Friday, September 29, 2006

An Ugly Lesson About Kiddie Pornography.

I made a mistake on the Internet. I am a webmaster for a local church. Many of our people are brand-new computer users. Both the children and adults have flocked to some "coloring book" pages I posted on the site. You don't have to download anything. The picture and colors are all on the website. Since I had such a positive response to this particular type of activity, I began to search for more of the same.

I did a Google Search for "on-line coloring books". I clicked on the first listed entry. I was directed to a child friendly page consisting of exactly the kind of content I'm interested in. In order to enter the site I had to give a screen name and a real email address. Well, I figured I'd get spam, but I wanted to see more of this site. I was impressed enough to contact the email address provided in the "about us" section.

I never received a reply, from my inquiry. But I now have some of the nastiest spam I've ever encountered in my adult life. I am not opposed to the occasional off-color joke, or pun, but true pornography disgusts me. What I've been seeing in my spam file makes my skin crawl. Not only am I offered sex, but sex with under-aged partners (yes, both boys and girls)! This stuff is not subtle and is coming in to the tune of 40 emails a day! About the only thing I haven't been offered is a romp with a farm animal. But I'm sure I'll be getting those next week.

I am deeply troubled by this incident. First of all. The site looks totally harmless. I could have unknowingly linked this site right into my church's site, where this filth would have hit an inexperienced computer population of users. I could have let my child go on this site. Parents, maybe it isn't a good idea to give your child their own email, just to protect them from this kind of thing.

I intend to research to see if I can take legal action against this type of site. This is clearly a site set up looking for pedophiles. I can't sit by and not try to stop what these people are doing.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Joy of Being Pampered: The Beauty Shop.

I love getting my hair done professionally. I have no clue about what looks good on me, or the desire to learn. I want to go from shower to life without pausing to fiddle with either make-up, or my hair. Enter God's perfect solution: my beautician. Oh, what a gift she is!

She refers to herself as: "a hair diva". She is young, gentle and totally serious about her line of work. Not all beauticians are created equal. I have been man-handled by foreign speaking ladies who rivaled my drunken aunt with their styling technique. I've also paid good money for professional work, where strangers would stop me in the street inquiring: "What happened to your hair?" When you find a good beautician, treasure them, tip them well and remember to share how grateful you are for their skill and dedication.

For all of us child abuse refugees, pampering is far more then a luxury of the wealthy. For myself, I find pampering is healing for my soul. I look forward to my beauty appointments, as I do to my vacations. Both experiences seem to be restorative.

My salon is both a "day spa" and beauty shop. It is pricey and up-scale. You can get a facial, or a massage, as well as getting your hair done. To get a wash, trim, color and highlight will run around $100. Yes, I have expensive tastes. But, there is a way to get a price break.

This salon believes in a type of on-going training / practice for their people. If you are willing to let your beautician expand their horizons, everything is half price. Other then giving me a green tinted Mohawk, my beautician is free to experiment. This is a real blessing for me, as $100 every six weeks would be impossible. $50, is much more do-able.

Upon arriving at my appointment, I am served coffee, and sometimes a snack, of my choice. While I wait there are expensive fashion magazines to keep me entertained. The atmosphere is very pleasant and relaxed. Unless Miss Prissy comes to call.

I am amazed at how some customers treat the staff like servants, or even pets. I marvel at the restraint the employees have with this type of treatment. I wouldn't last very long dealing with: "oh! I made a 4:35 appointment and you are LATE! I made this appointment last WEEK!" Nose held high in the air, as they basically make a public scene. I do not clean homes for customers who try that routine on me. Hats off to the fine beauticians. They take it all in stride - causing peace to return to their shop.

I was also mildly shocked to hear my stylist share how some of her "friends" come over to her home, on her day off, informing her that she can cut their hair! Trust me, on my day off I DO NOT do housework and she doesn't mess with her own hair! How entirely rude! My x-husband was a TV repair guy and "friends" would come over claiming that they just "happened" to have their 21 inch console TV in the car. Could he take a look at it? He'd tell them to bring it to the shop like everyone else!

It is true, housekeepers sometimes live in a mess, accountants occasionally keep lousy personal records and hair divas don't do hair on their own time. I can sure relate. I come home after making someone else's home look beautiful, pondering my organized chaos. Do I want to pick this place up? The short answer: NO! Well, now you know the truth.

