Finding real connection

Every cell phone commercial I see these days disturbs me.

Wherever I go, I find people on their phones, talking, texting, cruising the Web. Everywhere. Everyone. The phenomenon seems to have created a second culture of Netizens who are disconnected from the real world.

 They live for Facebook, where they can have 1,567 or more friends they hardly know. But they have them.  The number right there, that picture is proof how many people care about them. People give them cows, and mystery eggs, and hearts and bundles of roses and click when they like their posts, even if they have no idea who they are. They update their page continually, not wanting to miss the least bit of information about anything, even that in which they have no meaningful stake whatsoever.

They carry cell phones everywhere, to Wal-Mart, to restaurants, even into public restrooms, because they’re too important to miss a call. Not just adults–kids four, five years old. What does a five year old have to say that’s so important she needs her own phone?!

Even clients I’ve represented, who have to ask for court-appointed representation because they can’t afford a lawyer, have cell phones for every member of their family. They can’t let a call pass, either. Even when they’re meeting with me. Because Great-Aunt Beulah’s Sunday dinner plans are more important than attorney time they don’t have to pay for.

People at church use cell phones and Internet access to read Bible passages along with the pastors. People with kids use their cell phones to keep their children entertained in public. People use their cell phones to take themselves away from the world and into a place where they feel important and connected.

It’s not just America, either. In India, about half the population have cell phones; only one-third of the population have access to toilets. Is that really progress?

Amanda at Pandagon cites a TED presentation by Stefana Broadbent on how technology shouldn’t be blamed for the change, because what is happening is actually a positive connection to families and friends 24-7, as it used to be in the old days. Work and home used to be connected, nearby, and everyone worked and socialized together. Over the years the mindset had become that work was work and home was home, and you couldn’t have personal phone calls, or radio or television, and people were cut off during the workday. So this has changed the game rules somewhat.

Redford Williams, who directed a Duke study in 1992 on heart patients and their relationships, found that “Besides potentially making us more lonely, not having as many close confidants can affect both physical and mental health, such as a creating a higher risk for depression and high blood pressure.” The question remains, are these quasi-friends really people who will support us in our hour of need?

Perhaps the advent of Facebook and other technologies has served to make the opportunity to connect with others. I’ve been a Netizen for nearly twenty years, and I’d have to admit most of my close friends are those I’ve met online. 

It could be that, as the ABC article says, “A smaller inner circle among parents also may impact their kids… parents need to demonstrate to their kids the joys of interacting with people.”  We don’t always do that, although we have met most of our online friends in person, and continue to do so. It’s just that our rural area doesn’t always have a lot of interesting people, people with open minds and liberal views about things, that we’d like to meet.

But for me, I worry as people seem to use their phone/handheld Internet access as a soporific, something that consumes all their time while they remain oblivious to huge issues that are going on in the world around them. That little bit of focus shouldn’t be someone’s whole world. I hope they learn to reach out.

As promised, a new page

Since I’m apparently going to be a “real” writer, it’s time to unveil my new writer’s site, entitled “The Growing Works of Barbara Mountjoy.” I know I said I thought it would find a home at WordPress, but I couldn’t find a template that worked for me there. So please stop by and check it out!

The contract on the novel is on its way to me, but the publisher and I have already had extensive conversation about the very real possibility of a series to follow this novel, complete with potential plots and details. The artist is available to work this summer on the project, so perhaps some six months from now we will all be able to hold a copy of “The Elf Queen” in our hot little hands. I know I can’t wait.

Stay tuned for further good words! If you’re a writer feeling like your day will never come (like I did last week), I urge you to hang in there and keep trying. The success is even sweeter after the struggle. I promise.

Monday might be my new favorite day!

This morning I sit down to my computer and open my email to find this:

BARBARA:  We have read your manuscript, TAKE ME ALIVE, and would very much like to contract it.

There are a few minor point-of-view (POV) issues, but those will be easy to
address.  In fact, I have already marked and edited most of them, as I read
the manuscript myself over the last few days.  The original reader was
delighted by the book, as was I.  In fact, I just stayed up all night finishing the last few chapters. <smile>

Before we go any further, though, I need to know if you would be amenable to re-naming the book THE ELF QUEEN?  Or do you have another idea for the
title? I believe THE ELF QUEEN puts a stronger fantasy spin on the book and is (possible spoilers eliminated here) What do you think?  <fingers crossed>

The manuscript is in such good shape, that it will not take the editor long
to get it ready for production.  That means it is “possible” that we might
be able to release it by this fall, if you would like that.  The only reason
I hesitate to say for sure is that I have to get cover art commissioned, and
I never know what the artists will say about their schedules (especially
over the summer) until I ask.

