Ugg…my brain…

I keep thinking, “Oh! Wait! I’ll write about that today!” Then I open the word doc and lose the thought or think it’s just too negative to write about. It’s one of those days!

Here’s what I’m going with today. It’s a comment I made on Facebook to a friend. We were talking about the new bill in California to do away with bail.

I’m not sure about this. Bail is also set on your circumstances, higher bail for higher flight risk and financial ability. I don’t think this bill will really help anyone. All it does is put bail bonds people out of work. That’s a lot of money out of the economy, bail money doesn’t go to the court unless you skip it. But the bill does help poor people not have to pay a bail bondsman to be out of jail while waiting for trial.

My experience? I was accused of a violent crime and my bail was set at $50K. I had three choices: stay in jail until trial (which would have been one year away from my babies and without working my job), get the bail money and get it back when I get to court, or take a bail loan from a bondsman and lose 10% of that money when I go to court.

$5K is a lot of money to lose along with paying for a lawyer. We were lucky enough to have family that could loan us the bail and not charge interest.

So, I can see why eliminating monetary bail would be a positive…but…this bill is so vague about how they will keep people from skipping court instead of having to return for their money. Like I said, they already set a bail amount by judging your flight risk and the accusations against you, whether or not you might hurt someone else while waiting for trial or influence the case against you.

And then later on in the conversation, this thought came to me.

The easier you make it to for the police and courts to convict a criminal, the harder you make it for the innocent to acquit themselves of the accusations made against them. That’s when you have people with more money getting a better deal than the poor. AND the court only counts an arrest as good if someone is convicted, not if the crime stops or is solved. It doesn’t matter who goes to jail, just that someone does.

It’s not that police and the justice system are evil, it’s that we’ve lost sight of their purpose and that they are fallible. And we’ve lost sight of the reasons for our rights.

I’d rather see a criminal go free than an innocent in jail. It’s hard but it’s the way she goes.

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Playground Rules

Sitting across the table at the mall from my world-traveling seventeen-year-old son, I’m complaining about the words some people in an online group are using. “It’s not just online,” I say, “it’s at park days too. What’s wrong with these people?” My son reads what I’ve shown him, “I have no comment for that.” “But how can we combat this? How do we get people to understand they are hurting others and not being the ‘inclusive’ and ‘tolerant’ people they claim to want to be?” My son looks at me, “If you don’t like those people, if they are hurting you, don’t play with them.” My playground advice comes back to me like a boomerang, ten years after I said them.

He reminded me of other “rules” just before he left on his first trip last year. I was becoming more and more worried about sanctioning this solo-trip to Europe. He would only turn seventeen while he was there. What was I thinking? I was looking at my son, the one sitting in front of me for the last (nearly) seventeen years. I knew what he was capable of and his personality. He’d be fine, but as the departure date grew closer, I began to doubt. I had started to give him pointers. Funny, coming from someone who has only been across our own border once, with her mother, when she was eighteen and never left again. “If things don’t seem to add up don’t go, ok? Don’t be so trustful of people. If you get confused or scared, just ask an employee of the airport, or security, for help. They want to help you, it’s what they are there for.” My baby (that’s what he looks like to me) looks up at me, “You mean don’t take candy from strangers and look both ways before crossing the street?” Crap. Yes. I guess so.

It never occurred to me as I coached my sons on playground etiquette and personal safety walking home from the park, that they would use those same rules in their adult life as personal principles. I just thought I was trying to keep them from fighting or getting hurt while they grew up. Everything we do with our kids is training for the adult world, when they will be out there on their own without us guiding the way.

I’m happy we spent so much time together. I’m happy we never sent them to school. I’m content knowing they may have received a better academic education somewhere, but they couldn’t be better people, more human, than they are today.

I’m reminded of “Star Wars” as I enjoy my son’s company while he visits for a couple weeks before heading back to Europe for a few more months. “When I left you, I was but a learner; now I am the master.” The roles have reversed. My sons are my teachers. They reflect the world back at me in ways I never dreamed possible.

Dark Ages?

I’m reading “Quiet” by Susan Cain right now and she brought up an excellent point that has led me in an illuminating direction.

I’m paraphrasing here (A LOT) but a study she cited in the book showed that individuals given a simple test would score an average of 95%. Change it to a group of individuals and the average was lower. Add to that group some people that deliberately and assertively offer the wrong answer, the average score lowered even more. All the members of the group had to agree on an answer. Wouldn’t that be an interesting experiment at a gathering of people? I’d like to try that experiment at a homeschool gathering.

She was demonstrating that group projects and brainstorming do not produce bigger and better ideas, they usually do the opposite. What’s strange is that few people I’ve ever talked to say they loved group projects in school and got so much out of them. Usually, group projects are the bane of many a student’s career and the butt of many tv and movie jokes. And yet, at every school, business, or seminar, we push each other into small groups to “brainstorm” ideas.

