Thursday, February 25, 2010

Former Journalist Spent On Poverty -- Seeks Sales Job -- or ANY Job, really!

By Patty Maher,

Bring on resourcefulness -- austerity even. But this poverty thing, it's got to go. I'm just not cut out for it.

I used to report about poverty for the paper newspapers. Poor urban schools, coal miners' families -- specialty subject areas of mine. I just never bargained for this deep-background-up-close-personal-experience poverty.

Poverty has taught me a thing or two about prioritizing my values and respecting others. It's had its place in my life. But like many who landed upon poverty rather suddenly when the economy took such a sorry turn, I'm ready for a new gig.

Philanthropy would be nice! Yes, that's it. I can make oodles and oodles of money and use it to forward wonderful causes and promote peace and harmony all throughout the world!

Well, OK then -- a full time job with benefits would be a great starting place. Anybody got one?

Why is everybody so silent?

Oh, I get it. You're looking for work, too.

I have a part-time job at the University of Michigan and for that job I interview people from all over the United States about their thoughts and opinions on the economy. I talk to housewives, single moms and dads, laborers, farmers, executives, senior citizens. And it's really bad out there. But you know that. You've seen the foreclosure signs on your neighbor's homes. You've seen the people with the cardboard signs at every exit ramp on the interstate offering to work for food. It's especially bad here in Michigan where we are so heavily reliant upon the auto industry.

Looking at job-hunting websites I have sometimes thought I might have to join the military in order to earn a living wage with benefits. No kidding. That is one thing that I just can't do. No disrespect to our military. I appreciate all of our soldiers. But I could never do it. The military wouldn't have me anyway because of a medical condition. They are picky that way. Don't let it scare you, however, if you happen to have a job for me.

I am one hard working lady. I got my first job when I was 13 and have been working ever since. One summer I worked two waitressing jobs and at a hair salon to put myself through college. I come from a working-class background and although I was the youngest of seven, I was the first to get a bachelor's degree. I worked as an editor on my college newspaper and was editor-and-chief one summer. Shortly after college I landed my first newspaper job -- editor of a weekly in the far-west Chicago suburbs. Then it was off to West Virginia to work as a night cops and weather reporter. Lots of flash flooding that year -- and murders. I came back to Michigan when my mother was diagnosed with cancer because I wanted to be near my family and I worked full time at newspapers up until I was dismissed from the Ann Arbor News in March 2005 without severance -- a few months before my pension would have been vested.

Getting fired took the wind out of my sails. That's a cliche. But I am a sailor and I literally stopped sailing, so I think you'll pardon me. It was just alarming for me to suddenly be told I didn't spell well enough and I made too many little mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone misspells words on deadline. Honestly, it had nothing to do with me. We had a log of errors in the computer system and other reporters whose jobs were not in jeopardy were making far more errors than me. The paper just wanted to get rid of my $52,000 job. I covered the schools on the poor side of our county where the poverty rate compares to Detroit. Those people were not buying any advertisements. I had earned $54,000 the previous year with overtime and had four weeks vacation. The Ann Arbor News never filled my position. And in July 2009 the whole dang paper folded. Everyone is scrambling for work in Michigan. Unemployed and underemployed journalists -- we are the story. The paper newspaper tradition in my state, folks, is on life support wherever it is still existent.

Today I got on the phone and started talking to sources who I have communicated with quite a bit over the years. I spoke with a former Battle Creek mayor and recalled how he was one of the first people I knew who had a national cell phone plan. He would return calls from anywhere. Once I caught him in Arizona delivering food baskets to the poor with some priest. I can recall how he was apologizing for the oranges that were sliding all around when the car turned a corner during our conversation. Cell phones were new then and it was fascinating to have this personal glimpse into a public official's every-day life. Today on the phone the former mayor recalled the cafeteria at the Battle Creek Enquirer. It was in the basement, just in front of the smoking room. Ruthie, our southern cook, made the most outstanding pies and casseroles. Those were the days. The Internet and cell phones were new and fun and exciting. We never dreamed in a few sort years we would become obsolete because of them.

I'm facing the sorrow now. I'm moving forward. In a way, it doesn't really matter what I do. That's something the Buddhists taught me. All work has value. I just want to be skillful and prosper at whatever work I can find.

To be honest with you, I haven't been looking all that hard for work until today. I have been looking here and there but I haven't really been hunting. Somehow I hadn't had the heart to. I was like a child standing at the grave site of my mother, unwilling to leave after the last shovel of dirt had been dropped, thinking somehow my feelings could will the past back into being. Or maybe I was just unwilling to let go of the grief because even though it hurt, it was somehow a connection to a past that I had loved.

I hadn't, I guess, made a decision that getting back on my feet financially is my number one priority. Maybe there was a place in my heart where I just thought it wouldn't be possible. But I hit a wall today with poverty. I made a mistake in my checking account last week and bounced a few checks. $37 fees for each check. When you work part time for $12 an hour, that's a sure sign that something has to change and fast. I can't go on like this.

So today I started SERIOUSLY networking. Networking has been thwarted by my sadness up until now. It's been so sad for me to see amazing journalist after amazing journalist take a buy out or get fired or just quietly drift off into corporate public relations. I told myself I didn't have to do it because I didn't have a mortgage or children. I could just patch work together here and there and focus on becoming more spiritual. I convinced myself there was some sort of nobility in that.

But this whole poverty thing, it's just not cutting it today. I need the stability of a full-time income. Blogging can be sort of fun when the commentary doesn't get all mean-spirited (and that's hit or miss!). It's nice to read what other writers are working on and it's nice to have other writers comment on my posts. Some former journalists can make their ends meet as freelance writers. But generally, I guess they have a spouse's income or a little nest egg to fall back on when a lean month hits.

February ended up being my last straw. Maybe just two too few pay days. I'm spent on poverty. I think I could make an excellent saleswoman if anybody has anything for me to sell.

I am seriously ready to try ANYTHING new because, at the end of the day, this is my reality: I'm making a choice between paying my rent and making my car payment unless something seriously comes my way before March 1.

Got a job?

Monday, February 22, 2010

At a Buddhist Temple, I learned to breathe with Jesus

By Patty Maher

I had been living at the Zen Buddhist Temple on Packard Street in Ann Arbor for about two weeks when I discovered, I just couldn’t breathe without Jesus.