Therefore, if you are willing to change the title, I can draw up a contract
and have it in the mail to you in just a couple of days…

So….everyone who thinks I’m just a little bit thrilled, raise their hands.  Yeah, I thought so.

Details to follow. Stay tuned, my friends.

Drugs are bad, so…let’s give him drugs?

In an effort to greenify our world a bit (and uncomplicate our lives) we decided it was  time to try a local doctor to prescribe Doctor Do-be-do’s ADD meds, instead of making a seventy mile round trip to Erie every other month. We made an appointment for him to see the same local psychiatrist  Little Miss sees for hers.

I guess I’d forgotten how that doctor was. After all, he prescribed talk therapy for her to get into her feelings about having autism and how that depressed her. Seeing as she operates on about an eight-year-old level, with delayed language and is about the happiest person I know….right. No sense at all. How could I have forgotten?

The morning of the visit comes, and the boy drops into the chair at the psychiatrist’s office, hunched over inside his hoodie, as he’s wont to do. Eleven year old boys. What can you do?

The psychiatrist starts talking to him, and the boy starts on this very interesting tale about how he never plays with his sister or brother (false), that he hasn’t any friends at school (mostly false), that he never talks to his parents about anything (oh, really?), and so on, for about thirty minutes. I tried to gently correct him a couple of times, but the psychiatrist kept giving me the stinky eye, so I backed off. We just came for the ADD meds. If the doctor wants to analyze the kid for fun, let him…

So the interview gets done, and the first thing the man says is that he really shouldn’t give him the ADD meds: Amphetamines aren’t any better than alcohol or any drug that allows one to hide from one’s feelings and pull away from other people. Because the child self-reported his isolation, he really shouldn’t get the chance to have the drugs at all.


As long as the child was reporting this isolation, and he was lonely, it would be an awfully good idea to put him on Zoloft. He handed me a prescription for that and also something to make him sleep at night.


I looked the doctor in the eye and calmly explained the boy needed the ADD meds to be able to get through the school day. Four-fifths of our household functions better on those chemicals, I said, and he really needs an increased dose because after four years the minimum dosage is wearing off before the end of the school day.

He grudgingly gave me enough till the end of the school year.  Then we have to meet again.

Let’s face it, I’m not one of those people that wants to tranquilize their child into submission. We’ve experimented with a number of different ways to help the family members do better, vitamins, fish oil, minerals, diet, holding off on chemical intervention as long as possible, but the fact remains that we are ADD-infested, and some sort of medicine helps school and life performance. The Cabana Boy reminds me all the time how much better he functions when medicated, and Little Miss is the same way. What she retains is significantly better, and her thought processes are obvious in their clarity. Doctor Do-be-do is the same. (The Captain just won’t take his medicines, so we’ll leave him off the list.)

So. Now the psychiatrist wants the family to come to therapy, and gives drugs the child doesn’t need and fights us about the drugs he really does.  I understand this line of thinking–When one of my older daughters went to see a mental health professional some years ago, I was incensed that they just threw medicine at her, and didn’t offer her therapy, which is likely what she really needed. I know the doctor was practicing good medicine by interviewing the child–but maybe a quarter of what the child told him was true! And he didn’t want to hear the truth from me.

So do we go back to the old doctor and conduct the simple medical transaction, or do we go with the guy who wants to give an eleven-year old adult depression medication? When the professionals can’t even agree, what’s a parent to do?

A corn-y answer

Last summer I posted a blog about our trip out west, and because I was living out of a suitcase for several weeks, took a shortcut and grabbed a photo of a corn field off the Internet.

Over the last several months I’ve noticed a flush of hits on my blog from people seeking out “corn field” or “pictures of corn” and sure enough, when I do a Google image search, my blog’s the second one.

So I got a little antsy about the photo, as it clearly belongs to someone else, and was just on the Web. I set out to track down the photographer, just to make sure it was okay to use the photo. The name that kept coming up in searches was “Misir Tarlasi.”

I searched around for that. Found someone on Facebook, and messaged them to see if he or she was the photographer. Tracked down a bunch of leads on Google searches, etc., for various places overseas, most of which were in a foreign language, so I could see these people were working hard for their crops but not exactly which of them was Mr./Ms. Tarlasi.

After several weeks, I finally came up with the information I was looking for. Misir Tarlasi? It means “corn field” in Turkish.

So, thank you, unnamed photographer whose picture graces my page. It is indeed a lovely view, one repeated for miles across the great American Midwest, our very own misir tarlasi.