Monthly Archives: February 2016

A Little Clarity

In mid-January, after several months of feeling like it just wasn’t fun anymore, I had decided I was done with Twitter. Having a public account allowed some truly reprehensible people to show up in my mentions and spew their misery and I was tired of providing the platform which gave them access to me. The bad was starting to outweigh the good, and so I finally deleted my account, and it felt wonderful. The next day I wrote a post about why I left and it turned out someone who works in the Trust and Safety Department at Twitter read that post and emailed me about it. After a few email exchanges, we decided to talk about it further over the phone. I had a great conversation with this person, who then invited me to attend a private symposium Twitter was having for 30 representatives and leaders of organizations which assist a wide variety of communities online that deal with an absurd amount of abuse and harassment. I agreed to attend and three weeks later, I flew up to San Francisco to participate in this all day event at their headquarters.

I had mixed feelings about being part of this symposium. I felt frustrated at what seemed like a lack of support from Twitter for their users when they know all of this horrible abuse is happening on their platform. I felt sad that they didn’t provide easier ways for users to protect themselves from the attacks that constantly happen and as a result of that, I felt the only thing I could do to protect myself was to just leave it. I also felt scared and REALLY out of place once I arrived there. At the beginning of the symposium, each person attending stood up, introduced themselves, and talked about these incredible organizations they were there to represent. And then there was me. I stood up, said my name, followed by “I’m just a woman on the internet. I didn’t have a verified Twitter account, I’m not a celebrity, I’m just a woman who is passionate about rescue animals and human equality who somehow has a voice people like to listen to.” As soon as I said that out loud, I understood why I was there. There are so many people just like me who liked Twitter for the social part of it but who end up dealing with the dregs of humanity who show up in their mentions. I was there to offer my point of view, just like all the other representatives there, on how Twitter can make their platform a more user friendly and safer place to be.

I won’t bother going into all the details of the entire day but I will say I felt really good about the things we talked about. We had discussions together as well as splitting up into groups to discuss tools that would be incredibly useful to users to manage their timeline, since we all know the horrible people online are always going to be there. Everyone came up with great ideas on how Twitter could expand their own software instead of users needing other third party software companies to make our personal Twitter experience more enjoyable. I’ve known about these third party software tools for a while but for me, I felt if it ever got so bad that I needed a third party to help me manage what I see, it just wasn’t worth it anymore. If Twitter just provided this themselves, it would make the platform a simple and pleasant experience again.

One of the things suggested to me by the person I spoke with at Twitter was to just lock my account to protect my user name from being released for anyone else to use in the future. Apparently, there were some online articles written about my Twitter departure and some asshats are waiting for my user name to become available so they could pretend to be me. People sure are neat. Anyway, I did what Twitter suggested and locked my account (and deleted tons of my old tweets because who knows who follows me. Now all anyone gets to see is basically my pet pictures.) After a few weeks following my departure, I had friends suggest I also auto-link my blog and Instagram posts to Twitter since people who follow me there may not know I am still online, just on a different platform, so I did. I don’t look at Twitter, I don’t read any mentions or comments to me, and I don’t read my timeline. I know. I’m putting the “anti” in social media. How boring.

This past week, Wil and I went on the annual JoCo cruise along with 1100 super awesome nerds. This is the sixth one, and I was really excited to see new faces as well as all the old, familiar ones. But an unexpected thing happened for me. I ended up having dozens of conversations with people I’ve only interacted with on the cruise, at conventions, and on Twitter, who all came up to tell me how happy they were that I was back on Twitter. Woops. I hadn’t considered my auto-link posts would appear that I was back to actively participating in anything there, so I had to explain that I wasn’t reading anything there and I wasn’t engaging in any tweets to me. That’s when I realized I should probably write this post.

At the end of the symposium day at Twitter, I did feel that if the company could create this software to give the tools to users to make our Twitter experience what we wanted, I would probably go back to it. Once on land yesterday at the end of our cruise, I decided to look at my Twitter account to see what others see on my profile page. First, I saw that I had several follower requests. Woops. Apparently, making my account private means the only way to follow me is if I approve these requests and honestly, the only way I’d be okay with that is if I looked at each profile to make sure the person isn’t an asshole, and that isn’t something I feel like investing any time in right now. For months, the abusive attacks at me were so massive that I would make the effort to report the truly awful ones but just mute the accounts of all the others in a quick way to not see them in my mentions. I looked at that mute list (which is thousands of user names long. So long that as much as I scroll through, I still haven’t seen the end of the list) and there were dozens and dozens of those awful and abusive users actually following me. I’m assuming they’re waiting for me to post something they can run with, which is why I will continue to keep my account locked, not read any of it, and not engage with anyone in my mentions. Enjoy those pet pics, people.