My "hair Diva" is in a new and successful relationship. We chat about our lives and she is as grateful for her life, as I am for mine. Her gentle touch is so soothing. I'm toying with the temptation of an outrageously expensive facial, just to get some more of her gentle manner. No wonder sweet Maria likes scalp massages. I may ask her to give me one! My goodness, this last appointment at the beauty shop was just luscious.

The appointment begins with a leisurely shampoo-rinse-condition and a final rinse. My hair diva takes extra time, just because she knows I like it. Then she takes a long time to sculpt my style. She puts in the effort to do it right. Next she mixes up my hair color and dabs it on with a little paint brush. I then get more coffee and let things set up for about 20 minutes. She then completes the final styling and blow-drying. Almost two hours of heaven.

I then purchase one $20 to $30 bottle of shampoo, or conditioner. I love the smell and feel of my hair with their expensive products. I have decided that inexpensive shampoos are no more, as they tend to take the color right out of my hair. The salon products leave me feeling so pretty. Yes, its an illusion, but hey, life is to be enjoyed. What I put into my looks, you might choose to lavish on your car, or your wardrobe. We all have something. So, I leave you now, feeling beautiful, but needing to tend to my church's website.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Happy Mind Attached To A Tired Body.

Seems like I should have a party or something. I believe this will be post one hundred for this blog. Here is a paradox. Mentally, I am content and at peace, while my body is tired enough to give me the illusion of being depressed.

Yes, ladies, when that change of life stuff starts, they aren't kidding! "Change", how about: "the total physical upheaval of your entire body"? For my male readers - you all can look it up, the symptoms are well known and complained about by all of us females, at one time, or another. Mentally I have much joy, so it is easy to let my body do its thing without giving too much attention to it.

CyberGal is actually toying with the idea of making friends with a foreign concept: patience. Yes, I realize it may shock some of you, but we had a sermon on it recently. I realize that gunning my emotional motor over things I can't change is silly. I spend far too much time whining to God about how slow my little computer is. Why is it slow? I'm running five heavy duty applications, for starters! So, I realize that again, I have to remember the dreaded concept from recovery: ACCEPTANCE IS THE SOLUTION TO ALL MY PROBLEMS.

The computer is only slow when I compare how it runs using only one heavy duty application, instead of five. So, I can now free up my energy for something more constructive. Same idea when folks are late to arrive at church. I got a real clear reminder that I am not Holy Spirit Jr., and I need to stop acting like I'm losing $1,000 for every five minutes I wait for someone to come to church. I can always try something novel, while i wait, like, pray for the millions of things which prayer can improve. Prayer may even mellow my attitude, God can do all things, but only if I yield the driver's seat of my life to Him.

But, I do rejoice in my spirit. I have enough emotional and physical health and strength to actually be there for someone else. Not necessarily as a counselor, but just a buddy as we experience life together. Every time I can do something fun with another person, where they seem a bit happier for me having been there, I am telling God "thank-you". I have wonderful friends, spread across the planet. Some are coffee-and-a-good-laugh folks, while others are people I truly have trusted with my soul.

In recovery they used to teach that there are three things one must have to enjoy life:

  • Something to do.
  • Somewhere to go.
  • And, someone to be with.
For far too many years, there were no friends, or running buddies. Today that is all changed. I have all three elements. Interesting mental work, and part-time housework, where I actually get a bit of physical exercise. As for places to go, i have short term and long term goals in that area. Various dining and shopping adventures are always close at hand, but by far, the biggest fun is the endless planning and re-planning of my week-long vacation in October of 2007 back to Boston.

By the gentle assistance of Maria, I'm actually putting money in the bank for this vacation. As 2007 rolls into view, I'll be finalizing my tentative vacation plans. For now, my goal is: six days and five nights in Boston. I want to arrive a day before the first Ig Nobel Prize presentation and leave on a Monday morning, so I can have a full day of church activities on Sunday.

Since I will have my walker in tow, I can actually take walking tours and visit some of the many historical sites Boston offers. I also look forward to meeting up with a few friends from that general area of the country. It will also be a photography paradise - fall in New England. Oh, swoon!

