impact us…if at all.
In the past month, The New York Times has published two pieces on death and the internet. The first, Cyberspace When You’re Dead,discusses estate planning for your internet life after death. Unplanned death is a reality and I am constantly confronted with pictures and names of dead friends on Linked In and Face Book. I wonder if anyone knows that they are still hanging around. They are just constant reminders that we all leave unfinished business.
The second article in the New York Times, ran today on the front page. Funeral homes are now starting to post memorial services on the web. Perhaps my service will be downloaded on You Tube one day. I recently read on my AOL News about a man who not only lost his wife but also lost his children as their car crashed while they were driving to attend their step-mother’s funeral. Certainly it seems much more prudent to have a service on the web available for those who don’t want to drive in a snow storm. I can’t plan every thing…but I can start my thinking in terms of my digital legacy as a zombie.

Zombie Me
Zombie Me getting ready for Asbury Park, NJ Zombie Parade.

 

Previously Published on Open Salon June 25 2011 under Snarkychaser

My Grave Investment

Gravestones1

Last month I bought my grave site in an ancient church yard. It is actually two places for “cremains”.   After I read Mary Roach’s Stiff-The Curious Lives of Human CadaversI walked around for two weeks looking at everyone as if they were meat halfway to the morgue. In my middle age, I started wondering why I was even bothering to go to the gym- I was already half decayed flesh. Why bother with anything? Perhaps it was time to just take it easy and plan my death.

However, it was also at this time, in the gym, that a weight lifting friend brought up his burial plans. He is about 25 years older than I am and was a big coffee trader in his prime. He tells me that in the 70s he was written up in the Wall Street Journal for cornering the coffee market the way the Hunt brothers cornered the silver market. He and I often discussed investments and I had never thought of the cemetery plots as being a financial investment. Yet here he was lamenting that he had not bought his little plot in the revolutionary war graveyard when he could have purchased it for “fifty bucks”. I raced over to the church that afternoon to get my investment sewed up before inflation could make it unaffordable to me.

cemetary

The church secretary was wonderful as she took me over to the available plots. She showed me the new wheelchair access that they had installed and asked me if I would like to be by a bench. She said that many preferred to be in shade. I was so flustered that I decided I would prefer to be in the shade by the bench to cover my bets. I did ask her if they had many drunken teens at night that liked the bench. Over the next few weeks I told everyone about my new investment. It was then that I learned that there is a big ‘after market’ for plots.

One friend told me the she and her husband owned several plots in three different cemeteries. “We have six in King Solomon but that is a Jewish cemetery and they won’t take me. We have three in Brooklyn and one up state.These are all from the days when you got married, bought your house and then bought your plots. There was so much death in the early part of the 20th century.” she noted “My father is in my upstairs coat closet but I don’t know what to do with him.” She told me about several web sites that were like a Grave Plot’s Craig List for people wanting to sell.

When I announced my new investment status on Face Book, I initially wrote that I was not going to be buried in Queens with my husband. I got a panicked call from him to take it down in case his mom thought that I had a problem with Queens. For the record, I don’t have a problem with Queens – except that I have no connection to the place and can’t drive very well. It just feels like such a schlep to get there. My next status -with picture elicited lots of responses from people who were trying to sell grave sites in other places that they no longer felt connected to.

Many people just want their ashes spread in their back yards. I will make a query to see if the Rutgers’s Master Gardener program might be interested in developing guidelines. But I am set for now.

Gravestone2

 

Previously published on Open Salon under Snarkychaser and as Editor’s Pick

Ricky, Cayce and the Peruvian Healer

Ceremonial Beaker courtesy Princeton University Art Museum
Museum purchase, Fowler McCormick, Class of 1921, Fund

The first time I learned about Edgar Cayce was through talking to my friend, Wendy’s husband, Ricky. I had heard about Cayce but knew nothing about the man. Even after speaking with Ricky, I thought the whole Cayce thing was just weird. However, Ricky and Edgar Cayce remained in my mind as a pair. Two years ago, Ricky died at the age of 50. His death marked the beginning of Wendy and my exploration into Cayce’s teachings.