Fortunately, Haju Sunim, the petite and compassionate female priest at temple was helpful and understanding with this issue. A Korean form of Zen Buddhism is practiced at the Temple which has sister temples in Toronto and Chicago. Haju’s Canadian name is Linda but she has been the priest at the temple in Ann Arbor for decades now. She has two grown daughters. I think her former husband drove off on a motorcycle one day in the 70s or 80s. That probably isn’t exactly accurate, but it is the impression I have had. Haju carries herself like a woman who has acquired her mercy and wisdom through pain and practice of doing the next right thing one moment at a time. Somehow, I just never had it in me to ask the whole story about her former husband. It didn’t seem to matter. What mattered to me was that Haju was a very kind and helpful spiritual mentor during a difficult period in my life. She taught me how to breathe with Jesus and helped me to find my way as a contemplative Catholic.

I had started taking meditation classes at the Temple just after I was fired from my paper newspaper job in March 2005. Paper newspapers had been my life and I was alarmed and frightened. Five years earlier, the Ann Arbor News had phoned me and asked me to apply for a job there. It was the third time that I had received such a call from this particular family of newspapers and after interviewing, and -- because of the fact that I have always loved Ann Arbor -- I decided to take the 40-percent pay raise and leave the town where I had owned a home and worked with some pretty cool people. I was fired for spelling and accuracy issues and booted without any severance – about two months before my pension would have been vested, about three months before I had my first Multiple Sclerosis attack and about four months before I turned forty. I have had better years.

The Ann Arbor News never replaced me and in July 2009 the entire paper folded completely. In some respects it has been healing for me, the closing of the paper. It’s true that misery loves company. As much as people told me it was not my fault that I had been fired, I didn’t quite believe it until the whole ship sunk. A few months before I was fired, I had gone to see some well-respected local attorneys and they told me there was nothing I could do about an unfair performance review, they had seen it happen with other people. The Ann Arbor News had decided they wanted to get rid of me and that would be final. There was nothing I could do to stop this chain of events from unfolding. I didn’t react especially well to this. Having lost more than 100 pounds in the five years that I lived in Ann Arbor while working a 12-step program for people with eating disorders, I was just starting to reclaim my sense of personal dignity. I was not only working full time but also very devoted to my 12-step recovery, sailing competitively and swing dancing. Job hunting didn’t fit into the picture. To be honest with you, I’d never really done it. After landing my first job as editor of a weekly shortly after graduating from college, newspaper jobs had fallen into place seamlessly for me.

But now suddenly there were no jobs at newspapers. Everyone was cutting staff. Editors I had respected were taking jobs in public relations. I did what I could to pay my bills. I waitressed, canvassed door-to-door for an environmental lobby, worked as a church secretary, conducted social science interviews for the University of Michigan. Still, I ended up in bankruptcy. My ends wouldn’t meet. My car was repossessed. I was completely ruined, financially.

All I had left was my dignity. All I had was my soul. So, I went to the Zen Temple in my neighborhood. The beautiful organic gardens drew me in. I asked Haju if I could work in the gardens. She let me have the front garden, the flowers. I spent hours there with the Widows Violet, the Day Lillies and Forget-Me-Nots, weeding and replanting, shifting dirt around, putting stones into rows and piles.

Then I became a resident at the Zen Temple. It was convenient for me. It was about a mile walk to my work place at the University of Michigan and my food was part of the rent. It was very healthy food and I was one of the cooks. We made our own yogurt and had kale every morning with our quinoa for breakfast. I enjoyed eating together in a group every morning. We would observe silence for a few minutes in the beginning but then we could talk and, having grown up in a large family, I enjoyed this very much. Usually there were four to six people for breakfast.

I went to Mass every Sunday while I lived at the Temple but also, I was required to keep the Temple Meditation schedule. At 5:30 a.m. one of the residents woke the household by chanting the Great Compassion Dharani and beating a maktak, a gourd-like percussion instrument. We were required then to gather for meditation practice from 6 to 6:30 a.m. My cushion faced a window through which I could see Mars. It was lovely. But I couldn’t settle into my meditation like the other residents. I had trouble focusing. I felt jittery on my cushion. For meditating, it can be helpful to pick a focal point. Some people meditate on light and imagine their breath as light on the inhale and exhale. I have done that before in meditation classes and it has been fairly effective. This time it wasn’t working. Some people like to meditate on a word such as “peace” or “love.” I guess some people pick a phrase as the focus of their meditation. I tried all sorts of things and nothing was working for me. I was always agitated. Then I tried focusing on the name Jesus and all the anxiety slipped away. I could meditate very contemplatively. I felt peaceful. I wasn’t certain what to make of this, exactly.

Because I was a resident, I had regular interviews with Haju who gave me tips and instruction on my breathing. When I went for an interview with Haju, I sat on a cushion and meditated and breathed in front of her. She observed my posture and technique and made recommendations for how I might engage more fully and more deeply in my meditation. Shortly after I had taken the name “Jesus” as the focal point of my meditation, I went in for my interview and practiced my meditation. She asked me if I had a focal point, a word of any sort. I told her yes, I had taken the name “Jesus.” She told me this was good and told me to say the name out loud while I meditated so that she could observe me. Haju suggested I say the “Je” on the in breath and the “sus” on the out breath. It worked very well. She watched the posture of my chest while I did this breathing and made suggestions on linking the in breath to the out breath in a way that was natural, following the rhythm of my body.

Haju was very happy that I had found my focal point in Jesus and encouraged me with this undertaking. She wanted me then to take on the way of Jesus in everything I did, in all of my practices around the Temple. “See,” she would say when I was pouring the yogurt from an enormous mixing bowl into a jar in a way that more effectively demonstrated haste than love. “You are not like this Jesus. When you are doing your work practice in the kitchen, you must be like Jesus. You must practice. You must be gentle. You must do no harm.”

I spent a few hours cooking and cleaning in the kitchen each day and she would stop in and watch me. “That’s better,” she would encourage when she saw me carefully folding the cloth napkins. “You are learning.”

After about a month she gave me a student because she said it was time for me to be a teacher. “I do not think you realize how much spiritual energy you have,” she told me once. She was very happy with how I was learning to do no harm in the kitchen. And if only you could hear the jokes about my cooking that my family recycles at holiday gatherings, you would understand it truly had been a spiritual transformation.

My Zen student was an incredibly attractive undergraduate who wanted to experience work practice in the kitchen. He had grown up in the Detroit suburbs and his family was Muslim but I don’t think he was practicing any religion. The day he came, I was making applesauce. I told him he could help me by climbing the tree in the yard and getting all the apples that I could not reach with my step stool. He spent the whole morning gathering the apples and his face was aglow when he brought them to me in the kitchen. His father was a doctor. His parents were disappointed that he did not want to be a doctor, too. I think it was spiritually healing for him to climb the tree on a sunny day. Haju came and observed our apple practice and she was very happy with my Zen instruction. “This is good,” she said. She was very pleased with the first lesson I had given my student. He came twice a week for a few months and we tried to observe silence in the kitchen but sometimes we talked. The handsome undergraduate would stay and eat lunch with me and Haju. He quit coming after Christmas Break and I left the temple a few months later and have never seen him since, but it was quite interesting for me to have had this experience of being a Zen teacher for a short while.

