Dreams for my New Life

Jenifer DeLemont
From the top of Mount Lam Lam

I move in less than a month. It’s also our anniversary month, and my birth month. So, there is a lot going on. Rich and I are not looking forward to living apart for six months while he goes to school and I set up a home for us in Hawaii, but that’s just part of the military life, so we’ll make it work.

Jenifer DeLemont
The Wooden Show Tulip Festival on a trip back to Oregon from Guam.

I have really enjoyed everything we have done here on Guam.

I loved the work I did to help the animal shelter here (called Guam Animals in Need.) I loved the volunteering I did with NOAA to help monitor the reef, and to donate photos for promotional materials. I loved the friends I made and the reefs I snorkeled. And, when I was working, I loved Sea Grill and everyone there.

I also wrote novels while I was here, and it was great to have the time to do that. The Vampire’s Sister is still on Multi-Path Audio books in the app store, and the rest of the books are on Amazon.

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At the coast on a recent trip back to the states.

Now, it’s time to look forward. I am so nervous to look for -and try to buy- our first house together! I’m already looking and it’s scary to take on so much debt (and to see how small the places in our price range are.)

I guess we won’t be able to be as eager for visitors in Oahu as we were in Guam. We had more space in Guam, and I had time to show people around. I am afraid those are luxuries we won’t enjoy in Hawaii.

We’ll do our best, of course. But I think if you visit us in Hawaii you’ll need to get a hotel near by and see us on the weekend. Different island, different life.

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At GAIN helping a puppy calm down after surgery.

Even if I will have less time for writing and visitors, I am excited to find a job. I want something I will love! I am so hopeful that some hotel in Oahu will need someone to manage their social media or do photography for the weddings they host. Maybe I’ll get a government job doing public relations and actually get to use all that stuff I learned in college. I can’t wait to find my new job and meet my new co-workers. I do hope we’ll be friends!

I know I shouldn’t be excited to look for a job. Don’t get me wrong; I have loved writing and doing volunteer work! I just missed that feeling of being useful that you get from a job. There are so few options here, but it looks like Oahu will be full of opportunities! That is exciting!

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On a trip to Maui where I went on a black sand beach tour.

Plus, Oahu offers all new hikes and all new reefs. I am looking forward to that as well. Guam has been lovely, but it is very hot and tropical here. The cool breezes of Oahu will seem like a dream come true!

I am sure I will spend a lot of happy weekends under water and out on hiking trails, which is something I am really looking forward to.

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Last summer we went to the family reunion and then visited the glacier on top of Mt. Hood.

I guess what I am trying to say is: the future looks bright.

I may not update this blog for awhile because I’ll be buys with the house-hunting and the job-hunting and the move. However, I adore you all very much, and I promise to tell you all about my new home once we settle in. Until then, be patient. If you want updates, you can always keep an eye on my YouTube Channel and my Shutterstock account. I’ll do my best to add content when I can. And of course, you can always get in touch on LinkedIn as well, if you need to.

Love to all my readers!

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Summer in Seaside, Oregon for the family reunion.

Don’t Rely on Facebook

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A lot of people rely on Facebook to keep in touch these days. They think that it’s a safe way to keep in touch with family and friends even when they are far apart.

It’s not.

I want to tell you my story as a cautionary tale, because Facebook is full of arbitrary rules that mean you can get blocked or banned just because a group of people decide to start attacking you. And if that happens, you may lose your account forever. Here’s my story.

I joined Facebook in 2009 after having had a Myspace page when I was younger. As the platform has become more monetized, I have been less and less enthusiastic about it. But, since I live overseas, I kept the account as a way to keep in touch with people that I was geographically separated from. After all, when I lived in Korea it would have cost a fortune to keep in touch  with people back home by phone or in-person. And that is still true in Guam.

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The first time it was a problem was in 2015. I was on a military spouse page and everyone was talking about how the locals were thieves and would steal your stuff if you left it alone for even a moment. They were also claiming that the locals will break into your house and that they are all criminals.

I said this wasn’t true, and that I left my sandals and towel on the beach all the time when I went snorkeling and never had a problem.