Since I have learned of Ricky’s death, Wendy and I have talked on the phone almost every day. As part of the healing process, I have tried to keep an open mind about Edgar Cayce. Ricky was a very spiritual man and his unexpected death at such a young age, has led many of our conversations to question thenature of life after death. When Wendy suggested going to an Edgar Cayce workshop this past Sunday on his teachings of “Life-Death-Reincarnation-Eternity according to Edgar Cayce”, I gladly agreed to join Wendy and her daughter to learn more about this man at the A.R.E. of New York Edgar Cayce Center.

The lecture was taught by a volunteer and former science teacher, Jack Rosen. Rosen touched on many of Cayce’s teachings and many short videos can be found on You Tube which will give you an idea of what some of his theories were.  The unexpected addition of the lecture was that Rosen had invited a Peruvian Shaman to come to speak to the class on his experiences of death and the after life. The Shaman’s name was Jorge and Rosen felt that he was the “real thing” and he here in New York for a short period to do some healing work with people.

Jorge was a modest, small, handsome, middle-aged man dressed in blue cargo pants and a preppy blue sweater. He was former engineer from Lima, who went through special training to be a healer in the forests of the Amazon. He spoke very good English and the first thing he told us was that he was not a “Shaman”, he was a healer. Jorge explained that as part of his training process he had to go through certain experiences that would help him to understand the human condition of those that he was to heal. The first was to give birth, and the second was to die.

Jorge explained that through certain plants and a night in a cave he was able to experience something of these human conditions. The death experience was the one that he had come to describe. I did not take notes so I will just relay the most important things that I took away from his talk. The experience that he described right after death was of liberation of soul from his earthly body. The second was that he still had very strong attachments to those still living on earth. At this point, there was an instant understanding of what he did to all of these people that he had contact with in this lifetime. The repentance was very strong for those he had wronged. Also, there was enormous sadness and regret for all of the positive feelings that he had held in his heart for those still living. He had a realization that these feelings, especially love and forgiveness, should have been expressed in his lifetime. Then there was a “purgatory” where these strong feelings were dealt with so that he could move on to the next phase. Jorge was not at liberty to discuss the next phase but this phase involved creating a new identity for the soul from the one that had been established in the earthly body. This process is individual and all souls must experience this for themselves.

Jorge’s talk was just another reminder for me not to let unexpressed feelings of love and gratitude remain private. We never know when our time will be called and it would be very painful to regret what could have been so easily dealt with here on earth in the now.

Previously Published on Open Salon under Snarkychaser August 18, 2010

A Very Organized Teacher

schoolhouse

I am tolerant of quirks, I embrace anxiety and I cherish eccentricity. Five years ago, the fact that my daughter’s teacher was rumored to have OCD did not deter me at all. In fact I believe that certain anal tendencies are what make teachers and lawyers best suited to their professions. However, what transpired over that school year made me hate (yes hate) my child’s third grade teacher. Her need to control made her an inflexible and an unkind person to my daughter.

My daughter is considered “profoundly gifted” by the school district, which means that her IQ scores fall in the top 1% of population. This is the threshold that our school district considers significant enough to encompass an “at risk” the student population. Gifted children manifest their gifts differently. My daughter is very verbal but the verbal skills seem to come at the expense of other ordinary skills. She can’t file, she can’t write quickly, she has trouble with organization and she moves in slow motion. She was also a very tall and awkward child who looks much older than her age. We had a history of teachers that had been unkind to her because they didn’t understand that, as smart as she was, she has some significant processing disabilities. Unfortunately, this new particular teacher was very big on systems and filing and her specialty was organizing.

The teacher was renowned as an organizer; she spent many days out of the classroom teaching other teachers to be organized. She had a homework collecting system that resembled a Rube Goldberg machine. Designated children would collect the children’s homework, organize the homework in numerical order and then check off whether the children had handed in their homework, and then they would be put in a pile to be graded by a parent that helped the teacher. Every quarter, the teacher sent the parents a spreadsheet to update us on grades and missing assignments. My daughter had 32 missing pieces of work one-quarter. I suggested to the teacher that she just collect the homework directly from my daughter. It seemed a simple solution but she balked because her system worked perfectly.

One of the first writing assignments that she gave to these little eight year olds was to write an essay on obsession. This should have tipped me off. I thought it was neat at the time. The teacher also had frequent cleaning days where the children would spend  entire days cleaning the shared pencils, scissors and rulers. The teacher did not allow anyone to bring in her own pencils because she wanted to control the supply. The teacher’s class room was spotless and clean. One day, my daughter was watching a commercial on TV and said “Mom, I feel an impending sense of doom every time I see this.” It took us a while before we realized that her teacher used these plug in air fresheners in the classroom.