I am reluctantly optimistic that Twitter will eventually create the software so many of us would love to use to have control over our Twitter experience. It may take a few months and hopefully it’ll happen before it’s too late. In the meantime, I don’t blame you for unfollowing me now that you know I’m not really there and won’t be reading what you say to me. And maybe someday I will be back on there for real when there’s a way to make it the experience it used to be for me before all of this crap started. I know there are so many wonderful people I used to interact with on Twitter and I do miss that, and I appreciate your understanding of why I’m doing this the way I’m doing it. Any of my life I choose to share online is so much better now that it’s on my own terms, and that makes all of this worth it.


Love and Stuff

In elementary school, I had no idea what Valentine’s Day meant. As I got older, I found out it was actually a day that a massacre occurred, so that sucks. All I knew as a kid was it was the really awkward and forced celebration of choosing the box of Valentine cards that didn’t sound too sappy that I was to give to each student in my class. Snoopy was usually my go-to of choice because a dog is pretty neutral in the love department. I’d always get a bag of Conversation Hearts and carefully choose the candies which couldn’t be read into too much (listen, I was VERY concerned about this in 2nd grade) and stuff them into the tiny envelope each Valentine came with. I’d go through my whole class list to make sure I had a Valentine for every student (required) and double check my list to envelope count multiple times before heading to school that day.

Every year, we would decorate a large envelope (two pieces of construction paper stapled together around three sides, lots of glitter and doily cut-outs) and would tape it to the front of our desk on the morning of Valentine’s Day. Then, just before the first recess, the teacher would call out the names of five students at a time to go around the room and distribute their Valentine’s into each hand-crafted recipients envelope. Even as a seven year old, I felt like this holiday was pushed on people, and it always made me REALLY uncomfortable to sit there as we took turns passing out Valentine’s from a class list our teacher gave us. Sure, from the teacher’s point of view, she wanted everyone to receive one, but to me it was weird.

From second grade until I moved away from Oregon to California in eighth grade, I would get a special gift from one boy. One of his parents worked for the Chapstick company, so on Valentine’s Day each year, he would give me a new flavor of Chapstick, and at Christmas, he would always give me the Lifesaver Storybook AND a new flavor of Chapstick. At the time, I thought he was just being nice, and I always thanked him for the gift before heading off to play with my friends on the playground. It wasn’t until that first Valentine’s Day when I moved that I realized he was probably doing all of that because he liked me. He didn’t give Chapstick or Lifesaver Storybooks to anyone else, only me. And I was clueless to his admirations. Bravo, Anne.

Once I was in high school, Valentine’s Day wasn’t forced upon us by teachers. It had now become a stressful day of “Should I send a Candy-gram to someone? Is someone going to send a Candy-gram to me?” That was the worst. I did read a story this week about a high school senior boy who bought something like 900 carnations and had people help him pass them out to every girl at school because he wanted each girl to feel special. I thought that was so sweet and it totally makes me cry just typing this out.

As an adult, I decided I wasn’t going to celebrate Valentine’s Day with anyone because seriously, this stupid “holiday” is made up for the card, flower, and candy industry. Thankfully, I married someone who feels the same way. However, I did cave a couple of years ago and got Wil something (full story about that here). He loved that gift so much he ended up getting it tattooed on the inside of his left forearm. But we have gone back to the tradition of NOT getting each other anything because we don’t need some silly holiday to profess our love for each other.

Whether  you’re in a relationship with someone or enjoying life on your own, remember that this “holiday” does not mark any sort of achievement or failure in love. We all have friends and family in our lives that we love and who love us every day and that’s what’s important. And if you’re feeling like you want something special to celebrate the day, go get a flavored Chapstick for yourself and someone you care about. I bet that would make little Vincent from my class very happy.


Worth The Wait

About three months ago, I called to schedule my annual appointment with my otolaryngologist. If you’re like me the first time you see that word,  you’re probably like,  “The hell is that?” It’s a head and neck specialist. I see this doctor to monitor the multiple benign nodules I have on my thyroid through ultrasound and biopsy, and he does blood tests to make sure my thyroid is still functioning properly. I do have an endocrinologist I see in between the visits with this specialist just to continue to monitor them, but a second opinion from a specialist eases my mind.

I wasn’t able to get in with this doctor until yesterday because he had taken his own medical leave of absence and once he returned, he didn’t have an appointment available for six weeks. I wasn’t thrilled to have to wait so long when I was overdue for this check-up anyway, but I made my appointment and made sure nothing would stand in the way of me getting to see him. I allowed myself plenty of time to get to the facility so I wouldn’t feel panicked about traffic, but just as I was about to turn to go up the driveway to the parking structure, a train came and the arm of a gate came down, and a “no right turn” sign lit up.