That little comment lead to a torrent of harassment and bullying from several people who called me a lot of very bad names that I won’t repeat here. In addition to the awful names they called me, they said that I was lying, that I was disloyal, and that I deserved to get robbed and killed. Then they started reporting everything on my account to Facebook, and I was locked out.

That is when I discovered that there is no appeal process. If you are locked out of your account, there is no one that you can protest to. You cannot explain that you were just being bullied and haven’t done anything wrong. In fact, you have no recourse at all.

There is not even a phone number or an e-mail address. If you get banned for an arbitrary thing, Facebook’s policy is: Fuck you.

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So, that scared me, since I am far away from people and I don’t like to feel isolated.

After the 30 day ban was up, I contacted my friends and reminded them about this blog, my YouTube Channel, and my second Facebook page as J.D. DeLemont for promoting The Jamie Johnson Trilogy, (a series of romance novels that I wrote.)

I hoped that everyone would save my contact information, since I had discovered that I could not trust Facebook. They are bias, and often let the victims of bullies be attacked while they do nothing. I had been bullied by racist military spouses, and they let it happen because there were more of them than me, and I didn’t report them first so obviously I was wrong.

My second encounter with Facebook being bias was just last month, in July of 2018. I had seen a video attacking FLDS Mormons for being a cult. As a person who grew up in Arizona around Mormons, I have seen a lot of sad stories of children being abused and women being kept from having any freedom or hope.

I simply said: “Don’t separate the FLDS out. I have never met a nice Mormon of any description.”

That is true, and I stand by it. I have had to help too many women out of abusive situations and help raise too many kids. I have seen what it does to teach women that they are inferior and deserve to be abused, and I don’t agree with it. I will not be shamed for that opinion.

A Mormon saw my comment, and it turns out that they are bullies just like military spouses. They reported it as “hate speech” and got all their friends to do the same. They also went to my page and started reporting every photo, post, and video. I will probably never be able to get back onto that Facebook page because of it.

And again, there is no appeal process.

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However, I assumed that my friends would find me on my other page which I use to promote my romance novels, since I had posted a lot about it.

They did not.

Then, I thought I would try to add them with the new page that I made to promote my latest book, The New Testament of The Flying Spaghetti Monster; Dinner 2.0. (which you should definitely by because I am a starving artist.) It’s under a different name because I thought starting a religion under my real name might be a bit much, so I used the pen name “Violet Johnson.”

However, most of them denied the friend request and some even blocked me, in spite of my posting since April 2018 about my new book and the pen name I wrote it under.

(By the way, the page I made to promote the new book is here. Please “like” it. )

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Will I ever talk to the people who did not follow me from my old account again?

Maybe not.

I don’t have any way to get in touch with them. I gave everyone my contact information, but no one gave me theirs. It is possible that we’ll just never be in touch again. It would be a shame if that were the case, but you can’t say I don’t put myself out there. I am all over the internet, and you only need to search my name to find me. It’s not like I worry about my digital footprint being too big.

I would like to point out though (for the record) that neither my defense of the Chamorro people of Guam or my dislike of Mormons should be against Facebook’s “community standards.” Their policy of banning you if enough people report you is ludicrous, and it makes me wonder how all that racist and sexist stuff stays up. Clearly people support that stuff while reporting far less awful things.

It is worth noting that I have had plenty of people attack my Unitarian Church of Pasta page and say horrible things. I reported them to Facebook, but it does not violate their “community standards” to call Pastafarians “ignorant cunts” or “dumbshit libtards.” So you should all know where you stand. You can get banned forever if you say that you never met a nice Mormon, but if you say something bad about Pastafarians you’re fine. Apparently it’s only hate speech if it is against people who want to take away women’s rights and move society back 200 years.

Anyway, my e-mail is still jendelemont@gmail.com and you can still always reach me on Skype on any of my social media for The Unitarian Church of Pasta. The Unitarian Church of Pasta which is, you’ll note, not protected under Facebook’s “community standards.”

