Netflix Party and The Holy Grail: A Pandemic Friday Night

Tonight I tested out the new Netflix Party option hustled out to fulfill the needs of the current COVID-19 pandemic’s sudden invocation of self-quarantine as the United States tries desperately to avoid rampant infections.

A friend asked on facebook this week who would be interested in some type of movie night online and I sent him the link to an article about this new feature. Soon he had an open invite in a facebook chat to those who had volunteered as participants to try it out. It all happened fast! He asked for nominations: we got “Space Jam,” “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse.”

Monty Python won the poll. We set plans to download the NP extension on Google Chrome and log-in by 8 p.m. tonight to commence the movie. We also got a link in facebook chat to log-in. It only took maybe 5 minutes to set up.

After a day of hustling to get my news story done for my editor about the local impact of the pandemic on a local public school district, picking up my prescription and getting my bank password fixed, I was ready to relax. It is my day off, thankfully.

It was innovative and a great time. I would recommend this to anyone feeling lonely and deprived of social interaction. It’s not the same as being in the same room with your pals, but it mimics the nostalgia of hanging out on AOL Instant Messenger for hours back in the day. We all watched the same movie in sync, and there was a chat on the right hand side where we could all comment in real time. You log in on your Netflix account via your computer, choose a chat username and avatar. There was some slight buffering delays but otherwise it functioned very well. I got to know better some different friends I don’t normally see much, and focusing on the words without facial expressions was interesting too. It really made everyone’s sense of humor easy to decipher– we all had a blast.

One confusing element is that anyone can hit the “play” function or pause it– I unwittingly did this at first, just trying to figure out how to make it work. The “admin” (person who organized the party) called me out and I apologized, laughing. Two different times, my movie got stuck and I had to start over and log out. But I had also been using facebook simultaneously, which I think over-loaded it somehow.

Once I closed my facebook window and only had Netflix Party open, the movie was easy.

The conversation meandered all over and most of us were familiar and quoting our favorite parts– others were just asking funny questions and making typical observations. This is working.

Whoever brainstormed this over at Netflix deserves a hella RAISE! Thank you.

To those who thumb their nose at social networking– this is proof that it’s important.

It definitely made my first Friday night in self-quarantine during this hysteria fun.

I will absolutely be doing this with more friends, especially the friends I used to go see movies with a lot! I feel it will become a staple in relationships in dating as well, as we all scramble to acclimate to these new rules of social distancing.

People are getting heated about it online, arguing for or against obeying the national mandates to stay home and be as sanitized as possible. People are either adamantly following the rules, or adamantly insisting on not breaking their routine and continuing to get together in-person.

At this point, President Trump has announced that we should not gather over groups of 10, even in our homes. That’s is the national state of emergency it’s come to. Forty million Californians are ordered to stay home “indefinitely” and only venture out for essential work travel, errands and exercise, declared by Gov. Gavin Newsome on Thursday.

And today, Illinois is close behind, as Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued the stay-at-home order, active tomorrow night at 5 p.m. until April 7.

I’ve never been more happy that I moved to Kansas.

Now I’m exhausted and work my retail job tomorrow morning. Time for bed!


Friendship and a 5K

This morning I woke up early and ran my fourth 5K! My friend Jen and I ran together. It was her first.

And I think it was my favorite one thus far.

Because neither of us cared about our time or being competitive.

We were just doing something to be healthy and to hang out together.

Plus, it’s sponsored by Guardian Angel Services, an organization both of us care about. We’re both in social work.

Jen and I have been friends since freshman year of high school– 1995. That’s 20 years! Holy cow.

The event was called Angels Against Abuse, and before we ran there was a speaker. She talked about how she found the strength to leave her ex-husband, the man who was “the father of my children.”  She repeated that last phrase emphatically– and I got it. Wouldn’t that be the primary arrow aimed at any woman trying to move on and escape an abusive relationship? Aren’t women always pressured to forgive all because they are expected to sacrifice not just her happiness, but her own well-being and safety in the name of keeping the family together? She said she knew if she didn’t leave, one day he would kill her. The most incisive moments for me was when she read excerpts of the love letters he would write her after the abuse. The promises, the begging, the hope he would spark that he really did want to treat her better. Her belief that *she* was the one who could heal him– he’d had a rough life.

She credited her counselor with helping her manufacture courage to start her own life with her children– safely. That counselor was her advocate at each court date, all the way until the divorce was finalized.

Afterward, they hugged. I was definitely tearing up.

And subsequently, the race stated.

There were times she needed to slow down and walk, and there were times that I did. And both of us are happy to comply and wait until the other was ready to run again. We’d talk a little.

And she was always positive, always fun!

It was equal. And both of us suggested running again to the other and encouraged each other to keep going.

We were also laughing because we got hit with not just substantial wind resistance, but rain!!

It was really coming at us! Luckily I had a hoodie from the event, but I was soaked. My toes were squishy in my shoes.

I joked that we were “hardcore” runners now! I I felt like such a bad ass.

Crossing the finish line was such an achievement!! I’ve never had to deal with so much weather in a run.

I did see my time at the end,  but didn’t make particular note of it.

Then we grabbed some refreshments and snacks, thanked each other for a great race,and went our separate ways.

Neither cared about how we ranked. We had achieved our goal!