Not only did I learn that I can’t breathe without Jesus during the time I was living at the Zen Buddhist Temple, I also started learning about the love of Mary, Jesus’ Mother. While I was living as a resident at the Temple, I had it on my heart to start drawing St. Mary, Mother of Jesus. Haju also was encouraging of this desire of mine. She suggested that I block out ½ an hour each day and devote it to my pastel drawing practice. So, every day, after breakfast, I went up to my room and worked on pastel drawings of St. Mary for ½ hour. Sometimes I kept drawing for a full hour. I felt during this time that I was coming to know St. Mary. At this time I also began to pray the Rosary – something I hadn’t done ever on a regular basis in my life. Up until then, I had really only prayed the Rosary in a group at funeral homes after relatives had passed. I found both of these spiritual practices – drawing Mary and praying the Rosary – to be life enhancing and centering.

When it was time for me to leave the Temple, I left behind a few of my drawings of the Virgin Mary. I took with me the practical experience I had gained in living out love in the world through everyday chores. This is a practice I have fallen down on quite a bit lately – and it is very much a Catholic practice, too. I think it is probably a recommended practice in any spiritual tradition. At the moment, my room is what my big sisters always have called “a disaster.” It is not my natural inclination to treat objects with love. It is my natural inclination to throw clothes on the floor and to leave empty cups sitting on my nightstand for days at a time.

In addition to treating objects with love, while I was at the Buddhist Temple, we practiced Thoughtful Speech. I know Thoughtful Speech is very important in Catholicism, too. In Confession once a priest told me that if we can control our speech, we can control all of our behaviors. I have fallen down in the practice of thoughtful speech quite a bit lately and I am on my way to Confession to let go of that sin. I think it is especially difficult to practice thoughtful speech on the Internet because communication is so instantaneous. It is so easy to fire off an e-mail without any thought or to post a comment that will be hurtful. Throughout the rest of this Lenten Season, I am going to focus a bit more on careful speech and acting with love in simple ways throughout my day.

And I am going to remember to breathe with Jesus.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Quotes by Dorothy Day, an American Saint

"The final word is love." (Patty's favorite!)

"The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart."

“People say, ‘What is the sense of our small effort?’ They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There’s too much work to do.”

"It is people who are important, not the masses.”

"The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart."

”People say, ‘What is the sense of our small effort?’ They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There’s too much work to do.”

"I felt that the Church was the Church of the poor,... but at the same time, I felt that it did not set its face against a social order which made so much charity in the present sense of the word necessary. I felt that charity was a word to choke over. Who wanted charity? And it was not just human pride but a strong sense of man's dignity and worth, and what was due to him in justice, that made me resent, rather than feel pround of so mighty a sum total of Catholic institutions."

"I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least."

"You will know your vocation by the joy that it brings you. You will know. You will know when it's right."

"We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community."

"My strength returns to me with my cup of coffee and the reading of the psalms. "

"Don't worry about being effective. Just concentrate on being faithful to the truth."

"People say, "What is the sense of our small effort?" They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time."

"What we would like to do is change the world--make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended them to do. And, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, the poor, of the destitute--the rights of the worthy and the unworthy poor, in other words--we can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world. We repeat, there is nothing we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as our friend."

"Don't call me a saint. I don't want to be dismissed so easily. "

"Once a priest told us that no one gets up in the pulpit without promulgating a heresy. He was joking, of course, but what I suppose he meant was the truth was so pure, so holy, that it was hard to emphasize one aspect of the truth without underestimating another, that we did not see things as a whole, but through a glass darkly, as St. Paul said."

"True love is delicate and kind, full of gentle perception and understanding, full of beauty and grace, full of joy unutterable. There should be some flavor of this in all our love for others. We are all one. We are one flesh in the Mystical Body as man and woman are said to be one flesh in marriage. With such a love one would see all things new; we would begin to see people as they really are, as God sees them."

"Love in action is harsh and dreadful when compared to love in dreams."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ready for the Ashes!

By Patty Maher,

"At one time I smoked, but in 1959 I couldn't think of anything else to give up for Lent so I stopped-and I haven't had a cigarette since." -- Ethel Merman

I am not sure if Ethel Merman was a Christian and I was delighted to read that quote when I Googled for "Quotes on Lent" this evening. In fact, it was the only quote on the season. There were some interesting quotes on the action. Here are a few:

"Every possession and every happiness is but lent by chance for an uncertain time, and may therefore be demanded back the next hour."
--Arthur Schopenhauer

"I have lost my seven best friends, which is to say God has had mercy on me seven times without realizing it. He lent a friendship, took it from me, sent
me another." -- Jean Cocteau

"Jazz has borrowed from other genres of music and also has lent itself to other genres of music." -- Herbie Hancock

So, now you know my secret for finding wonderful quotes -- the trusty Google search. Maybe you thought I was extremely wise and constantly reading wonderful works of literature and taking notes to impart to my friends who read what's hanging on The Refrigerator Door. But probably, you didn't think that. Probably, you had me figured out. I'm pretty transparent.

And my transparency is something that can lead to social exhaustion. People like me this way and I like them. There's so much talking going on all the time. That's why I just love Lent so much. The quiet... It can be so lovely to focus inward and upward instead of back and forth between myself and other people.

Before I move on from the quote theme of this post, I want to tell you that one of the things I enjoyed about the smoking quote is that I really don't think Ethel Merman was a Christian. I mean, I am pretty sure she was Jewish. Maybe someone can enlighten me on that subject. And if she wasn't a Christian and she had a habit of participating in Lent anyway, I have to say, I think that's pretty cool.

I've said in the past that I think Purgatory is one of the best things Catholics have going. I'd have to say that as far as liturgical seasons go, I think Lent is the most spiritually useful. In fact, if I could only take one liturgical season with me on a Desert Island, it would probably be Lent. That's because it is so grounding and so clarifying. I had a fiction-writing teacher who was always trying to save our stories from sounding as though they belonged on the Hallmark Channel. Now, there is nothing wrong with the Hallmark stories. Some of my favorite childhood memories with my mom are sitting and watching those Hallmark movies. But I wouldn't want to be on a desert Island with the Hallmark Channel. That would be frightening!