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The Move

Jenifer DeLemont
Sitting in my Living Room in Guam

We are moving this year, and we sure are going to miss our place in Guam! I know we’ll never get a beachfront condo again (where else could we afford such a thing?)

It has been amazing to wake up and see the ocean each day, but it’s time to go back to seeing a fence and more houses behind it. Setting aside how much I will miss our home here in Tumon Bay, moving with the military involves a lot of paperwork and red tape. I thought I would write about what it is like, for those who don’t know.

People keep asking “Have you started packing yet?

The answer is no. We aren’t allowed to pack our stuff, because then we could hide drugs or guns in it. They pack it for us (like we’re children.) We have no say over how things are wrapped or boxed. Movers come, pack our things, and take them away. We get a receipt and the vague hope that we’ll see any of it again one day.

I have also had many people ask “Are you throwing away all the trash in your house?

Again, no. Both of us are so used to moving that we don’t keep things that we don’t need in our house anymore. Sometimes this means regretting that I threw away something that could have been useful later. However, I have moved more than twenty times in the last twenty years. Rich has moved six times in the last ten years. At this point, we just re-gift or throw away pretty much everything (I say this with the sincerest apologies to my mother, who likes to get me things like artificial snowballs.)

I feel bad, since I know that the reason people ask this stuff is because they want to relate to us and say “Oh yeah, I know what that is like.

Believe me: I appreciate every single one of you. Thank you for trying to relate to me and make connections with me. It means so much! But the truth is that it’s this whole different world when you live a nomad lifestyle. And with the military, it’s a whole different world, plus red tape. It’s just not an easy life to relate to.

Jenifer DeLemont
The View From Our Home in Guam

Now, I may not have to worry about packing or throwing away trash. But, there are a lot of things that I do have to worry about. With the military, we are required to fill out more paperwork than you can imagine.

We have to have a PCS (Permanent Change of Station) binder. They require special forms and appraisal information for my paintings. They require very thorough medical checks for both of us. Then there is the power of attorney forms we have to get so we can sign for each other (since he’s going to school in Japan and I am going straight to our next duty station in Hawaii.) There is also the checklist to make sure that our phones, cars, etc are all sorted, and that has to be turned in to the command. Not to mention all the paperwork we have to turn in to housing.

As to the cars: Yes, the military would pay for us to ship one vehicle. A lot of you have said that we should take what is owed to us and ship one of our cars. However, I have never owned a car nice enough that I think your tax dollars should be used to ship it. We buy beater cars because we’ll only have them for a couple years, and then we sell them when I go. It’s just easier that way, and means we don’t have to wait months on the other end for our car to show up.

There are two shipments of our stuff: Household goods and express. Both will probably take 16 weeks to get from Guam to Hawaii, so we’ll get to live without our stuff for quite awhile. As to why they call one of them “express,” many jokes are made about that in the military, but the real answer is that no one knows.

Jenifer DeLemont
On top of a Mountain (We love hiking)

Another fun thing is that they aren’t really going to give me enough money to stay in a hotel while I house-hunt. Rich will be off at school and they will be paying for him to have a hotel and per diem as well. But me? All I get is the housing allowance for Hawaii (enough for a two week hotel stay.) I either get to make friends to stay with really fast, or try to make it work staying in the youth hostel in Waikiki with all my stuff.

I suppose normal couples get to look at houses together, but they are not in the military. In the military, they just send the spouses ahead with a boatload of paperwork and not enough resources, and expect us to set everything up for our active duty spouses. (Then find a job and help with the mortgage because BAH -or Basic Housing Allowance- is way too low in Hawaii.)

I have been asked why we don’t just rent, and I get that. I am sure it seems like it would be easier. However, most people build personal wealth over the course of their lives by owning and paying off property. If we just rent everywhere we go for the rest of our lives (with rents everywhere being higher than mortgage payments), we’ll have nothing when we are old.

A mortgage costs less than rent in Hawaii, and that money is going to equity in the home (meaning we can get it back by selling.) Since housing will take up 70% of our total income in Hawaii, it sure would be nice to get some of it back, don’t you think?

