Facebook, A Virtual Social Circle

Wylly Folk St John House (date unknown)

Some of you may remember from earlier posts that my great-aunt, Wylly Folk St John was a children’s book author who enjoyed a good bit of success with the mysteries she wrote primarily during the 60s and 70s. I’ve mentioned how she also wrote for years for the Atlanta Journal and Constitution and how she gave the very best presents on birthdays and at Christmas, but I don’t think I’ve shared much about the house she lived in with her husband, my uncle Tom.

I believe my sister Margaret sent me this old photo of their home. I’m not sure when it was taken, but it looked much better than this when I was growing up. I have some very clear memories of their home in Social Circle. With a name as inviting as one suggesting a gathering of friends, I sometimes wonder if it was the name that drew her to the small town or its proximity to Atlanta where she worked part-time for the newspaper.

Pictures of this house take me back and I can almost hear the rustle of her clothing as she moved though its rooms and the unique sound of her voice calling to me to join her in the kitchen. Lyrical with an edginess that’s difficult to explain, her southern born Savannah raised roots were very apparent, but didn’t dominant her accent as much as the rise and fall of her speech patterns. Writing this now, I wonder if there’s a recording somewhere of her speaking.

My cousin Jenny sent me a friend suggestion on Facebook this morning for the woman who is living in Aunt Wylly’s old house now with her husband. Say what you will about Facebook and privacy issues, but being able to meet the people even if only virtually through the internet is a gift with surprise deliveries like the one I received this morning.

Jenny said they’ve done a wonderful job restoring the house and have some great stories about the process. It shouldn’t be hard to guess who I’ll be sending a message to when I have a minute. You know I’m keen to hear stories in general, but to learn more about things they may have discovered in the renovation process, I can’t even begin to tell you how excited that makes me!

Jenny is the blond child in the photo below. She and her sister Becky were flower girls at my mother and father’s wedding on a December day during the last few weeks of 1959. We haven’t seen each other for years due to geographic distance and opportunity and our communication has been limited to sporadic letters and Christmas cards until recently when we renewed our contact through Facebook earlier this year.

Becky & Jenny - Flower Girls - 1959

Writing this post, I thought about how Facebook is a sort of virtual social circle and while not the Social Circle that Aunt Wylly called home; Jenny’s link and friend suggestion have created an opportunity for me to meet someone I might never have met otherwise.

What do you think about social networking sites like Facebook, do you love or hate them and have they brought you any new friends or reunited you with old ones you didn’t expect to ever see again?

200-Year-Old Love Letter Inspires Online Serial Novel

Graham Simpson (Internet Photo-Gloucestershire News)

Ideas can come from many places when I’m writing. Often it’s a product of my desire to know the rest of a news story and if there isn’t one available, my mind will certainly fill in the missing pieces. Such is the case with the serial novel I’m writing and posting on Gifts Of The Journey. If you missed the first two chapters, you can catch up by clicking here and here.

I’ll be writing a new ‘chapter ‘ each week, none of which will be too long to read in a few minutes online so don’t let the word chapter put you off. Even though I am having a good time with it and can see that some of you are too, I would love to see how much of an audience we can build together.

With that in mind, I’m hoping you will take a few minutes to send it friends, blog about it yourself, or post a link on your social networking sites especially as we are only two chapters in and it’s still easy to catch up.

I may not be Charles Dickens, (‘King’of the serial novel) but I do have an intriguing tale evolving in my head that I think you and possibly your friends will enjoy. Rest assured, I’m writing a chapter a week so it could go off in directions that haven’t occurred to me yet and every chapter is a bit of a surprise to me as well.

One thing I found about writing in this style is that once you put it out there, you can’t go back and change an event if you change your mind. You have to find a way to write your way out if you get stuck in the history of what you’ve written. It’s already happened to me a time or two and I’ve decided that I am loving the challenge this involves.

Background

Some of you may have noticed a similarity in ‘ Dear Madame’ to a recent news story and I want to share a bit of the details so you have an idea as to why some aspects of my story may seem familiar.