I'm a girl who needs reality checks on a frequent basis. Lent is an internal reality check. I don't think of the giving up of worldly items as punishment at all. I think it as opporunity to strip away materials that weight down my experience of the ethereal.

In that vein, I have decided to significantly reduce my blogging and internet activity during this season. As some of you know I started a spinoff blog called The Other Refrigerator Door in the Open Salon community. I will be making art-related posts there on Sunday's during Lent. They have a tradition called Good News Sunday and I really enjoyed it the one Sunday I participated.

I'll be wrapping up the Dora Story for this blog by Sunday. It's almost ready but not quite. And from time-to-time as I feel inspired during my meditations, I may post something inspirational at this site.

I am so happy to have this blog -- and the other blog, too. It is wonderful to have audience again. I am not sure exactly what to do about it, though. I could definately spend fourty hours a week writing and reporting. But this is truly free. I am not getting any pay. I don't think most bloggers do earn money at it. So, I am giving some thought to how much time I should spend on the blogs.

During this upcoming Lenten Season I am super excited about painting and grateful for the encouraging audience I have found here in cyberspace.

If you would like to check out the sailing paintings I posted at The Other Refrigerator Door, visit:

Thanks again for your support of my writing and art.

I often ask myself: What Would Dorothy Day Do?

By Patty Maher,

I have lived the Sex in the City lifestyle and it has left me empty. Today I am a liberal in every way -- except I have the sexual and moral values my Orthodox Catholic grandparents had. I am holding out for true love. I'm keepin' my pants on, baby. No kidding, it's been more than four years since I have been with a man. And I like sex; I seriously like it. This isn't easy -- but I believe it's going to be worth it one day.

The fact that I am now a sexually conservative and pro-life liberal is quite alarming to many modern liberals whom I meet. It is as though I am not allowed to feel this way, to think this way. If I am standing in front of another liberal and they find out that I am not super excited about participating in a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, they look at me with alarm. Then it starts to sink in that I am different. And they gaze on me with a sort of pity -- as if the deeper spirituality I have gained through my financial ruin has socially bankrupted me -- and like maybe they could help me just a little by wiping some of the sugar off my face.

It's times like these when I mutter under my breath, my little mantra What Would Dorothy Day Do? After reading her poignant autobiography The Long Loneliness, I believe she is praying for me -- along with my mother, my strong Catholic grandmothers, and the dead Kennedys (who, in the case of the more-recent Kennedys, now see the error of certain ways).

You may laugh, but I do feel I need those prayers from the Catholics in heaven. It gets pretty rough down here being a sexually conservative liberal. I am constantly accused of supporting the oppression of women and gays. I could just keep my mouth shut and never express any political views. But I studied political science and journalism in college and I have interviewed numerous presidential candidates, governors and high-profile statesmen -- Bill Clinton, Robert Kennedy, Jr. (although he is not exactly a statesman), Al Gore, Jennifer Granholm, John Edwards, John Engler, John McCain and Howard Dean, to name a few. I have met Gloria Stienem and, in fact, I have had one of her books autographed -- twice! My perspective is informed. It seems wrong to just shrink away. So again, I pray, What Would Dorothy Day Do?

She would say, I'm a devout Catholic and I fully embrace the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and if the Pope asked me to stop publishing my stories, out of reverence for the Holy Father, I would do so today because my faith means more to me than my stories. But no pope ever asked the American social-activist-hero and candidate for Roman Catholic sainthood to stop writing about the poor, the outcast and the abandoned.

The fact that I am pro-life and sexually conservative does not mean I am a gay-hater. My grandmother was one of the first straight persons who demonstrated to me abiding friendship, loyalty and love toward her gay friends and relatives. She exchanged Christmas cards every year with her childhood friend and his partner who lived in San Fransisco. When my cousin came out as the first lesbian in our family, my grandparents hired her and her partner to do yard work and invited them in for dinner.

Hopefully I pass my grandmother's model of genuine acceptance and love along to my gay friends and relatives. I try to be kind to everyone. But like most humans, sometimes, in all of my relationships, I fall down at love.

I do not think women should be jailed for having abortions. But I do not think any public money should go toward abortion and I do think laws for adoption and foster parenting must be drastically reformed to make it an attractive option. Furthermore there should be more funding for programs that allow for placement of children for a few months or a year -- so that a mother can get back on her feet, finish school, whatever she needs to do to prepare for motherhood. If she wants to keep her baby, every effort should be made to support her with that choice. These are not the olden days where unmarried girls and women were ostracised from society for having sex. We know all about the birds and the bees these days. Why can't we face the consequences with love instead of abortion. People will write to me about the one rare case in which a woman's life was at stake if she didn't have an abortion. Come on, that's not what I am talking about. Abortion is the norm in our Sex-in-t he-City Society and it's a heartbreaking paradigm that we should abandon.

I am alarmed at the rate women in the United States are being coerced and bullied into abortion -- by parents, boyfriends, sexual partners and -- most alarmingly -- by a political system that would rather pay to end a life than to support a life. If you don't believe me, look into the Silence No More campaign, Feminists for Life and the movie Maafa21 and consider the numerous stories of women who could not receive welfare help to raise a child but did receive public funding for abortion. Consider the women who received such public funding for two, three and four abortions and who are today living with the emotional consequences. Consider the historical development of Planned Parenthood. Consider the influence of the racist Planned Parenthood Founder Margaret Sanger and the dark history of the eugenics movement in the United States. What choices are we giving poor women in this country who find themselves pregnant and frightened, really? It seems to me we have become a society that pushes sexual promiscuity and abortion -- and the concept of true love, increasingly, is lost.

I would rather not write about my conservative views on sex and life. It really puts me in a no-win situation. I would rather paint sailboats and tell jokes. But I am constantly feeling the need to explain myself. Most of my friends and family members are liberally-liberally liberals and I love them and agree with them on just about everything but the issues of abortion and sexual license. And let's face it, sex and birth are no small subjects. If not for sex and life, none of us would be here today to argue about this.

Let me just say here that some of my gay friends and family members are among the most sexually responsible people I know. I am not a gay hater. What I do hate is turning on my car radio to listen to a pop station only to hear a disc jockey giving dating advice such as, "Well, I understand that you have been sleeping with her sister for a month; but you know, if you think you have something special with her, you've just got to break it off and test the waters with the younger one. You'll always wonder what you could have had if you don't do it." Seriously, I have heard this advice from a DJ -- and it's just the tip of the popular-radio-dating-advice-iceberg. Trust me, I listen to my car radio. I am from Michigan and I drive everywhere.