Also, even though no one has asked: Yes, I’m nervous.

I’m scared of job hunting and house hunting and starting all over again. I am scared of having to make new friends and learn new street names. I am scared of having to buy us a house, get us two cars, set up our utilities, and get furniture off craigslist all without help. I am scared of having to deal with all the military red tape and paperwork without Rich to sort it out. I am scared that something will happen to him in Japan (he did get hit by a car the one night I left him alone in Korea- so I worry!)

But, I am also excited. This is our next adventure! Will we have a house as nice as the one in Guam? No! We really won’t. But I am hopeful that I will find a great job with fun co-workers, and that we’ll make awesome friends and find all new beaches to enjoy. I am always looking forward, and I am sure we’ll make our next adventure a good one. It just might take a while to settle in.

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One thing I know I am looking forward to is Leonard’s Malasadas. My family used to live in Hawaii (I still have relatives on Maui) and because of Leonard’s, I grew up eating homemade malasadas at family gatherings. Nothing else tastes quite as much like love and family.

 

My Latest Book, and The Fight Over It

From Gab Gab Reef, Guam USA

As you know, I spend most of my time volunteering for NOAA doing reef monitoring, and writing books.

The reef monitoring is because we need to protect our oceans, and I encourage you to please avoid using plastic of any kind, and to lower your carbon footprint as much as you can. What you do does effect the oceans! Here on Guam we have seen a huge loss in coral due to climate change, and everything you an do to help matters.

As for writing books; that is because of my friend Dave Strand. He wrote an app called Multi-Path Audio Books for Apple, and he needed stories to go in the app. I had been a journalist, and I had written textbooks. However, I had never written fiction before. I considered it an exciting challenge, and I wrote a book called The Vampire’s Sister.

This made me realize that it was possible to write a full-length novel. I guess you could say I “got the bug” from The Vampire’s Sister, and I went on from there. I don’t think I was very good at first, but I would like to think that I have gotten better as time went on.

I wrote The Teenager’s Guide to life, which is a collection of short stories about life as a young person. This book has illustrations by Anthony Black, and has been a fun collaboration.

I also wrote a series of romance novels called The Jamie Johnson Trilogy. This was meant as a counter to the negative books about BDSM like 50 Shades of Grey, which portray kink as abuse.

Unitarian church of Pasta Bible
The New Testament of The Flying Spaghetti Monster; Dinner 2.0

And then I wrote the book that ruined it all: The New Testament of The Flying Spaghetti Monster; Dinner 2.0.

I wrote it under the pen name Violet Johnson, and I was intending to use it to try to start a movement towards kindness and unity. After all, the main problem in politics and society these days is that artificial divisions are causing people to loose sight of real human values.

I worked for a year on The New Testament of The Flying Spaghetti Monster. I read all kinds of modern philosophy and listened to podcasts of people talking about comparative morality in the digital age. Rich helped me come up with ideas here and there. I took all my old vacation photos and Photo-shopped a Spaghetti Monster Rich made into them for the social media. We had fun, but it was a lot of work.

After a year of hard work, I published my book through Createspace. This is an Amazon company that my friend Chris Backe recommended to me. He thought it would be easier than wasting years trying to sell it to a publisher, and pointed out that I could control my own distribution and pricing. It sounded perfect.

However, less than a day after the book came out, Bobby Henderson reported it to Amazon for copyright infringement. You may wonder how this could be possible, since I wrote the entire book myself and I created all the images for it out of my own photos.

The thing is this:

The burden of proof is on me.

In other words: You can create an original work and it can bear no resemblance to anything else that has ever been created before. But if someone has a copyright on something similar (say the image of a flying spaghetti monster that I did NOT use) then they can report you. They do not have to prove that you infringed on their copyright.

See this clip of John Oliver explaining about patent trolls, which is essentially what has happened here, but with copyright.

There are only two ways to fix the issue:

1. Robert Henderson contacts Amazon and tells them that he reported my book in error, and asks them to please release it.