“It’s ok”, I thought. I had gotten there with nearly 15 minutes to spare so I should still make it on time.  But the train went SO SLOW that I ended up calling my doctor’s office to tell them I was still coming to my appointment, but I was stuck behind this train for who knows how long. The nurse said not to worry, it happens all the time, and the doctor was running behind anyway so just get there when I get there. I relaxed, and waited TWENTY FIVE MINUTES for this train to finally go through. I parked, got up to my doctor’s office, checked in, and took a seat.

As soon as I sat down to wait, I realized I’d left my book at home. ARGH! I had my phone so I decided I’d just check my email and play a game on it while I waited. As I pulled my phone from my purse, an old man in a seat just to my right started talking. He was very soft spoken so I didn’t hear what he said at first, and didn’t realize he was actually talking to me until I looked up. He repeated what he’d said the first time. “What did you eat when you were a kid to get you to be so tall?” I laughed. At 5’8″ I never thought of myself as particularly tall, but I was wearing 2 inch heeled boots so I probably did look taller than usual. “I was a garden grazer when I lived in Oregon as a kid” I said with a smile, and started to go back to checking my email on my phone. But the old man, who was there alone, started talking again. I put my phone away because he seemed to want someone to chat with while he was waiting in the lobby, so I happily obliged.

The old man told me he was born and raised in Glendale, California, and has lived there his whole life. When he was 17, he went to Chicago alone to attend a football game. “Can you believe I went there alone? At 17?!” he said, clearly thrilled at how adventurous he was at such a young age. I agreed that it was pretty remarkable. He had met some kids at the game and then after, they all piled into the car of one of the boys. “There were no seatbelt laws back then, so we’d just get as many people into the car as possible” he explained. “There was one girl left to get in the car and there was no more room so I offered for her to sit on my lap” he shared, with a big smile on his face before continuing. “The young girl climbed into the car, got on my lap and said ‘And what is your name?’ “I’m Don Anderson of Glendale, California” he said to me, sheepishly. ‘Nice to meet you, Don Anderson of Glendale, California’ she said to me with a smile, and shook my hand.” The old man paused for a moment, looking down at his hands, and then said “We got married when I was 21 and 55 years later, we’re still married.” The old man beamed with so much pride and love in his eyes, I felt like I was going to cry.

This man went on to tell me all about his three kids and his nine grandchildren, pausing each time the nurse came out to call in a new patient. Concerned, I asked him if he was there to see the doctor. He told me no, his wife was there because she had something going on with her thyroid gland. He said she had seen the doctor and then they sent her to the building across the way for a blood test and an ultrasound, and that he’d been waiting for two hours for her to come back. He seemed nervous now, so I said reassuringly “This is a very good medical facility but every time I come here, there’s always a long wait. I’m sure she’ll be back very soon.” He nodded in agreement.

Over the next 30 minutes, we took turns sharing stories of ridiculous things we had done as kids. He told me he and a friend once put a fiberglass fishing boat in their pool so they could start the motor and ride around in the water when the UPS man, who had been ringing their front door to drop off a package, heard all the noise and came back to see what it was about. He said the UPS man just stood there, stunned at what he saw, which he and his friend thought was hilarious.  I told him about the time I was in fourth grade and my friend and I made cookies at her house and got flour EVERYWHERE so we decided the way to clean the floor was to cover it in dish soap and water and then run and slide across the sudsy floor, but then her mom came in and was FURIOUS at the disaster we made and sent me home. We both laughed at each other’s stories when suddenly his eyes lit up at the sight of his wife returning to the lobby.

The old man stood up, adjusted his coat and smoothed down his hair with his left hand. He stayed near me, waving his hand for his wife to come over. “I want to introduce you to my wife” he turned to me and said with a big smile on his face. She made her way over, saying “Did you make another new friend, Don?” while smiling because obviously, chatting with strangers was a regular thing for him. He leaned over asked me my name and then stood back toward his wife to make the introduction. I stood, shook her hand, and told her I got to hear wonderful stories and it was lovely to chat with her husband. She smiled and thanked me, then looked back at him, took his hand, and told him she needed to schedule surgery. They walked away together, holding hands, and he turned back around to wave to me. I smiled and waved back as they disappeared around the corner.

A few minutes later, I was called in for my appointment. The nurse was very apologetic for the wait. I told her it was fine because it gave me the opportunity to have a very nice conversation with a very sweet, old man. I knew they were behind because there are people coming here for an appointment that can result in a life-changing diagnosis, and I’m pretty sure that was the case for Don’s wife. I thought of Don sitting next to his beloved wife, holding her hand, as they discussed her upcoming surgery, and how terrified he must feel. But my thoughts quickly drifted to the image of these two people as teenagers meeting for the first time, having no idea they were about to share decades of life and love together, and that made me really, really happy for them.