She also talked about the internet and “open source” projects. That was positive. We’re all in our own spaces, trying to figure out a problem, adding our two cents through an email or chat room. Good things come of that in general.

But it made me think of something else, the dreaded social media. It reminds me of the experiment in which there are plants assertively giving a false answer and more people going along with it. So many times I’ve read an article, or really just a post (it seems no one actually writes whole articles much anymore just short blurbs or one-liners, preferably with a pretty or funny picture in the background) and I’ve thought “Well, this just doesn’t make sense in light of what I know to be true and what I can deduce from what I’ve read and experienced.” I start to think the person is just mistaken or maybe angry and most people wouldn’t agree with the statement, but then thousands chime in with a “like” or positive comment. It seems they are just agreeing without any thought to it, only because the person is assertive and charismatic, or just clever in their presentation. Then I start to think, “Maybe I’m wrong. I can’t possibly be the only person here that sees the truth. I must have my facts wrong.”

I’m not a fan of social media for anything besides knowing what my family and close friends are up to lately, the sharing of jokes, and connecting with groups over a common subject…wait…isn’t that all social media is for? I try not to listen to people’s opinions about politics and such. But it disturbs me to think that my most boisterous friends and the public figures that I follow are the ones people follow and emulate without taking the time to think about what they’ve said. Will they vote in the same manner? I believe they will. It seems to me, every time something negative happens more people vote to take other people’s rights away. Do people even stop to think that the rights they vote to take away will end up being their own eventually? Do we stop to think if what’s being said is true or right? Do we think about how a new law will affect people or if it will help anything at all? Or do we all believe that if a law saves one person from harm but harms thousands of others, that’s ok?

It seems to me that any social media platform is a great place to throw what I call “lack of thought bombs” or “thought disruptors” into a group of people. Why would someone do that? To make space for their own ideas? To try and take over the world? Or just to get attention? Can we use it better if we know this kind of thing can happen and be better, smarter people because we’ve learned a better way to use a new communication tool? Or will social media just be the start of a new “dark ages” of thought?

React or Reflect

I posted this today on my Facebook page. I felt compelled. Seriously. If I could say one thing to all people it’d be “Look at yourself, not the mirror.”

Life Advice: Whatever everyone else is doing, whatever they say is “best,” don’t do that. Look at YOUR life, YOUR home, YOUR love, YOUR children. Take into account all the advice in the world and then do what makes YOUR life (and the life of those you love) easier, happier, kinder, and more fun no matter what the rest of the world seems to think is a better way.
Peace, peeps!

But I’d like to expand on that for just a bit. When we read, “This is the best way to…” or “This is how you get things done.”, we can take those bits of advice a couple different ways. We can look at it and react, “Hey! Don’t tell me how! I know what I’m doing!” or we can reflect on the advice and think, “Wow. That’s cool that person has a way of…” We don’t need to take offense when someone offers advice or states their opinion. We can take it as a sign of affection and see the longing to be heard behind those words that are written.

We also don’t have to take the advice in total or in part. When I hear someone’s great idea, plan, or advice, I read it and wonder. I look at my own situation, the one right in front of me, not the one I imagine or reflect back in some distorted mirror (at least I try to anyway). And then I decide whether or not I need to change anything.

Take education advice for instance. We homeschool in a very unconventional way and when I read articles about college entrance, the use of electronic devices, or the latest way to get kids to whatever it is they are supposed to do to live a happy life, I (sometimes) read them and think, “Interesting.” And then I look at my kids, the one that just slept until noon, ate leftover chili for breakfast and is now online ordering another monitor for his computer and laughing at his Facebook feed. He seems happy, healthy, and fairly well educated. And then I think, “Well, I guess that advice isn’t for us.” and I move on.

What do I not do? I don’t comment that the information I read was ridiculous and irrelevant. I don’t put down the person as trying to manipulate me. I don’t argue that if they just did whatever I do, they wouldn’t have these problems to fix in the first place. I only assume they are kind, intelligent and trying to help. Their advice isn’t for me, but it’s for someone out there.

I guess I’m only assuming the writer/poster’s intentions are the same as mine. They are trying to share what works for them, their experience, their point of view, in the hopes that it may help someone else or at least brighten their day.

It’s related to this, “My favorable view of my own choices does not negate or invalidate yours.”

Right now, I follow a few homeschool Facebook groups. I don’t follow as many as I used to because, honestly, it’s really just chatter and advertisements anyway. Last year I walked away from almost all Facebook groups because it didn’t feel like socializing anymore. It felt more like high school hell. People jumping all over each other, side conversations, and threats. Opinions fly everywhere as if they are truth…just couldn’t lose that much energy over something, so I left.