2. I hire a lawyer to prove that the work is original and protected by parody law, and they force Amazon to release it.

Now as you know, I spend most of my time writing or volunteering. I don’t have money for a lawyer. So here is what I am asking of you, my fellow humans:

Write to Robert Henderson and ask him to contact Amazon and straighten this out. I have already written to him myself, but I have not gotten a response. However, maybe a few more voices will change things.

His e-mail is: henderob@gmail.com

What he needs to do to resolve the matter is write to BOTH:

validation-request@createspace.com AND copyright@createspace.com

He needs to tell them what he admitted to me in private, which is that he reported my book in error, and that he rescinds his report of copyright infringement.

In the meantime, I would never let a year of work and a good idea go to waste. So, you can download the book for free here or get it at the website I set up for it, which is The Unitarian Church of Pasta.

Please download the book and read it. Give it to your friends and ask them to read it. Spread it far and wide because I put my heart and soul into my books and having them be censored like this is so painful for me. I would mean the world to me if you could help out.

And e-mail Bobby because he already admitted he made a mistake in reporting my book, but if he doesn’t take the next step and tell Amazon that, it will be years before I can get my book back from them.

Keeping In Touch

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Several years ago, I worked as a teacher in South Korea with a girl named Coleen. She recently wrote a blog about keeping in touch, and her post made me think. This is going to be a long story, but I want to explore how meeting people and keeping in touch with people has changed for me as technology has evolved.

I should start by saying that I have lived through a very special time in history, which I feel privileged to have experienced. I think all of us who were born in the 80’s grew up constantly adapting to new technologies, and we had no idea how to do it because no one had ever done it before.

Sure, people had to adjust to the car, and the printing press, and other advancements of that nature. However, it’s different with computers. They fundamentally changed the way we think about the stock market, the value of companies, keeping in touch, privacy, the nature of identity, and the relative value of entertainment and information. The pace of change sped up in the 80’s, and has not stopped since.

People born in the 90’s or later have only ever known a world where the pace of change is lightning-fast. The world will probably be this way forever now, where ideas spread across the planet in moments and memes surface in culture as instant reactions to events. No one in the future will understand what a slow, simple life used to be.

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When I was a child, there was no Internet. I remember that I once sat at my grandma’s feet as she hand-addressed Christmas cards for all of her family and friends. It was a very long list since she was a politician from a big family, and it took her a week to get through them all. As she did it, she told me how she knew each person and about why they were special to her. I don’t say this with any particular feeling of nostalgia; I just want to explain that things moved slowly in the 80’s. People had time to hand-address hundreds of cards and tell stories about the people they were for.

When computers got popular I was in on the ground floor with a BBS. That stands for “Bulletin Board System,” and it’s how people interacted using computer before the Internet. One computer could only call one other computer at a time, via a phone line. When the caller connected, they would see a personal page for the computer they were connecting to, called a bulletin board (like the first websites.) It was just scrolling text and ASCII images. There was also a section to upload files or comments, and I guess that was the first peer-to-peer indirect discussion via computer. It was new and exciting, and I loved it.

We used to have something called a GT, or Get Together, where people who ran various bulletin boards would meet up and talk about their computers, the content on their boards, and various other things. So for me, I learned to think of computers as a way to meet new people outside of my circle of family and friends. A person’s world used to be small. You could meet people at school, at work, or through people you already knew. Meeting people outside of your existing circles was hard. My grandma literally went door-to-door talking to strangers in person when she ran for office. It was the only way to reach out to new people outside of her existing circles. In my lifetime, with the help of computers, that began to change.

A new way to connect evolved. Not by school, local community, church, or other proximity-based means. Rather, you could connect with people based on interests. This was a big step for humans.

Very few people know this, but AOL was not the only option when the Internet came to computers. There was another company, called JUNO, which at first proclaimed that “the Internet should be free.” Some people had AOL accounts that they paid for, but I had a free JUNO account. On a side note, I am carefully following the concept of mesh networks and the conversation surrounding how to come up with a more democratic Internet by going back to peer-to-peer transfers instead of routing information through corporations. But alas! That should be its own post because there is a lot to talk about there.