Earlier this year, an upholsterer in a shop in Tewkesbury, England found a 200-year-old love letter stuffed deep in an armchair purchased in France. After posting the letter on Facebook to have help in translating it, the romantic missive created a bit of media attention here in the UK when the BBC picked up the story. No one knows more than what is written in the letter and like many others, I wondered what the rest of the story might be.

Not long ago, I wrote a post challenging my readers to leave a comment so I might use one to write a mini short story. I found myself stopping at a point when there was still a story to be told although the story direction had not yet revealed itself to me.

Some of my readers seemed to enjoy it as much as I did and wished to hear more of the ‘Dear Madame ‘ storyline and it was while writing the next chapter that the idea came to me and the story of the two lovers and lost letter began to take shape.

Of course, the love letter is not the whole of the story, but only one part that will reveal itself as the story progresses. I hope you come back and see where it goes each week and thanks for sharing it with others in your world.

‘Dear Madame’ Chapter 2

Welcome to the next installment of ‘Dear Madame.’ If you haven’t read the first chapter, you may want have a look here, so Chapter 2 will make more sense. Thanks for your interest and please feel free to forward it on to friends and family who might enjoy the developing story line and if you use Twitter or Facebook, you can easily pass it on through the links to both when you click on comment. I’ll have Chapter 3 ready on Friday so don’t forget to come back and see what Patricia does next. 

Chapter 2

Patricia shifted slightly to dislodge a box of protein bars that had wedged under her left hip when she fell, but she made no move to get up from the nest of groceries and mail scattered on the floor. As she scanned the letter she held in her right hand, an expression more smirk than smile played at the corners of her mouth looking like a bit like a facial twitch instead of the beginnings of a true smile.

Aging had a way of doing that to you; taking a perfectly cute habit and turning it into something that looked as if you might need an ongoing Botox regimen to keep it from becoming a bigger issue later on.

A quick look at the letter carried her past the puzzling formality of the words,‘Dear Madame,’ but not before wondering who could be sending her mother mail of this sort. She half expected to see a request for her mother’s banking details and the offer to split someone’s unclaimed riches by the Lord High ruler of a fictitious country and was surprised by what followed next.

‘My dear Mrs. Reynolds, I hope you will forgive the play on words with my ‘Dear Madame’ greeting especially in light of the French subject matter of our correspondence. I was so excited to receive your letter that even now, I can hardly control my school boyish enthusiasm.

Never could I have imagined that there might be more letters connected to the one discovered in Tewkesbury earlier this year, but from first appearances it does seem as there is more of a story waiting to be told. I cannot be completely certain without a proper translation and authentication, but the copy of the letter you sent me does appear to have been written by the author of the 200-year-old love letter found by the upholsterer a few months ago, who has been making headlines around the world since.

Its popularity comes as no surprise to me as it seems the world in general is starved for news that has love at the center of its story versus the predominantly bad updates on foreign conflicts and collapsing financial markets.

There is so much we need to talk about Mrs Reynolds, and I am anxious to learn more about how this ‘box’ of letters you describe came to be in your possession. May I recommend that you fly to London with the letters in hand so we might continue our conversation over a cup of tea and a bite of lunch.

With your permission, I would also like to have someone there to review the letters while we discuss what to do next. Of course, I am happy to cover all the expenses related to your journey and look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

I would also like to apologize for the tardiness of my response to your enquiry. Without going into the details of my staffing woes, I hope you will accept my assurances that all future correspondence will be at lightening speed.

Not using the internet is certainly understandable and if letter writing works best for you, I will do all I can to accommodate. It does seem more fitting in a way that we use pen and paper when discussing the possible future of your box of letters and the story I hope they will reveal.

May I ask if we could speak on the phone regarding your travel arrangements and decide how soon I might persuade you to fly. If a trip to London is out of the question, perhaps you will allow me to meet with you somewhere closer to your home. My phone numbers are listed below and I am available anytime you wish to call. We are five hours ahead of you, but please call when it suits you best.’

Patricia realized her jaw had dropped and her mouth was hanging wide open right about the time she was finishing the letter. She checked the date on the envelope and tried to work backwards to see when her mother could have mailed a letter to London and wondered how she had even found this man?