If you want to read the story about what led to my pro-life conversion and why I didn't vote for President Obama, read my story Evolution of a Single Issue Voter. I think the problem is that we have become so polarized as a nation. Neither side really represents the average people (whomever they are!) and everything is controlled by special interests and money. A third party isn't what we need to fix things politically in this country. We are in desperate need of serious Campaign Finance Reform. All presidential elections should be 100-percent publicly funded. We need more citizen involvement at the federal level to go along with bipartisan initiatives. How about town-hall meetings across the country on major issues such as health care reform? How about not creating a one-size-fits-all package but letting local governments have community block grants to work out health care, with some basic guidelines. The government started doing this pretty effectively with Department of Housing and Urban Development monies, I think, during the Clinton Administration -- and with community-based policing efforts, too.

We must remember that we are the government. Do we really have to hate our leaders so much just because we didn't vote for them? Just because we can't stand something about something doesn't mean we have to hate them. That's not the way my momma taught me. She always said, "You know dear, you can catch more flies with sugar, than you can with vinegar."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Other Refrigerator Door.... Good News Sunday

Hello Friends of The Refrigerator Door,


If you would like to see my new blog, a spinoff -- with a bit more political commentary and art, visit the site above. They have a tradition called "Good News Sunday." So, I have decided to post art stuff on Sundays. This week, some of my sailing paintings.

Much peace and LOVE,


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine treasure from the mouth of a four-year-old

By Patty Maher,

Being “the favorite aunt” is a position that may be underrated and one I would like to advocate for this Valentine’s Day. There’s nothing like the love of people who are family members – flesh and blood relatives– over whom you have no ACTUAL responsibility but with whom you share fun and games.

It’s the best of all worlds, really.

Today I had a long conversation on the phone with my niece, Angela, who will be the first University of Michigan graduate from our family. I am on the A-list for her graduation ceremony – one of eight people who get to attend. President Obama is speaking and I come from a family of Democrats, so this is quite a prize. I also had quite a long talk with Angela's daughter, Ava Marie, 4, who was a bit distracted today by the idea of playing Candyland with her mother when our conversation ended.

Angela is a single mom but she and Ava Marie live with Ryan, one of the sweetest hoodlums I’ve ever met (He is not Ava's father, but I think he's pretty awesome step-father material and have been dropping hints in that direction). He calls me Aunt Patty, too. In fact, many of my nieces' and nephews' friends call me Aunt Patty – or the shorter and simpler AP. It works for me. I get invited to karaoke parties. In fact, once I was invited to be a judge for the Red Carpet Karaoke “American Idol” event in the basement of the friend of my nephew, Joe. I was supposed to be one of the judges, actually. But I really don’t watch much TV and hadn't really seen a full episode of the popular show, so I was a little uncomfortable with the honor. I did, however, get up and sing “Pour Some Sugar On Me” with my nephew and his friend, Marissa. I was dragged into, it of course. I’ve always been a shy one. Not.

Anyway, I have fun with these people -- my nieces and nephews. They love me no matter what I do -- sort of like puppy love, I suppose (though I have always been a cat person). This is what dog people tell me: Puppy love is "unconditional."

Last week when I took Ava Marie out to Big Boy she informed me of my place in her life.

“Aunt Patty: If my mom dies (again, her mother is my niece and 17-years younger than me, so this isn’t a very likely scenario), you’re going to have to take care of me,” she explained matter-of-factly. “And Ryan’s going to have to move in with you because he’s going to have to help.”

Afterward, I was both touched and worried until I talked about it with Angela and Ryan. They assured me everything is OK and that Ava hasn’t been afraid of death lately. I have spoken to Ava several times since our date at Big Boy and I agree with Angie and Ryan; there’s really nothing to be concerned about.


These people -- my nieces and nephews -- are truly my greatest Valentines ever – however many of them there are these days. Who’s counting? Not me. I’ve really never been good at math or keeping track of things. That’s why I’m such a good aunt, I suppose. I supply them with lots of fun – but they don’t have to rely on me in the end for any type of practical or material support. I support them in the unpractical. I encourage them to charge ahead and not to worry about what people think of them – to be true to themselves. They love me for it. And I totally feel that love. Such was the case last week when I was sitting across from Ava Marie as she was getting whipped cream and hot fudge all over her face at Big Boy.

After establishing that Angela Jean is not anywhere near death and Ava Marie, 4, really isn’t too worried, just planning ahead, I have decided to claim Ava's statement about my place in her life as The Best Valentine Ever.

Thank you nieces and nephews for the love!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Quote & Note

"Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny."

-- Frank Outlaw

I have been a bit discombobulated lately, making some important decisions about my life. During such times, it is easy to rely on fantasy over what might be one day in the future or regret over what has been in the past. Neither form of thinking is useful in the least today.

What is useful for Patty to think about today?

  • Calling my brother and asking for a ride to a family event next Saturday -- because that's good company, saves me gas money -- and it gives him an opportunity to do a simple and useful act of service to me.
  • Sending the invoice for a freelance writing assignment I did recently. I drag my feet on paperwork. It is a necessary part of living in the world and I need to grow up in this area of my life.
  • Grocery shopping.
  • Finding time for quiet and meditation before my day is done. There is a quiet chapel I know that is a very safe place. I can go there 24 hours a day. Lately, I have not been as often as I have in the past. Hmmmm..... I wonder why I have felt discombobulated?

First things first. For today, I need to connect with something greater than myself if I want to be better than I have been the past while. I do want that for myself: less discombulation; more serenity; more quiet; more joy; more ah ha moments.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Quote & Note

"Gratitude is not only the greatest of all virtues, but the parent of all the others." -- Cicero

Still snowing -- the way it should in Michigan in the wintertime. Downtown looked beautiful covered in snow tonight. I was tempted to sit in the Fleetwood Diner and drink coffee for an hour and watch the cars crawl along Ashley Street. If an outdoor table had been cleared, I wouldn't have resisted it. There's something special about the look of that aluminum siding in the snow.

The only thing that's really missing from Downtown Ann Arbor in the wintertime is a skating rink. Wouldn't it be great to have one by the Diag?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Gratitude Quotes for The Refrigerator Door

Feeling so much gratitude, just had to express it in quotations...