The point is: After the BBS system, the Internet came to computers in the 90’s and non-geeks started getting involved in computers. New, online connections were formed by people in saltwater fish forums and knitting chat rooms, and a new way to make friends and keep in touch with old friends was born.

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My male friends were hired out of High School into jobs that paid six figures because they could code. However, the business men of the 90’s had no time for a girl, and so I watched my friends drop out to go work for banks and corporations, and I went to college instead. I

t was during an awkward stage when MySpace wasn’t on the scene yet, and people were mostly hanging out in AOL chat rooms or on private websites. I hung out on a website/discussion board hosted by a guy in the UK called Alexander King-Prime. It was a rudimentary scrolling social media page, and we (the members) traded ideas and writing.

Finally, in the late 90’s, social media really took off with MySpace and LiveJournal. This was back when people still used “handles” online instead of their real names, and so for a moment, the freedom of the Internet coexisted with privacy in a golden age. If it was up to me, we would go back to that. Instead of posting personal content, we would post thoughts and ideas under a screen name and mask our IP addresses. Privacy was cool. It’s too bad it’s over.

As I see it, privacy was killed by Facebook. It was Facebook that pioneered the idea that being part of the online conversation meant giving up your anonymity online. I resisted for a couple years in spite of multiple invites, because I felt extremely resistant to the idea of using my real name on the Internet. Our fear back in the BBS days was always that privacy would be taken away online and the government would start to ruthlessly monitor people. Facebook seemed intent on making it all too easy.

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Unfortunately, I got cancer. I needed healthcare fast, and I couldn’t afford it in the US. So, I moved to Asia. Being 7,000 miles away from people I cared about meant having to use the Internet to keep in touch, and that meant joining Facebook. I tried to keep my account locked down pretty tight and never allow games access to my page. I checked my privacy settings once a week because every time they changed something, they made sharing information the default. I was fastidious in the protection of my content.

Then, I gave up. It wasn’t one of those gradual things were I slowly stopped being concerned. I went from rarely uploading any content at all and carefully guarding what I did upload to consciously deciding to give up my privacy online.

It was 2011 and I was living in Suwon, South Korea. I guess my decision was partially related to learning how the Internet worked in Korea (you have to use your national ID number to get online.) It was also partially about a realization that I missed home, and I did want to leave a digital footprint and be searchable online so old friends could find me. If I am honest, there was some vanity in it as well. I do like to think that my life is interesting enough that someone else might care about it. It may sound self-absorbed or narcissistic, but part of me does hope that I have something to add to this collective conversation that our species is having.

Several factors were involved, but the realization hit me all at once: I should just give up on my old screen name and my love of being anonymous online, and let my content be archived with everyone else’s. I surrender. In the modern world, we all make digital footprints. I have to learn to live in that world, instead of holding on to the privacy I once treasured.

This blog used to be to review places that I visited, but it was devoid of personal content. It was about art galleries, bands, and lovely places. Yet in 2011, I gave up on the idea that it’s just to share beautiful things with the world. It was a nice idea, but anymore, having a blog is about managing your online content. It’s a place to post the pictures that I want people to see when they search my name, and to post the details of my resume and my skills. This is where I promote myself, because that is what the Internet has become; a place to promote yourself and manage your online image. We sell ourselves now like corporations used to sell frozen burritos. I can’t change that, so my only option is to embrace it.

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Giving in to using my real name online wasn’t enough for people. As soon as I joined Facebook, everyone started talking about Google +, Webbo, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, Fetlife, LinkedIn, Instagram, and a thousand other sites that they wanted me to use to “keep in touch.” I tried for a while to join the sites that people asked me to, but you have to draw a line in the sand somewhere.

I have lived a lot of places, and I have known a lot of people. I loved Burbank, Portland, Phoenix, Suwon, Waxahatchi, etc… and my memories of the places that I have lived and the people I have met will always be special to me. However, I can’t get pressured into joining every online networking site that pops up. Social media (and computers in general) should only take up a limited amount of hours in a day. It has to be contained. If you let it, a computer can take over your entire life.