She couldn’t imagine what box of letters he was referring to and she had only the vaguest memory of hearing some talk of an old love letter that had been found in a chair somewhere in England.

What had her mother been up to before she died, Patricia thought, as she considered what to do next.

Manly Beach – Soft Sanded Surfer Heaven

 

Elizabeth Harper & John Winchurch - Manly Beach, Australia

I posted the photo above on Facebook, but since not everyone has a FB account I thought I would share it here as well. I snapped this on Manly Beach when we took the ferry over from Circular Quay in Sydney. The wind was blustery that day with a storm approaching and we only had a moment to put our feet on the soft golden sand before the raindrops came to chase us off. Even though a storm was hovering just off shore while we watched, surfers were taking advantage of the waves.

Manly Beach Surfers

John Winchurch - Manly Beach, Australia

Here’s a look at Manly Beach from the other direction. There are huge trees near the beach that look like a type of pine and remind me of trees along the northwest coast of the US, but still are a bit different from any I’ve seen.

I’m typing in a coffee shop called Gloria Jean’s which has free wireless for one hour with a purchase. Free internet access is hard to find in Auckland so I have to keep things short. We’ve been paying for it in our room, but I tend to use it up too quickly as the download is limited and expensive.  Gloria Jean’s has good coffee, friendly staff, and yummy low-fat muffins, but my hour is almost up and it’s time to run off to see more of Auckland.

I will be back later to tell you about an amazing musician I met last night on Victoria Street here in Auckland. His name is Luke Hurley and you can hear and read more about him by clicking here.

His music was so good that after listening only long enough to snap a couple of photos, I paid $20 for a CD. We had a long listen back in our hotel room and loved it! Plus, I found out something very interesting in the minute or so that he paused to meet and speak with me. I’ll tell you next time when I have a minute to post.

Luke Hurley

When Grief Comes Without Warning

In May of 2008, I received a message on a Classmates reunion site from an old friend from high school. In it she said,

” Hi Cutie, Nice to see you; desperately happy; hope the same is true for you.”

I was pleased to see her message and happy that in May of 2008, I was desperately happy too. One year later, I was married to my darling husband John and she was suddenly a widow with the love of her life snatched from her without warning. Last year on a Thursday morning in May, when most people were on their way to work or already there, her husband died in a car accident when another driver lost control and came across the medium into the path of her husband’s vehicle. Both drivers died on the scene leaving the people who loved them grieving and forever changed.

Pam and I are friends on Facebook and I have been able to see her journey as she’s returned to teaching and talked openly about the difficulties of making it through her grief. Recently, as the first anniversary of her husband’s death approaches, she sent out a request to her friends asking for a little help in the form of ” beautiful statements” to help her get through the next few days.

May 14 was the day Cullen died. I can’t imagine how it feels to have your best friend and soul mate be there one minute and gone forever in the next, I don’t want to know. I do know what grief feels like from other life experiences, the kind of deep heartache that you think you will never recover from, but I have not been through what she has and as such, I feel at a loss when it comes to an appropriate message of comfort.

The best I can do is to tell her how inspiring I think her love story has been to me. The very idea of still being, “desperately happy ” as she said in her message in May 2008, especially after so many years together, is a lasting legacy to the love they shared and certainly one I would like to emulate.

If any of you have any words of support or comfort that you might offer Pam, please leave them in a comment below and I will make sure she has a chance to read them.

No Friend Of Mine – Facebook And Me

Couple in Conversation by Johannes Von Stumm

I have come to see the benefits of Facebook over the last few years especially since moving to the UK. It’s an excellent way for me to keep in touch with friends I miss from the US and also to follow some of the happenings in our village here in Cornwall. I tend to be pretty careful when someone “friends me” given previous issues with a woman who stalked us in the past.

Although I don’t post our every move, occasionally I do have something on there that would be more information than I want someone who is not a friend knowing about me. I have checked all the privacy boxes to ensure that friends only and not friends of friends can follow and I study fairly carefully even a request from someone who attended the same high school to be sure we even need to be friends.