"Saying thank you is more than good manners. It is good spirituality." -- Alfred Painter

"You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink." -- G.K. Chesterton

"Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul." -- Henry Ward Beecher

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice. "
-- Meister Eckhart

"OK. I want to say the prayer," Ava Marie Burman, 4, tonight remembering to say grace at the Big Boy, loudly. "OK. Jesus, I want to tell you thank you for my Aunt Patty. Thank you for my mommy and for Ryan. Thank you for my teacher and for my friends. Thank you for the waitress and for everybody. Oh, wait. Thank you for Annie and for Thomas and for Aunt Mary. Umm. Thank you for everything and everybody. OK. I guess that just about does it."

For today, I can appreciate sports fans and sugar eaters

By Patty Maher

I am not a sports fan – but I am a fan of sports fans and children who eat hot-fudge sundaes.

It took me awhile to feel peaceful with Facebook but I think I am starting to find my way and set my boundaries. I’m starting to like it! In fact, I am missing those paper newspapers significantly less this week than I was a week ago. Having a blog helps. It helps a bunch, in fact.

When I first got my Facebook account about a-year-and-a-half-ago, I didn’t have a home computer. I got one about four-months-ago. I know. I know; it’s a little hard to believe. I resist technology and it’s a trait I come by honestly. It follows a matrilineal path in my family.

I graduated from high school in 1983 but I don’t think my mother had an electric-drip-coffee pot or a microwave until about 1990 or so. We didn’t have a dishwasher when I was growing up, either. My mother’s opinion was, “I have four dish washers – their names are Mary, Beth, Kelly and Patty. What would I do with one of those new-fangled contraptions?"

My mother’s mother, Grandma Landsiedel, was quite a glamorous and stylish older woman (she always took me to Hudson’s basement at the Eastland Mall in Detroit to buy stylish discount outfits when I visited her; I loved that woman!). In certain respects she was more modern than my mother. For instance, she was willing to take a risk with her Christmas tree. One year it was all angel hair and blue lights. At our house it was the same every year – heirloom ornaments and multicolor lights (never blinking!). But when it came to technology, my grandmother, like my mother, was never willing to take a risk. Even in the 1980s she used a curling iron that she heated on the stove – or went to the beauty parlor and let the professionals deal with the situation. I asked her once why she didn’t just get an electric curling iron or some hot rollers like everyone else in the world and she looked at me like I was crazy. “I don’t want to electrocute myself!” she said.

I have had an I-pod for more than a year and it still doesn’t have any songs on it. I bought it from a friend for fifty dollars because she felt sorry for me for not having one and she was getting a new one. She threw in a $15 I-Tunes card to get me started. That was back before I had my own home computer. I tried loading my $15 worth of songs from someone else’s computer but I couldn’t figure out how to get them from the computer to the I-pod. I felt badly -- because I hadn’t actually asked the owner of the computer if this would be OK and I was worried I might have exposed the computer to viruses or something. So I ended up dumping all $15 of I-Tunes in the computer’s Recycle Bin.

I have technology phobia; there is no doubt. There is a big part of me that wishes everything could just stay the same! I like antique stores, the olden days, Jane Austin, the BBC. Why does everybody have to make my life so difficult? Why did we even have to have cable TV to begin with? Who needs more than two or three stations? I was just fine with one or two. I was fine with rabbit ears on the roof (of course, I grew up in a large family so we were able to string a chain of people from the living room to the roof to shout out suggestions when the reception needed adjustment during a major show).

I sort of liked it back when everybody was watching the same thing. We could keep track of things so much better. There was way less to keep track of, too. So far I haven’t figured out Net Flicks or even how to operate a DVD. I am still on VHS and it is limiting. Pretty much, I have to watch what’s available at Value World (Yes: I am talking about the thrift store. It’s where I get my movies.).

So, now that you understand that I really am about three-quarters Amish, at least when it comes to technology, you can appreciate why I am so tickled to have my new blog The Refrigerator Door. It took me less-than-two hours to create it. I even figured out the cool click-on-the-refrigerator-door-photo–and-be-in-my-fan-group ALL BY MYSELF! Dang! I did this whole thing ALL BY MYSELF! Me -- daughter of Ann Marie Landsiedel Maher, who resisted a dishwasher and electric-drip coffee maker; granddaughter of Lucille Marie Richards Landiedel, who wouldn’t use an electric curling iron to save her soul. I made a blog! And a blog fan group! Somehow this feels even bigger than my grandmother’s blue-lights-and-angel-hair Christmas Tree.

I am learning to accept that technology is here to stay; well, at least until it changes again in ten minutes. I have some catching up to do. That’s OK. I want to stay connected. I don’t want to join the Amish. I like the people who provide my daily news feed. I really, really like them! I want to read my Facebook Newsfeed and know about what all the sports fans, political activists, chocolate eaters and shock-jock radio listeners are doing this week. They're my friends -- from elementary school, college, my career as a journalist, my church, my sailing club. I see more of them with Facebook than I expected. At times it has felt like too much information. But I think I am over that adjustment period. I think I can take it now. If someone is really irritating, I just hide their status updates. I don't have to get worked up about it.

Now that I have my own little blog, I can wander out to Live News Feed Street knowing I have a cozy and warm cyber home of my own, my blog, The Refrigerator Door.

I don’t have much to offer the Facebook commentaries on the Super Bowl. But then, I've never had much to say about football. Some of my happiest memories are at sporting events, though. I wasn’t watching the games. I was watching the half-time shows and the peanut-vendors and, most of all, the happiness on the faces of the people who took me to the games -- my mother, my grandfather, old boyfriends. I can’t eat ice-cream sundaes myself because I can’t tolerate sugar. But I had the best time this evening watching my four-year-old niece eat a hot-fudge sundae at the Big Boy.

I am seeing more of people on Facebook – more of their family photos, recipes, political views, sporting loyalties, religious activities. Sometimes it seems to get a little mean spirited and sometimes I have wanted to fix everybody – to make people get along better, to make everyone more objective, to make people more JUST LIKE ME!

But, for today,I don’t have to fix anybody and I don’t have to become a sports fan or a hot-fudge sundae eater. I can be happy to have friends who are different from me. It would be a pretty boring world if everyone were like me.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Courage quotes

The Refrigerator Door has received a request for quotes about courage. Here are gems for those of us who can benefit from more of that virtue...

"If we are growing, we are always going to be out of our comfort zone."
-- John Maxxwell

"Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think. Christopher Robin to Pooh."
-- A.A. Milne

"He lives the poetry that he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare not realise."
-- Oscar Wilde

"A ship is safe in a harbour. But that's not what ships are for."
-- William Shedd

Quotes for the Refrigerator Door

From Simone Weil...

"All sins are attempts to fill voids."

"The poet produces the beautiful by fixing his attention on something real."