In fact, I think that is the biggest lesson to all of this: If you let it, a computer can take over your entire life. 

This means that each of us has to make our own personal compromise with technology in terms of how much we want to use it. It’s a very individual choice. I have a friend who loves video games because she enjoys the novelty of interactive stories (as opposed to TV and books where you have no control over the outcome.) I respect her love of video games and I don’t judge it. However, I am too obsessive with games (I’ll choose playing over eating and sleeping.) So, it turns out that they’re not for me. The same goes for Pinterest and DIY craft projects, living based on the opinion of Twitter, and a host of other things that other people enjoy.

I don’t make judgement about how others use technology. It’s up to you if you want to care about what’s hot on Instagram or what is streaming on Netflix right now. Some people invite a digital pretense into their home as well, in the form of AI like Cortana or Alexa. If you are comfortable with that, then I won’t judge you for it.

Jenifer DeLemont

My personal compromise with technology is this:

I update my Facebook a couple times a week because the bulk of my friends still check Facebook at least weekly. I keep a YouTube Channel of things I see that are cool. And, I update my personal website in order to maintain control of my digital footprint and protect “my brand” online. However, beyond that, I try to just create moments with people I care about in the most authentic ways that I can, so that I can maintain relationships over distance.

Example: I have Skype dates with my adopted family in Oregon because they like to see my face. I send flowers and chocolates to my grandmother in her nursing home, because she likes to show off that she gets flowers, and because she misses chocolate (she’s not supposed to have it because of her diet.) I invite friends who travel into my home, and try to bond with them over cooking meals and watching sunsets when they visit. And, I try to plan my vacations around being able to visit with at least one or two people I care about.

This story started because of Coleen, so let’s frame the point I am making around her for a second. The last time I saw Coleen I was on a trip back to Korea to visit people, and Rich got hit by a car in Seoul. He was in the hospital, and I took a break from haunting his bedside to get on a train to Busan and have dinner with Coleen. I brought her a towel from Guam, because American towels are in short supply in Asia and I knew she would get a lot of use out of it. We sat on Haeundae beach and looked out at the waves, and just shared stuff about our lives since we’d last met (which was several years before when we taught together at Avalon.) She’d lived in China and Iceland since then. I had lived in Oregon and Guam since then. And so, we caught each other up on our adventures.

That moment was not easy to create. I had to leave my husband in the hospital alone, buy an expensive train ticket, spend the day travelling, and bring a gift. However, it was worth every bit of effort and money. That is the real moral of the story of keeping in touch. True connection that is meaningful is often quite hard. It requires time, effort, and money.

Unless you live your entire life in one place, keeping in touch is always going to be a challenge. Technology can help you do it, but it can only do so much. Genuine connections are rare, and they don’t happen without putting in work. I am just saying that you should put in the effort to create moments with people, because it has a big impact on you and on them.

That said, I acknowledge that it is real work to update social media, as well. My friend Helena is a social media manager, and her entire job is updating social media for companies. I definitely don’t think anyone should shrug off or abstain from social media just because I have decided to put in a controlled and rationed amount of effort. That’s just my personal choice because I have a limited amount of time, and writing novels takes a lot of it (a purely selfish pursuit, but everyone should be allowed one or two selfish pursuits.) Anyway I don’t want to minimize the importance of online interaction because it can be really helpful. I met almost all of my friends through the Internet via various groups that led to meetups. I even met my husband online.

I just think there should be a balance between in-person interaction and online interaction, because one without the other is less meaningful.

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I also believe that in-person interaction can be augmented with objects if distance is an issue. I mean, I spent the last four years living in one of the most isolated places on Earth (the Marianas islands -of which Guam is a part- are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean pretty far from anything.) In spite of this, I managed to maintain good relationships with people.

My secret weapon is The Holiday Card. I came of age at the same time that the Internet was coming of age. I am supposed to be a “Xennial,” (the micro-generation between Generation X and the Millennial Generation.) I am told that this means I think everything should be augmented with technology, but I disagree. I think there is a little bit of pre-tech mentality in all Xennials, and in fact, maybe even in all humans.