Let's not forget the interesting dining that awaits an eager California tourist. I want to enjoy it all. I also will have the proper additional cell phone service, where I can touch base with folks in California, to let them know they are privileged to receive a call, all the way from Boston. Half the fun of this kind of adventure is getting on the phone with sweet Maria and telling her all about it.

I also have the joy of a "normal" life. I do things everyone else does, instead of taking private trips in emergency vehicles to "closed" wards. I was riding our local bus from Smart & Final, a small warehouse store, to church, last week. I was all dressed up with my bible book bag and a large frozen sheet cake in tow. I remember when I was in my twenties and doing "normal" stuff. I was truly an emotional vacuum waiting to implode. Today I am healthy and very sure of who I am and where I'm going.

I don't have that nagging feeling of "faking it". I know this healthy life is real and stable. I pray my heart-felt thanks to God for bringing me through some very difficult times. Now, I help my friends and my church to accomplish things. We were holding a fund-raising dinner. For $10 I enjoyed some serious down-home soul food, topped off with the German Chocolate cake I brought in with me to Sunday School.

I also am rebuilding my music collection. I ordered a CD from Japan, by Marianne Faithfull for one song I have been trying to re-capture for eight years. Much to my real surprise, not everyone "likes" her voice. I always wanted to sound like her when I sing. Phillip, ponders why I: "want to sound like a wounded animal." Figuring his reaction was out of the ordinary, I checked with another musician I know. She doesn't like Marianne Faithfull's voice either! I laugh at the good-natured fun. I console myself with the knowledge: everybody has a right to be wrong (giggle)

I am always grateful when bus drivers lower the steps (on the older buses) for me and my walker. Since I'm basically relaxed and happy, the world around me seems to be a much nicer place. Jesus said you have to keep your focus on good things, not bad things. If your focus is correct your whole body is full of light. It is nice to have simple, polite chats with other riders, as we go our various ways. Two young mothers were sharing about how breast feeding seems to be better for their children. The kids were ill on the bottled formulas. I am happy to be alive and living a regular, not always exciting life.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Freedom Of Structure: Ad Campaign, Take Two!

Yesterday I posted about my startling entry into the world of commercial making. Phillip seemed enthused and gave me feedback that made sense. So, back to my computer I went to have a second try for a commercial to sell his pod cast.

On one level I really have graduated from the out-of-control ego which hampered my life and human relationships for years. I don't greet the dawn with nausea, or worse due to performance anxiety. I don't need to drink or drug myself senseless to run from the mountain of fear that I'm just not good enough. God has delivered me from those two terrible conditions.

I realized this morning, in mild shock, that Phillip wasn't as enthralled with my second submission, as I'd imagined he'd be. I truly thought I'd taken it over the top. That my little 42 seconds would be swooped up by my friend with apologies that he couldn't pay me what it was worth! Well, I can dream, can't I? Of course, but now I had more feedback. Feedback which appeared to be challenging one of the cornerstones of my project.

He suggested I change the emphasis. Oooh! To possibly remove my brilliant application of a sound effect? Parish the thought! (uh, oh, that feels like the old pride bush has sprouted over something new.) After mulling this unanticipated situation over and FINALLY remembering to pray to God to get my ego out of this project, I realized I had run out of bright ideas. Yes, even though it would kill me, I could consider removing a sound effect, rewriting the theme, or whatever, but HOW?

It occurred to me that I started this project with hands-on stuff. Just jumped right out there and made a commercial. Now, I truly need to read something about advertising. I need some kind of structure, theory or pattern. Sadly, I have no clue as to how to continue.

Looking for books on advertising is almost as daunting a task, as looking for books about starting a business selling on eBay. A lot of expensive fluff out there! So, I found a "no, no" ebook about what NOT to do in advertising by a guy whose got a track record He claims he has been around, blah, blah, blah. I read enough of the book to know that this guy seemed to be grounded in reality and hate fluff as much as I do.

His basic idea is that advertising isn't complex. Most of it is done wrong because they break basic marketing rules. He goes into an amusing rant about how he came to be God's Representative for the Rules, but I digress.