"Humanism was not wrong in thinking that beauty, liberty, and equality are of infinite value, but in thinking that man can get them for himself without grace."

Editor's note: I love Simone Weil and think she is among the greatest philosophers. I was thinking last night about who has signed on as a "fan" of this blog and it made me think that, in a way, my personality is perhaps the polar opposite of Simone Weil's although I think our values are quite similar. Weil valued her objectivity and fairness to all people to such a degree that it kept her from joining any groups. She led a solitary life. She found her spirituality in being an outsider.

I cannot tolerate solitude for too long. And during periods in my life when I have not been actively employed as a journalist, I have tended to jump in and belong to groups and causes -- groups and causes that seem sometimes like contradictions although to me they are not at all contradictory. I have protested causes on the left and on the right at different times. Now I see fair percentage of my blog fans are political activists of one type or another.

It will be an interesting ride for us! I really look forward to the honor of writing stories that will, hopefully, generate thoughtful commentary from people with very different opinions.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Quote for the Refrigerator Door

"Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.”

-- Ashley Smith


Today I am working a long day for a Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. On days such as this one I find it is especially important to appreciate the littlest bits of beauty all around me.

I will bring a favorite coffee mug to work with me and when I stop in the grocery store to buy a block of cheese for my lunch and dinner, I will breathe and enjoy the moments away from work, looking at all the beautiful people in the store. I shop at Trader Joe's most of the time. It is a great place for people watching and the people there are so friendly.

Accepting that my day will be long and appreciating each little opportunity for beauty helps me to have a happy attitude throughout the day. It relieves me from the anger and stress I see so many people experiencing. I feel happy this morning, knowing I do not have to feel those toxic feelings of anger and stress.

I will have some coffee in a pretty mug. I think today I will use a ceramic mug that my sister gave me for my birthday a few years ago. It is genuine pottery and has pictures of cats on it. I will probably have some tea in that same pretty mug. I haven't yet had breakfast because I was up too late! But when I have breakfast, I will add cocoa to my hot cereal because that gives me a smile (I use unsweetened cocoa and add Splenda because I cannot tolerate sugar).

I will be a blessing to those whom I meet today as much as that is possible. I will pay attention to them. That is the biggest gift I can give the people around me. I will call my niece and see if I can stop by and see her and her baby for a few minutes on my way home from work. If that doesn't work out, maybe I will stop by a bookstore and look for a new copy of Memoirs of a Geisha. I want to read that book again and don't have it anymore. It is such a sad and beautiful book.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Quote for the Refrigerator Door & Notes

"If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”

-- Albert Einstein


Quotes quotes quotes Maybe not every single day, but probably most days, I will share a favorite quote with you. I am always reading them because they inspire me. Albert Einstein, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Thornton Wilder and Oscar Wilde are some of my favorite quote suppliers. They have had some especially profound and succinct words about life.

Share your experiences with me for my next story I am working on a story about hate speech and mean speech online. I hope to post it next Thursday before noon. If you have felt verbally attacked -- or witnessed someone else getting verbally beaten up during comments and posts that follow online stories, please share your experience with me. You can message me on Facebook or e-mail me at

Join my Facebook blog fan group and make my day! If you are on Facebook and haven't joined The Refrigerator Door group yet, consider joining. I will message people in that group after I post significant stories to the blog. To be honest with you, it just feels so sweet to have my blog readers collected together in one Facebook group like a family. So much easier for me to see your beautiful, smiling faces. The friend of mine who encouraged me to start the blog suggested I really ought to have a "fan page." I may do that, too. But probably not for a few weeks. For now, just click on the refrigerator photograph in the left column of this blog and you will be routed directly to the group.

Much gratitude to my blog readers! Thanks again for your support of this blog. I am genuinely learning as I go and I am so happy to have you along for the ride! If you have suggestions for improving this blog, please let me know.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Take Care Out There With Cyber Romantic Interests

By Patty Maher

I just “unfriended” a handsome actor from Seattle on Facebook. On my birthday, a month-and-a half earlier, I blocked communication from a Philadelphia salesman on a faith-based dating site where I have been a low-key member for nearly a year.

The handsome actor kept posting videos and status updates that seemed to directly speak to MY heart. For instance, the day after I changed my profile picture to a white rose (long story; and yes, I admit I have tendencies towards melodrama!), he posted a link to an exquisitely performed rendition of the opera "Flower Duet."

About a week earlier, after he had picked an e-snowball fight with me, he had written in his status update that his resolution for the New Year was not to become a “clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk.” I have a special relationship with the Wizard of Oz and he knows it and so I assumed he was telling ME that he felt like the Tin Man and was afraid of what might happen to his heart. I e-mailed him a link to Judy Garland singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to console him. Yesterday was the last straw.

I found myself feeling like I was falling in love with him. I am not going to lie to you, I was thinking about wedding dresses! I am a fairly rational woman. I don’t go around falling head-over-heels in love with people all the time. But his seemingly romantic status updates had come to feel as if he was standing right outside my bedroom window, singing love songs and waving Valentines. My computer is in my bedroom, partially explaining why it felt that way. But I think it is pretty easy to slip into a pit of unreality on the internet – even for realistic people such as me.

I had to call him on it. I had to get a reality check. And I have to tell you, twenty-four hours ago I absolutely expected that he was going to tell me that he was the man for me and had, indeed, developed an indirect way of expressing it. I wrote to him and explained what I was feeling and what he seemed to be communicating to me. He seemed a bit alarmed. He even accused me of being “passive aggressive.” He said he meant nothing by posting the "Flower Duet" except to share a beautiful piece of art with his Facebook buddies and he was sorry that I had somehow taken it as being related to me. Now hearing THAT response was a little embarrassing, and to be honest with you, I am not sure that I totally believe it. I think to a certain degree he was knowingly being provocative.

But then I took another look at his “Wall” and noticed that it wasn’t just me whom he was provoking. He had quite a following with the ladies! In fact, since we had become Facebook buddies, only once had a male responded to any of his posts. But nearly every time he posted, there was quite a group of ladies ready to express approval or join in the conversation. One of his friends had been even more moved by "Flower Duet" than I had, apparently. She wrote “So beautiful, it made me cry!” He had called her “Babe” in a response to her comment about one of his posts about a week earlier. It strikes me as a bit odd that I didn’t notice his disproportionate male-female Facebook friend ratio earlier. But when you are falling in love, you believe what you want to believe. You see what you want to see. Love is blind. That’s ALWAYS a problem, but it seems especially problematic on the internet.