A card is something you can touch and hold. It is tangible, and it can sit on a shelf and remind people that you love them even when you are far away. I create a whole experience with a holiday letter, a recent photo, and a card with a personal message inside and maybe a little drawing of a coconut tree with Christmas lights or something. On trips back to the mainland, I have seen shoeboxes labeled “JD,” and filled with my holidays cards and post cards. This is why little scraps of paper sent across the world matter. They are special to people. People save them and treasure them. And when you can’t be with people, it makes them connect with you from half a world away.

The next step in technology will hopefully be virtual reality goggles and upgraded chat rooms. I’ll put on my headset in Guam and walk into a room that only exists online, and there will be my friend rendered in 3D, sitting at a table. I’ll sit down next to them, and we’ll lift our glasses and toast (hopefully complete with glass clinking sound effects,) and we’ll catch up as if we were together. It’s won’t be easy with time zones, as Skype has already taught me. But, we’ll make it work once every six months or so.

Until then, I guess I will just keep maintaining my digital footprint, updating my Facebook, keeping a YouTube Channel, and sending little scraps of paper covered in love to people around the world. We’ll all just keep working on negotiating our personal relationships with technology while trying to maintain relationships with humans, and hopefully, we’ll keep making it work.

For those who are struggling to find connection, please never hesitate to call me, Skype me, text me, e-mail me, or connect in whatever way you find most comfortable. I don’t want anyone I care about to ever feel alone or alienated by the world. Connection makes people happy. We thrive on being loved and feeling like we are part of a group. There is so much to balance these days with work, social media, recreation, family, and romance. A human can wind up feelings totally overwhelmed by obligations and still not connected. However, I will always do what I can to reach out and make a personal connection with someone in need.

Example: on Valentine’s day, someone I know in the mainland US was feelings really alone. I spent some time chatting and tried to figure out what would most help. Two days later an envelope arrived on their doorstep with a flash drive full of data customized to cheer them up. It was like a hug from 7,000 miles away. I am quite proud of that because this is a person had sort of a hard time in Afghanistan and has sometimes leaned on me for a feeling of connection in the past, and I am honored that I could help.

Humans need to look out for other humans. We are a society, and we are all responsible for each other. If we let people fall (into addiction, crime, or suicide) then we are all failing as a species. Every mind has a unique beauty, and a distinct and special perspective. So computers or not: take time to connect with other humans through some medium.

Keeping in touch is so important, and it will never go out of style.

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Australia


First, I am back home in Guam. We will be here until around August or September. Then we move to Oahu.

Now then:

I recently went on an Australian adventure. I will do a few detailed posts about the things I saw and did, but here is an overview of where I went.

First, I went to Bondi Beach and stayed in a hostel there. I did the coastal walk and snorkeled in Clovelly Bay with a woman from my Snorkel Travel Friends group. I explored the shops and sat and talked with people, and I had a great time.

Later, I moved to a hostel near central station in Sydney. I took the Big Bus Tour and got off to see all the major attractions like the Opera House and some of the old Cathedrals. Then I went on a Blue Mountains tour and met up with my friend Shari from Melbourne.

Finally, I met my friend Melissa and took a flight to Cairns. We went out to the Great Barrier Reef and snorkeled at several spots while living abroad a ship called The Kangaroo Explorer. After that, we went up to the town of Kurunda to see the rain forest.

My very last day was spent in Sydney watching the fireworks for Australia Day. Finally, I flew to Hawaii and then home to Guam.

Right now I am catching up on my sleep and sorting through photos, but soon I will share some of the better shots of the reef, and of my other adventures.

My Artwork

set of pen art

I have never considered myself to be an artist.

However, I do make art from time to time.

It’s not great or anything, but it’s fun to make.

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I started out just drawing things with colored pens, because I am about five years old on the inside.

However, there is only so much that you can do with colored pens.

The Art Set To Post

However, inspired by my friend Will, I have started doing watercolors which I draw on with pen.

I thought I would share, since I guess that is what this blog is all about.

I hope you like them!

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