He then proposed that true creativity comes forth best in a restricted environment. Metered poetry instead of free verse, for example. He observed that kids need rules to thrive. No rules for children gives them too many choices too early in their development With too many choices, they get overwhelmed and insecure. Bells began to ring in my mind.

I have always wondered why a religious discipline seems to work so well for me. I know what is expected and therefore don't have to waste my time trying to guess how to function in my church, or in my life. (I really enjoy finding secular support for what God claims is correct. Adults need structure too). What has me staggered are the thousands of options my mind has for my little commercial. I have no idea of the theory of good advertising and therefore I have absolutely no place to start from.

For those of you curious about a good overview of advertising I'll provide a link to the book. Done with wonderful humor, you get to experience the good, the bad and mainly the tacky, in advertising.

And Now A Few Words From Me

I sense I've stumbled onto yet another key to my recovery. Sane rules and structure encourage, not retard creativity and growth. What a concept! I have gotten well enough to judge the sane from the insane, as far as structure goes. I used to believe that rules and discipline were the enemy of my soul. Rationally and sanely applied, they very well might be the wind beneath my wings.

So, after a few weeks of study, I'll once again tackle my little commercial. Phillip has no trouble letting me know when something I do, is not ready for prime time. I believe I still might actually end up producing a useful ad. I sure like the challenge. And, if not, I have yet another chance to do some pruning on that ever-present crab grass of the soul: my pride bush.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I Created My First Promotional Campaign!

This is proof positive that Jesus Christ can and does change peoples hearts and lives from the inside outward. For those of you who have followed this blog for awhile, it is not news that for most of my 53 years I've been an emotional train wreck. I was punished so severely, in an undisciplined manner, that I refused to do anything, unless I was sure I would ace it. You can't learn new things with that kind of attitude. I also used to live for the "goal" and ignore the pain of the "process" of achieving the "goal". If you can't stand studying accounting, or any kind of mathematics, you should not think that becoming a CPA will make you happy. Trust me, it won't. You hated the training - you're gonna hate the job at the end of that training.

I continue to grow and change. I notice I am no longer afraid to try something totally new, even risking looking a bit foolish, as I learn. Only God could create that radical a change in this terrified child. I started this growth groping my way through a rough process of developing the web site for my church. Phillip was a major source of help and encouragement, until I gained a bit of confidence. Phillip, is also a mentor for me.

I tend to watch what he does and experiment with it, to see if I like the activity. Since Phillip never met something new he didn't like, he is always doing new things, or changing old things around. He told me that one of his pod casts was losing audience and he needed to get some promos out to remind people of his pod cast. I've discovered, among other things, that I'm a natural promoter. If I think you are cool, I'll talk you up to anyone and everyone.

I'm 53 going on 12. I have this lovely illusion, that I can accomplish almost anything, as long as I start small. So, never having studied advertising, broadcasting or marketing, I sat down to whip out a commercial for Phillip's pod cast! Only total ignorance of the process encourages such leaps into the unknown.

I love the commercials that are like little stories, especially, if they are humorous. So, I found a few cool sound effects on the web, fired up Garage Band and hobbled together my first ever promo! Phillip had already alerted me to the reality that he knows what he wants to do and where he wants to go with the show and the odds of me matching that were slim. In other words, he probably wouldn't use whatever I created.

After 20 years of being too sick to be in the game of life at all, I really don't care if my work gets used, or not. I am just so thankful to have the strength and emotional energy to make a commercial, at all! I learned in computer programming: if you hate the training, you aren't going to like the job either!

I struggled to be a programmer, got there and realized I was happier as a data entry operator! I want to explore different activities, to see if I like them enough to continue to work at them. I think this stage of life is worked on by most 12-year-old children. So, I got my file together and actually had the guts to email it to Phillip.

I fully expected him to react like he did with a piece of novel-writing I'm attempting. Basically, I need to do some spade work with grammar and technique. In short: don't quit cleaning houses just yet. Phillip liked my promotion idea, but wanted me to go further with it. "You done good!" I am pondering the changes I want to make now. I figured he'd glean some idea from my attempt and run with it. How amazing that I actually came up with something he likes as a promotional idea. God is so awesome. God has given me courage in place of terror and gratitude in place of an out-of-control ego. I am just so thankful to be participating in this game of life.