To give myself a bit of a break, the guy wasn’t some random person who I just added to my list of Facebook friends. We had bumped into each other on the same faith-based dating site where I “met” the Philly salesman. The handsome actor knew I had had a bit of a crush on him, had suggested several months earlier that he would love to be my “prince” if it would be God’s will and had been the one to suggest that we keep in touch via Facebook.

Since my divorce in January 2000, I have dabbled in internet dating here and there and mostly found it unsatisfactory. I don’t really like it. But I am over 40 now, hope for a partner who shares my faith background and I know several people who have had success finding mates at this particular dating site. As far as dating sites go, it is supposed to be a very good one. So far it isn’t generating a relationship, though, and I am on the verge of quitting it altogether. My experience with the Philly salesman was very odd. His family is fairly prominent in the social circles of our particular religion. He has an uncle who is high ranking and considered to be very holy and he made it a point to mention this in his biography. We started talking on the phone within the first week of writing and this was a refreshing change.

We seemed to have much in common. He was warm and funny and, best of all, he could out talk me. Any man who can out talk ME has my respect. We talked for three hours, then for two. The third time he called to talk I had to get off the phone because I was going out with some friends to celebrate my birthday which was the next day. I came home and found that he had e-mailed me. I was happy and expected a birthday greeting. Instead, he had written to say: “By the way, my balls are the size of pumpkins!”

I didn’t like that. I have become sexually modest as I have increasingly embraced the religion of my childhood and he had been aware of my feelings in this area and, I thought, shared them. Still, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. We live in a fallen world, I decided. He’s just trying to be funny and he’s awkward. He isn’t trying to offend me. So, I wrote him back and told him I didn’t like what he had said and that even though I had not always been sexually modest, I am today and I am looking for a partner who respects that.

He wrote back to say: “You’re too uptight.” I wrote him again to say that I may be uptight but this is how I feel and I thought he knew that. This was my birthday, mind you, and he was aware of that. He wrote back to say: “Well I SURE am glad that I started writing to you!” That was it for me. He didn’t respect my feelings. I blocked communication with him feeling bothered that I had allowed him to have six hours of my time on the phone preceding my birthday and that I hadn’t even received an e-card to note the special occasion.

The good news for me is I have very, very good real life friends who are always there for me when I need to talk and process such experiences. I think it is extremely important to have good friends. This is especially true for anyone who spends time on internet dating or social networking sites and those of us who do socialize on the internet should be certain spend even more time face-to-face and on the phone with real people with whom we share real life experiences and history. My “real people” saved my butt this week!

When I found myself all caught up in the "Flower Duet" and thinking about wedding dresses, I phoned a good friend of mine who is a Jewish mom and a psychologist. I love her; she usually never tells me what I want to hear! If not for her wisdom, I might still be imagining myself in an Opera with an actor from Seattle whom I have never met.

As I was drifting along a river of fantasy while talking to my friend, she said: “Patty, have you met this person?” I said: “No.’ She said: “And you’re falling in love with him?” I admitted: “Yes.” She said: “Well WHY haven’t you met him yet if you have been writing since April?” I said: “Well first he was on an island and he couldn’t get off (he was acting, summer theater) and THEN he had some important personal things that he had to take care of so we quit writing for several months. Now we have only been writing again for about a month…” She broke in: “Patty, I just want you to know the battery on my phone is going here and if it quits, I did not hang up on you… So, you have been writing this guy for a month?” I said: “Yes. One month.” She said: “And you think he’s in falling in love with you?” I said: “Yes, I do!” She said: “So what’s the hold up? Why isn’t he meeting you?” I explained: “Well NOW his mother is getting chemo and he’s under a lot of stress. I guess she has cancer.” My friend said, just before her phone went dead: “Well you need to meet this man! I don’t understand what the holdup is. Seattle isn’t that far if he wants to meet you. My father was dying when my husband and I met…’

Dead air, her battery died – but not before she imparted JUST ENOUGH Jewish-psychologist-mom wisdom to shake me back to reality. Is the actor guy from Seattle in love with me? No. Is he ever going to be in love with me: probably not! Do I really want some guy who (assuming he genuinely lacks material resources) hasn’t stolen himself away on a freight train to come and see me by now when he has known of my lovely existence for almost a year? ABSOLUTELY NOT! I saw He’s Just Not That Into You. I know how these things work. The guy isn’t interested. Not interested. So why did he ever want to become my Facebook buddy to begin with and what was with the snowball fight and the seemingly romantic posts? Who knows?! Who cares?!

Ladies (and gentleman!), take care out there in cyberspace. It’s a dangerous place for those of us who grew up reading Jane Austin or Danielle Steele. When I was a reporter for the Battle Creek Enquirer in the late 1990s I had the opportunity in interview then-AOL-Online-Dating-Specialist, Dr. Kate Wachs author of Dr. Kate’s Love Secrets, published by Paper Chase Press. Dr. Wachs, made the following recommendations for online dating:

• Don’t befriend anybody who lives more than two hours away. Long-distance relationships pose problems.
• Don’t give out any personal information until you have met the guy several times.
• Meet at a public place and bring a friend with you if possible, even if just to hang out at a separate table while you meet the guy.
• Meet as soon as possible. If you don’t you may fall into the trap of an unrealistic fantasy about the person.

I thought I was a good enough judge of character and had been around the world enough that I didn’t have to follow the love doctor’s suggestions quite so rigidly. Nobody was going to pull the wool over my eyes! It doesn’t matter. Even if a guy isn’t trying to be evasive, the online communication methods are fraught with opportunities to live in La La Land. So, even if you think you know better, even if the guy seems kind and sweet and innocent – don’t fall in love online! And if you find yourself headed in that direction RUN to the nearest telephone and call your favorite Jewish-mother-psychologist friend IMMEDIATELY and LISTEN to what she has to say.

Also, I highly recommend that people don’t “friend” former love interests or potential love interests. For a week or so before I unfriended the actor, I thought I was getting addicted to Facebook. I don’t think that’s the case. What WAS addictive was not Facebook itself but rather the excitement of looking in on a prospective love interest or wondering what he was thinking about my status updates and posts. THAT was driving me crazy. From now on, no old boyfriends or potential boyfriends are allowed in my Facebook “friend” collection. Nobody gets in until I have an engagement ring on my finger. Of course there is the possibility that one of my friends could become a romantic interest in the future. I have made a pact with myself: if it happens, I will drop him as a Facebook friend and let the relationship blossom offline.

Reality is way better than fantasy land, especially when you make the effort to connect regularly with people who care about you. We all have those people. We must pull ourselves away from our computers and hang out with them face-to-face on a regular basis!