JacKaLs GHosted

Picture 1

“Aunt Mary, you’ve been blocked,” my niece explained. “There’s nothing wrong with your computer.” 

“What?  How? Why?” 

 Jill had told me when she was very young, “I don’t know it all, but I know some things,” and she did.

 “Hard to know the why, but how to block is easy, even though it’s the highest level of “distancing” on social media.  If you need just a little distance, you can “unfollow” someone and go to their page to read posts only when you want to.”

I nodded. “Glass of wine in hand to prepare for my nephew’s angst-filled posts.”

“Right, and they won’t know you’ve done this, especially if you check in now and then.  Next is ‘unfriend.’ This might be noticed, as you will disappear from their list of friends.  They can still see comments and posts as “friends of friends” and you can see theirs. Blocking is the most extreme, usually reserved for scammers and trolls. If you can’t see anything at all, it means they’ve blocked you.”

At first I hadn’t realized what was happening when a “friend” disappeared on Facebook. Sometimes I’d see four comments in a row with none in between, like a person talking to herself.  Some people do set comments to “friends only” so if we don’t know that person, we won’t see her comments. Technical difficulties, glitches in the system?  Then I read about “ghosting,” blocking friends as one would the scammers who “like your pretty smile.”  It’s the electronic version of “cutting them dead” in old books on manners.  

My niece explained the process and offered consolation. She reminded me of my mother’s warning that “two girls can play nicely together, three or more will fight.”  She called it the JacKaL Effect, but never explained the odd capitals, initials perhaps?

“Really, if they are mean, you are better off without them. You’d never have done that to anyone, and you’ll never really trust them again. Move on,” and I did. Cyber-friendships were ephemeral anyway. It’s not as if it was happening in real life, until it was. 

Real-life blocking began, reasonably enough, with law enforcement enforcing  restraining orders and witness protection.  Then someone hacked the technology, and soon there were seemingly empty desks at work with work getting done, empty seats in theaters and restaurants that one couldn’t manage to sit on, involuntary weaving on sidewalks to avoid invisible obstacles.

Mom and Joy (3)033


It all came to a head for us one Thanksgiving when the youngest niece started crying, “Grandma, make them stop! Make them stop being mean and talk to each other.  It’s rude to ignore people.”

Jill, always practical, asked, “How can we fix it? I know, let’s take roll. Raise your hands if you can see Beth.” Everyone could.

“Who can see Grandma?”  Everyone.

“Who can see Uncle Joe?” Ben’s hand stayed down. 

“Ben, could you say something positive about Uncle Joe?  Anything? Anything at all?”
“Well, Uncle Joe taught me to fish.  He was very patient, even when my hook caught on his cap.”

“Uncle Joe, tell me something you like about Ben . . . please?  Just one thing?”
“Well, Ben is very bright . . . and helpful.  When my old car wouldn’t start, he helped me fix it.”

Grandma, the patient crocheter of lace and mender of boo-boos, continued Jill’s work with each person at the table, coaxing everyone to remember good things and acknowledge loving gestures, reminding all of what family was.  When there were no more shimmering gaps around the table, she had everyone join hands to say grace again.  Then she brought out the pumpkin pie and whipped cream, the cheesecake, and the cherry pie that was Beth’s favorite.  Gaps might still exist on (anti-)social media, but Grandma love can fix everything important.

I asked Jill if it would work online.  She winked and said, “Not worth the bother. Just mentally thank them and let them go.”

Smart girl!  


We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another. Luciano De Crescenzo



Wisdom of the Young


My co-stars on the storytelling CDs . . .  Brianna, Hannah, and Josh. ❤

In The King and I, Anna sings, “by your pupils you’ll be taught.”  There is so much to learn from their young, fresh outlook on life.

Jillian once, when she was very small and I complimented her on a great hint for some kitchen chore, “I don’t know it all, but I know some things.”  These days, she’s my go-to person on technology questions.

My alderman’s daughter, at a neighborhood picnic, laughed at the adults’ discussion of exercise.  “I don’t exercise,” she explained.  “I PLAY” . . . and she ran over to the swings.  Healthy attitudes . . .

 Joy once encouraged me, “Run, Aunt Mary.  It’s FUN!”

photo of my mom with Joy . . .  >Mom and Joy (3)033

They have so much to teach us, even as they are learning new things every day.

 There comes the day when spelling won’t work as secret code . . . “Shall we stop for i-c-e-” ICE CREAM!!!!!   “Want to go to the z-o-o?” YES!! ZOO!!!

The lessons of childhood continue to mold the adult.  I loved when my high school students would pick up on the Reading Rainbow song and join in, “Take a look, it’s in a book . . .”

I used to give students extra credit for finding errors in published sources and then correcting them, and they found plenty.

I also gave credit when they showed me a new perspective on something, even sometimes on things I had read fifty times.

After a really serious vandalism incident at our high school, a student made me feel a little ashamed of my own punitive thoughts when she said, “If they had parents as good as mine, they’d never have done anything like this. — Empathy, understanding . . .

 . . . and then there was a student I didn’t even know, who when he heard me complaining that a mandatory inservice would take up half the weekend, “Half a weekend is better than none.”  Perspective.

While I do have the bumper sticker “Don’t Let the Truth Get in the Way of a Good Story,” I believe in using the teachable moments in fiction and sharing good values in my stories.

Mr. Fox is a story full of important lessons on courage and caution, and it helped my sophomores understand Pushkin’s “The Bridegroom.”  I first told the story when my Dan Keding CD stopped playing right in the middle and my students insisted I finish it.  Then, darling scholars, when I got a new CD and a new player and played it again for them, they sweetly told me they liked mine better . . .

My ESOL students ably critiqued my telling of La Llorona one year.

Dan’s “Two Warriors” story ends with “You can’t hate a man once you know his story.”  Often when we know what’s going on in a person’s life, we are much more able to help.  I often said of difficult students, once I knew their background, that I might have acted out even more if it had been I.

A teaching colleague whose wife got a raise was a bit surprised when I remarked on how well he was dealing with her earning much more than he was.  I was glad to see that vestige of the ’70s mentality gone, and perhaps it was never an issue for intelligent and reasonable men.  He then polled his students, who all agreed that more money in a family is good, no matter who brings it in.

It’s amazing that the things former students remember are not always the lessons we plan, but are more often the moments of kindness, the lessons in grace . . . and it goes both ways.  When my mother was very ill, my students shared cards, prayers, Chicken Soup books, and kept me going through it all, and when I thanked on student, she said, “Remember last year when I needed help?  Well, now it’s your turn.”

On a lighter note, one day I reached high to write something on the board and felt the underarm seam of my blouse RIIIPPPP.  A student immediately defused my embarrassment by asking, “If you are going to throw that away, could I have it for my mother’s fabric art?”  Silver linings everywhere . . .

Like my friend’s daughter, I think perhaps we should just play.