Once, when my daughter returned from her pull out program, the teacher handed her the math book and told her that she would need to learn decimals by reading the text book that night at home. She had missed the lesson for the day. She was told by the teacher, if she did not learn decimals on her own, she would not be able to do her homework or pass the math test. The teacher explained that she was going to be away for the next few days teaching seminars on organization.

My daughter cried every day that year, she would just say that the teacher had so much filing in the classroom. My daughter had nightmares in which the teacher was possessed by an evil force. My daughter was perceptive enough to know on some level that the teacher was possessed by an overriding need to control her environment. My daughter also realized that this was a force that was beyond the teacher’s control.

For that year, I was consumed with my own feelings of helplessness. My suggestions to the teacher to help her to deal with my daughter’s inability to keep up with the organizational demands of the classroom were met with disdain. The teacher would explain that her system worked and that my child should be able to meet all of the requirements.

In the end, when I play over the school year in my mind, I can only come to the conclusion that the teacher had some kind of disability that made it hard for her to be flexible enough to meet the needs of children that did not fit neatly into her mold. Other factors were: 1. The teacher was so overwhelming driven by her ambition to be the most organized teacher in the school district, 2. My inability to be an effective advocate for my daughter. I did not know how to work the system.and  3. The teacher’s  lack of empathy.

By the end of the year, this teacher had the lowest class score on our NJASK standardized test. Third grade is the first year for this assessment. As a consequence, the teacher was moved to first grade. I am told that the first graders are required to file and keep large binders. I am just glad that our disorganized family did not get her as a teacher again.

Previously Published on Open Salon July 29 2010 under Snarkychaser

Grief

Grief
In front of MSK photo by Laura Stinchcomb

I sat down on a bench to rest in front of Memorial Sloane Kettering. I had just visited my friend Wendy on the Upper East Side. I had put in a lot of miles in walking and was trekking toward Penn Station. There is no better way to travel in New York City. I knew that the only people sitting on benches in front of the hospital were there for the cancer patients. My mother had had a short stay here for a rare form of cancer, but I hoped never to have to visit again. I felt like an interloper but I was so tired.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw the man next to me twitching and tapping his thin hands. He could not stop moving. There was an internal rhythm that he had to beat out with his fingers. He was so restless that his nervous energy was trying to spill out to the rest of his body. He was unshaven and his clothes were way too big. I was not quite sure if he was a homeless man camped on the bench. He seemed off. He kept his head down and tapped. I kept my eyes closed and tried not to intrude on the nervousness.

The man got up unable to contain himself. He paced in circles around some homemade billboards in front of me. I had not noticed them before. They were peculiar. The display was both homage to a woman who had died young and an indictment of- not mal practice- but ignorant practice in the treatment of a young woman with a rare for of liver cancer. There were several pictures of a beautiful woman and a chubby man and very large public relations picture of a young, smiling Memorial Sloane Kettering female doctor.

I asked the man what this was all about. He said that his wife had died from mis- treatment from the doctors at the hospital. She had had a cancer that would have been better left encapsulated. Had it been left alone, his wife might have had more years to live. He had called friends in Germany and they had had more experience with this type of cancer. He should have taken her there. His thick German accent made it hard for me to understand the details, but his anxious grief was clear. He was very lucid. I realized that this was a grieving man who did not know what to do with his grief. He was doing the only thing that he could to try to make his misery bearable.

I asked him if I could take a picture of the display. He said sure, but he did not know if the hospital was going to come and take it away. He knew that they did not like it. I looked again at the pictures and realized that the chubby man was the very thin man in front of me. His grief was wasting him away. I watched him fold up in boards and put them in the parked shining expensive SUV  to take them home for the day.

A middle- aged woman sat down next to me. I smiled. She asked me about the display. I told her what I knew and she said that her mother was dying. It was a case of mal practice. Her mother was 65 and had been very healthy her whole life, until sugar levels suggested that there was an abnormality. The doctor did not do the appropriate tests on the pancreas. It was pancreatic cancer, but at the time of the first symptom, the tumor was so small, they could have effectively treated it. The woman looked at me and said “I don’t know what I will do without my mother.”