I usually note their politics and religious views partially out of curiosity and a mild concern that they might find me a bit shocking if we differ substantially and also because I find it interesting to see the major changes thirty years later. Seeing someone I remembered as a wild child in the 70’s now pop up with a friend request looking more like their mom or dad and identifying as a conservative Christian can throw me for a minute.

This is not meant as a negative comment or judgement, but more as a recognition of who they say they are and what they believe. I tend to be fairly liberal politically and my thoughts regarding faith are not absent, just personal, and I don’t share too much in that area. I feel like my Facebook friends are an interesting slice of my world and a pretty diverse group of folks.

There is room for almost everybody on my friends list if I know you or perhaps knew you thirty years ago. I respect the varied viewpoints of others and really only have a few guidelines when it comes to someone I wish to share information with on Facebook. Big points for me go to those who practice kindness and consideration when expressing a differing opinion.

Bluntly said, I am sick to death of nasty, snarky, comments, only intended to create conflict that do nothing to promote positive change. When my daughter Miranda was growing up I used to say to her, ” You can tell me just about anything, how you say it will have a huge impact on what I hear and on whatever outcome you hope to achieve.”

Recently, I received a Facebook Friend request from someone I went to high school with. I took a look to see if I remembered them noting that yes I did in fact go to school with them, then I noticed Christian and conservative, no problems with that, but then I got to this bit of nonsense …

“DEAR LORD, THIS YEAR YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTOR, PATRICK SWAYZIE [sic]. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTRESS, FARAH [sic] FAWCETT. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE SINGER, MICHAEL JACKSON. I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, MY FAVORITE PRESIDENT IS BARACK OBAMA. AMEN”

Now you can say a lot in opposition to President Obama’s policies or any number of things he is suggesting or supports and I will engage in a conversation with you and work to do it in a respectful way even if we disagree, but when I read this kind of garbage we no longer have anything to talk about because you have shown me who you are and I am not interested in your “friendship.”  It’s not Christian, it’s not kind and I am not interested.

Sadly, after looking over the hate filled Facebook page with the Obama Prayer, there appear to be at least 1,153,595 people who share her feelings and as such are better able to be her friend.

Remembering Virginia Tech 4.16.07


Last year on this day, I wrote a memorial post to mark the sad anniversary of the tragedy that occurred during my daughter’s second year as a student at Virginia Tech. The Ways We Remember, Those We Cannot Forget details more from April 16 and the days that followed.

When we moved into April a few weeks ago, I noticed my daughter had changed her profile picture on Facebook from her regular photo to the image below. It is familiar to many associated with Virginia Tech and the one I have seen most often in the three years since the Virginia Tech shootings.

After seeing the change on April 1, I asked her about it when we spoke later that day. I usually switch to the same image on my Facebook profile a few days before the anniversary, but never so early as the beginning of the month and I wondered why she had changed hers so far in advance. Miranda told me in so many words that in the month of April, the anniversary is always at the forefront of her thoughts so she wanted to note the significance for her.

When I hung up the phone, I considered that while most people were celebrating spring and new beginnings, she was remembering the day when so many died. It saddens me to think that this will likely always be a rite of spring for her. I wish there was something I could do to change that, but it is beyond my control as are so many things for parents when children grow into their independent selves.

Miranda is generally pretty quiet when it comes to that day. When people ask about it, she is polite and almost matter of fact. She tends to keep her feelings to herself. I imagine these kids, now adults walking around like war vets in a way … only really discussing that day with people who were there and lived through it too. As a mom who believes in the healing power of conversation it is difficult for me to stand back and wait to give comfort when needed, although I smile as I think, I am always at the ready.

I take comfort in how she chooses to honor the memory of those no longer living with her desire to risk more and live more fully for those who lost that opportunity on 4.16.07. I didn’t know she felt that way until I saw something she had posted on Facebook the other day that suggested that sentiment as a way to remember those who died.

I understand that thought completely as it is something I have tried to do when grieving the loss of friends and family who died too young. It gives me some measure of peace to see that we share a similar idea because I know it has been a source of comfort for me when I could not understand the why of premature death. I cannot think of a better memorial for those lost than a life well lived when searching for ways to honor those we can never forget.