But then a friend asked me to come back and answer questions about the way we home educated (privately with little academics until WAY later), so I joined the local group and one bigger one. I have strict rules about how to keep myself from putting too much of my energy into them. The first of which is “Once a day, for thirty minutes.” I’m only checking Facebook once a day. That limits me as to what I can do and controls how much damage I can do. I post to my wall, mostly things about what’s going on here or what I like. You know, socializing kind of things. And then I post one thing to the group that I think might help home educators get started or feel more comfortable. And then I see any comments from the previous day and scroll through my feed. If I think of anyone specifically, I check their wall and see what they are up to. And then I turn it off for the rest of the day.

The other thing I did was “unlike” almost all products, companies, and services. I get newsletters by email for blogs and advocacy groups that I like. I don’t need constant updates in my feed. All it is is free advertising. I don’t watch M&M commercials on TV, why do I need them in my feed? And guess what happened? All my friend’s posts came back! I actually see what my cousin posts because I don’t see how McDonald’s feels about their new fries.

One last thing. I unfriended people I really don’t have a relationship with. People I met once, people I went to school with, people I used to work with, all gone, unless we have a current online relationship. The ones that interact with me, I keep. I like their things, they like mine, comments are shared, etc. Interaction is the key. If it isn’t there, I let them go. It’s not that I don’t like them. I’m just limiting my contact with online people to actual relationships, offline or on. I’m not a public figure. I don’t need an anonymous following.

This culling of my online activity has been amazing. Life is very different. The thing that really made it possible though, was taking social media of any kind off of my phone. You can still send me messages though and I’ll answer those all day. I do love to talk! I have so much more time now. I’m more focused on my list of to-do’s. I have time to sit and doodle. It’s pretty darn nice.

Too Much

I usually poke a little fun at people who condemn social media by posting on social media and those that post on social media that they are “taking a break.” It strikes me as silly, maybe showing a little too much self-importance, as if everyone online would wonder what happened to you if you didn’t post daily. And here I am taking that break and now posting about it! I try not to take myself too seriously.

Yesterday I decided I would take that break. I even wrote it down on my calendar (yes, I still use a paper calendar) when I would return. I’ve done it before, taken a week off, and I’ll probably do it again. I do it because when I check my phone every few minutes to see what’s going on or if anyone responded to something I post, I feel like I’m on a virtual leash, tied to a lot of things that really don’t have any effect on my life other than the one I create. I feel addicted to information. So I cut myself off for a bit and then slowly re-enter the water. Maybe this time I won’t, but then I wouldn’t know what kind of interesting things my old friends are up to. I just don’t know.

And then today I read something very interesting (in a book, a physical paper one) that has made me really think about the break I started yesterday. It was about women, in general, trying to get as much information and control as they can grab hold of. Sometimes we want more than we need. Sometimes we bite off more than we can chew. It brought of the vision of Eve being tempted by the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Is that what we do when we pry into everyone’s lives? Even if we aren’t really prying but only picking up the information that everyone is tempted to lay out for the world to see on social media? In a way, I think it is.

The human mind is only capable of processing so much. It’s a limited thing. Only God can handle all the information in the world. He does equip us to handle that which He dishes out to us, but is He dishing this out to us, or are we going back to the buffet and pushing everyone else aside to get to it? I know I frequently feel overwhelmed by too much information and sometimes I don’t know where it’s coming from or if it is really important. For now, I’ll take a break from the virtual world, go on a short vacation. I’ll see if I need to come back or if I can come back in small ways that bring me closer to the ones I love and participating in the larger world as need be. I’ll let God dish out my portion and process what I’ve been given. While I’m fasting, I’ll be writing here and thinking of ways I can eat from the buffet in a healthier way.

Following Politics

It’s all so bizarre. Facebook reminded me to follow all my state and federal representatives this morning, so I did. Instantly, my feed was full of boogeymen! “That guy is coming to get you! This woman is a monster! Look what awful things are happening here! And I am the only one between you and the nasty in the world! Let me fix this for you!” Ugg. How can they live with themselves every day? I suppose they believe they are helping the world, but I really think they are doing absolutely nothing. Or maybe worse, they are creating problems to fix and creating more problems. The whole world would go on rolling without them, and probably in a much better mood, if they just disappeared (other than their families, naturally). I’m speaking politically, not personally here.

Honestly, it’s enough to put anyone off their nut. They might as well come out and say “Gravity is deplorable! Death needs to be overcome! People out there might not have your best interests at heart! Don’t worry though! Give me money and your vote and I will keep you all safe. Ok, just most of your votes and then I’ll just put anyone in jail that doesn’t give me their money to do what we think is best to protect you from all the nasty things I’ve created to scare you!”

I love the internet and social media, but I sometimes wonder if it can be used for good without the bad. I wonder if people thought the same thing about newspapers and books when they became readily available? I suppose we’ll all get the hang of it eventually. Sometimes it wears me out how quickly and vehemently everyone online gets into scare and attack mode.