I pulled the grieving man over and  the woman and I had a three way conversation.  I was trained in cocktail talk and business development. I am a connector and, other than my ability to listen, it was all I could offer. I pulled the commonalities from the two and wove a connection between them. I suggested to the grieving man that he might be able to help this woman since she was new to this process of grieving. I got up and offered him my seat. I hugged both of them and said good bye. When I turned around I saw the two excitedly talking to each other.

Previously published on August 3 2010 on Open Salon under Snarkychaser (This was Editor’s Pick)

There is Comfort in the Target Huddle

I have very few routines -because I hate them. I always marveled at how women that I know have days assigned to certain tasks. Monday is their grocery day, Tuesday their laundry day, Wednesday a cleaning day. Having assigned days seems like a hold over from the nineteenth century when Laundry and Baking days really would take a whole day.

My husband tells me that routines provide structure and comfort. There is so much voluntary simplicity literature out there…books on mindfulness…being in the here and now. I’ve read them all. If I could relish the small things in life, I would never be bored putting piles of laundry away. But I am. My ‘Putting the Laundry Away Days’ take me all day, but only because I let it pile up for weeks. I don’t really have designated day for this activity, I chip away at the pile on my chair when I need clean underwear.

However, I think I have discovered a routine that gives me a comfort. Once a week, I go to Target. I do not have a designated day for this activity. I go when I run out of my Diet Coke. I get there after taking my son to his elementary school. It must be around the same time- although the time that I get my son to school seems to vary by a big margin. At some point while I am shopping, there is a call for the ‘Target Huddle’. This is when all of the red shirted employees gather in a circle in the electronic isles. They must do this every morning because I always seem to get stuck in the middle of it.

The laughter is contagious. I try not to spy but I can’t resist. The topics are so fascinating. One week I found out about a stomach flu that was downing all of the workers. They were advising everyone to wash their hands. Another week, they discussed theft prevention.  Once, they discussed an earthquake that I had no idea had happened the day before. Today, I got to watch them doing stretching exercises. When the employees have their huddle, I know that I am in the right place at the right time. This is their routine not mine. I don’t have to do this. I am just a voyeur. Yet it is the familiarity of the routine that is the comfort.  I can leach off of their structure just for a few minutes.

Previously Published on Open Salon under Snarkychaser May 18 2010

I Strut

In a back issue of Psychology Today I found a study which noted that a “woman’s walk correlates with her ability to reach orgasm…Orgasmic women had “free, unblocked energetic flow from the legs through the pelvis.” As for men, you can often tell their sexual orientation by their walk, according to a study at UCLA. Gay men sway their hips, while straight men swagger—as do lesbians.”

How reliable is body language? So much has been written on the subject it’s nice to have scientific studies to back up my own theories. I’ve lived a relatively long life and feel very entitled to make judgments of people based on some observations. The gym is my best laboratory. I think that it is fair to do a character assessment on the relative germ phobia and selfishness of someone at the gym who meticulously wipes down the equipment before placing their sweaty body on the machines and yet refuses to wipe it down after using the machines. I think that people who do not take off their plates or dumbbells and put them back are selfish. I think that 50 year old men that wax their chest hair are usually vain as a peacock no matter how much they maintain that they need to see their pecs flex for their craft.

However, with regard to my judgment of others’ sexual orientation, I think I must be off. I have stopped trying because I just think that all men are gay if they don’t fall in love with me. Although it is nice to know that I can now be more accurate by watching how people walk, I have come to the conclusion that guessing sexual orientation just doesn’t matter that much. I will allow myself to have a crush on a gay man. As for my walk, my husband tells me that I strut.

Previously Published on Open Salon under Snarkychaser May 28 2010

No Regrets? All I Need Is To Wash My Hands?

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

This Scientific American blog discusses the recent May 6th online study from Science which “reveals the power of hand washing to ease people’s minds… Often, when people make decisions—no matter how big or small—they tend to justify them, rationalizing often beyond reason that their choice was by far the best.  Resolving the sense of cognitive dissonance vastly decreased in subjects who washed their hands after having to make a simple choice.”

This might work for many, but not for me…I can’t even Google a topic without regret-which is why I can’t properly cite Barry Schwartz’s thesis of satisficer and maximizer which he wrote about in his book The Paradox of Choice. Scwartz’s theory is that there are different types of decision makers. A saticficer is able to make a decision when basic criteria are met. Once a satisficer makes a decision, they are ready to move on and not look back. Maximizers tend to have more anxiety over their ability to make the optimal decision and then have many regrets about whether they made the right decision once the decision has been made.