The Perfect Match

After nine months of dating, Wil and I knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, so my two boys and I moved in with him. It was a weird transition for me going from having a whole closet and a whole bed to myself for the past three years to sharing it with someone. It was also REALLY difficult to transition from being the only adult in the house responsible for my two kids to learning to share that responsibility. As a kid myself, I could literally sleep through anything, anywhere. But once I became a single parent, my mom ears kicked into overdrive and I could hear, see, and smell anything and everything in my sleep. This was a good skill to have when my tiny children needed me, but I never unlearned this mom ear skill. Even to this day, with my kids having moved out years ago, I have to sleep with an eye mask on and silicone earplugs in and have a white noise machine going or I can hear my cat walk across the floor on the other side of my house. It’s crazy.

After several months of us living together, I decided I wanted to go back to cosmetology school to finish the program and get my state board license. I had started school right after my divorce from my kids’ biological father, but trying to waitress during the day, go to school at night, and take care of two tiny kids on my own finally had become too much when my mom passed away when I had only completed a third of the school program. I stopped school and just focused on taking care of my kids and paying my bills by being a waitress. I knew I would finish school someday, and since the state allows you to keep the hours you’ve already completed (state requires 1600 hours for completion), I would just go back when I was ready. I enrolled to go full-time during the day and just work part-time at night so I could finish school faster and get started on the career I’d always wanted. It was exciting and exhausting. There were many nights I was so exhausted but couldn’t sleep because every little thing would still wake me up. One night in particular will always stand out in my mind.

By this time, Wil was 24 and I was 27. Wil had been living on his own since he was 18, so he knew how to cook some basic stuff. One unfortunate meal he used to make for himself way too often was this thing he called “Chili Mac.” He would take leftover chili he’d made and mix it in with Kraft macaroni and cheese from a box. Now, I get what you’re thinking. “Hey, this sounds like the best bachelor chow EVER.” You’d be right. Except for the part where this Chili Mac would give Wil the most toxic farts in the HISTORY OF ANYTHING HORRIBLE YOU HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED IN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE. Sometimes he would make this for lunch, so the toxic levels would have already left him by the time I’d gotten home. I would always know this was a meal he had chosen to eat while I was away for the day when I’d come home to see the pile of used matches on the coffee table.

A few times when I had to work late, Wil would eat his Chili Mac for dinner and the aftermath was still an issue when I got home. I would ask him to please not eat that late in the day so I didn’t have to endure it when I got home and he would respond “But it tastes so good!” and give me a sad face like my request was depriving him of one of the greatest joys in his life. One night, after an exhausting day at school followed by a really long and stressful shift at work, I crawled into bed and just wanted a peaceful night of sleep. Wil came to bed shortly after I did so he could read a book and fall asleep with me.

Around 1am, I woke up because Wil had shifted to his side in bed and when he adjusted the covers to go up around his shoulder, he poofed the silent aftermath of his Chili Mac right into my face. I immediately woke up and sat STRAIGHT UP in bed, ready to tell him to please leave the room if he had to fart. He was sound asleep, so I laid back down, angrily turning away from him and shoving my pillow into my face to try and filter the air that was punching me in the nostrils. I was dozing off when it happened again, and again, AND AGAIN. I was delirious from exhaustion and kept tossing and turning trying to find fresh air in the room without much success.

I had to get up at 6am for school. After who knows how many times Wil had woken me with his Chili Mac ass, I was PISSED when I was woken up at 4am to his choke cloud AGAIN while he laid there on his side, peacefully sleeping. In a sleep and room fog haze, I yelled at the top of my voice “LIGHT A FUCKING MATCH!!!” Now, to Wil, who slept through all of his nuclear level releases, he had no idea what was going on but clearly, when he woke to my scream, he knew exactly what had happened. He said nothing. All I heard was the fumbling for the matches on his nightstand followed by a strike on the matchbox, as a flame lit up the room and was blown out. Our Lady of Sulphur had released me from the evil confines of Wil’s wasteland grasp, and I was able to sleep for two hours.

When my alarm went off, I was so tired I felt hungover. I was angry at Wil for how tired I was as I got myself off to school, but by the time I got on the freeway, realizing I felt like shit because my boyfriend kept me awake farting all night became hilarious to me. My yell followed by silence and that match lighting up the room and being blown out replayed in my head all day. I’m sure it was the exhaustion but my god, I laughed harder and harder at that as the day went on. When I came home from school, Wil greeted me at the door and apologized profusely for keeping me awake that night. I accepted his apology on one condition; he never eats Chili Mac again. He gave me the sad face but he agreed. As we climbed into bed that night, I glanced over at his nightstand and saw the book of matches and that one used match. I laughed as I fell asleep with his arms around me.