So in this hand washing study, is it fair to assume that there was a perfectly balanced sampling of maximizers and satisficers? I am not a scientist just a very experienced maximizer. I will guess that they had too many carefree college students as research subjects. Had they taken a more “real world sample”, the study would have determined that many people need showers and long vacations in addition to simple hand washing to minimize the “cognitive dissonance” of their decision-making

Previously Published on Open Salon under Sanrkychaser May 12, 2010

My Daughter’s Middle School Banned Her Joan Jett T-Shirt

This was the T-shirt my daughter wore. Now vintage photo courtesy Full Breach77

I am not sure if this was an official censor. Last month my 8th grade daughter came home from school to tell me that her Health Ed teacher told her that she could not wear her Joan Jett T-shirt to school anymore. “Mom, a lot of the teachers told me it was cool” she mused. In the T-shirt Joan Jett is wearing a t-shirt that says “Sex Pistols”. The word sex was offensive to the teacher.

When Sex is combined with Sex Pistols in my mind it had transcended its original meaning. Besides at 14, my daughter is so self-conscious of her body that any t-shirts are usually covered with a large flannel shirt. This has become her new uniform. I never paid much attention to the word sex on this t-shirt. It looked fairly microscopic to me.

My daughter has been a big fan of Joan Jett since the movie the Runaways had been released.  We had been collecting Joan Jett T-shirts on all of our trips to New York City. She purchased this particular one with her father and grandmother at Trash & Vaudeville on St. Marks.

When I was on the phone with the guidance counselor -in reference to some of the bigger issues- I mentioned the t-shirt thing. I heard an embarrassed pause “Well we are being told to crack down on inappropriate clothing.” I told her that some of the other teachers told my daughter that it was cool. There was another pause.  I needed to save this woman, I said, “Don’t worry. I know this health teacher. She is very conservative. She means well. She may not really be up on the changing times. When you have a cohesive dress code in place, we will abide by the code.”

Previously published in Open Salon under Snarkychaser May 11, 2010

Does Anyone Care About the Recommendations on LinkedIn?

When my friend Linda emailed me an invitation to join her “professional network” on LinkedIn, her invite was less than welcome. I had mentioned to her that I was ready to go back to work in a passing encounter at the supermarket while admiring the Greek yogurt.  Didn’t she know I wasn’t in a hurry? I just didn’t want to sound boring to my new Wharton MBA mom friend.

I was worried that I would not even be able to find any professional contacts after being out of the workforce for 8 years. Diligently I put my employment and education – even a picture- in the web site’s template. I found lots of old co workers, friends and class mates. I even found an old co-worker who became my pen pal (email pal) muse and who, according to a tarot card reader in town, is my “next in line”.

But my profile is still 85% incomplete. The thing that I need to make it 100% complete is a couple of recommendations. What hiring manager would put stock in a dumb recommendation on LinkedIn? I even noticed that two mom friends on my link each gave other glowing recommendations for their home based businesses. I was so jealous. I’m really just too embarrassed to hit anyone up when I am not that serious. Moreover, I would have to write it and I can’t even remember any details of what might be recommendation worthy after all of this time. If I were to remarket myself, I would need to inventory some of my skills. What have I been doing all of this time out?

My widowed high school friend, Wendy, and I have been practicing developing our intuition and psychic powers. We both feel that we are getting more psychic everyday. Wendy is getting very good and has been able to find many missing things in my house through her clairvoyance. She usually guesses that a missing library book is “under something”. I asked her to write me a recommendation on my superior psychic talents. She claims that she is much more enlightened than I am and I that I have been a very bad match maker.

I have become expert at pulling on-line tarot cards through Ifate.com for my “next in line” LinkedIn muse and pen pal. I have suggested to him that he should write me a recommendation touting my ability to read on line tarot cards…but he has discreetly ignored my request. Wendy psychically feels that writing such a recommendation might undermine his credibility as corporate attorney. Perhaps she is right…

In the meantime, I need to take a thorough inventory of my talents…so I can complete this damn profile.

This was published in Open Salon under the name of Snarkychaser May 6, 2010 I am happy to say that I did go back to work.