And now it was time to go home and enjoy it.

In two weeks we have another 5K, in Chicago. Cannot wait!!

A Benefit of Singlehood: More Lady Friends!

Driving home just now, I was overwhelmed with gratitude.

This past year, I’ve been focused on meeting and befriending women. And while male friendships are important too, it’s not the same. Even if you’ve been best friends for 20 years with a great male friend, it doesn’t compare to a close female friend who really knows you. Who will listen to you (with interest!) and remember those little details. Ask your advice on anything from an outfit to what to do about the man/woman in her life or whether or not to take a job. I miss that. All those inside jokes. Call and utter something totally deadpan that has you cracking up and suddenly your day is made! Men aren’t exactly dying for your input. They’re hilarious, great listeners, and of course, world-class problem solvers.

I still have wonderful women friends, but distance has watered-down the connections we had years ago. Literally. Several have moved to different states. Some are recently married or recent mothers, or just so busy juggling it all that you’re lucky to get a phone call a few times a month and scheduling time together.  And that’s just a reality of adulthood. Some I haven’t seen in years and am not sure when that will change, if ever. Life takes you in different directions. Replacing those female friendships has been a real challenge.

And now I feel it’s finally happening– I’m building a network again, locally.

As one of my newer friends calls it, I’m building my army of women!

The best thing is that the women who are showing up in my life are so varied! I remember my step-mother telling me years ago that once you’re older (30’sish) age doesn’t matter so much. And it’s true. I’ve got some fantastically vital women friends within a 25 year age gap. And it’s all inspiring!

I have a life! When I meet people now, I talk about myself– not my last date, or the guy I like, or even en ex.

I’ve BECOME interesting again– it took a lot of work. And that would never have happened had I not chosen to be single!

And committed to the decision.

I used to spend so much energy worrying about attracting and dating men. I was always reacting, anticipating. Now I’m decisive– I’m confident. I’m moving forward and building my life without consideration of any man. It’s the first time I’ve honestly been this inspired. That taste of independence is something I’ll never give up. I’m on way!

And while a love relationship is still something I want at the right time, it’s not the focus of my attention. It’s out there, I know that. It’ll find me when it’s meant to happen. I don’t need to scramble around anymore in search of it.

What a refreshing feeling! These women are buoying me up. They encourage me, challenge me, check up on me, and genuinely care. They rally.

I’ve met incredible women through my church choir, through mutual friends. I’ve got running friends now who want to do 5k’s!

There’s a lot of stability in my life right now. It’s reassuring. It’s invigorating.

I’m learning what I want and what I don’t. I’m feeling more confident than I have in years.

I’m a blogger. I’m Catholic. I’m a runner!

I’m ecstatic and full of gratitude.

Common Sense column # 7: Embracing change and not clinging to Anachronisms

Yikes, this one took out a lot out of me. Initially I was going to write about what happened in the interim without facebook– but I kept exceeding my word count about about 150-200 words. Too much happened, and I could write several posts about it. I probably will. I hoped to show some humility, but also a sense of humor.

Without further ado, my latest Common Sense column, from The Herald News: “Embracing change and not clinging to anachronisms.”

I admit it: I miss facebook

My column is live again– and it’s always so exciting!! But although I got some wonderful e-mails last time, it just wasn’t the same. They were from mostly strangers who read the paper– and that was validating in itself.

I’ve posted them here, but they hardly ever get comments. Writing is a solitary activity– we need to share it with people, after all that work.

And although my blog subscriptions have doubled, that’s not the same either. I appreciate that some people who previously only read my columns on facebook made a point to subscribe so they wouldn’t miss it–that shows a terrific loyalty.

But I miss the random conversations that would pop up on my wall– random people would comment, and different friends of mine who didn’t even know each other would end up talking. Those little comments were  quicker, but they were from a variety of people. They meant more because they were from people that I care about, people I know.

I used to think that the opinions of strangers on my writing was somehow more “valid” — because they didn’t owe me any compliments. But the truth is, my friends and family don’t either. They tell me what they think– because they care. They read my columns because they care– THAT is special, and important.

Practically, not having facebook is a major pain. It creates a lot of extra work when trying to find the most basic information.

Yesterday, I was trying to find information about my favorite band, Hairbanger’s Ball. There was conflicting information about what time they play at Bourbon St. If I was on facebook, I could have cleared this up in minutes by myself. But because I’m not, I had to check the bar’s site against the band’s page, and then ask two different people to confirm details.

I wanted to prove that you can live without facebook– that it’s not a sociological imperative. And it’s only been a few months. Not even 90 days!

I’ll never forget the reactions most people had when I told them I was deleting my account:

Sure, I COULD live without facebook. I’m doing it, aren’t I?

I’m going to be honest: it sucks. It DOES make everything harder.

But how far do my journalistic obligations go?

One CEO wrote to tell me that my column inspired him to delete his own account!. What about him?

If I go back, I let that CEO down. I did it for nothing. I deleted 439 people. Many of whom I’ll never talk to again.

I’ve gotten a lot of pressure to go back. But on the other hand, I’ve also gotten a lot of support about it as well.

And there are all kinds of ways I could justify going back– because I’m a writer, and I need a way to interact with my readers.

But the truth is, managing my facebook was getting overwhelming– and I didn’t know how to do it anymore. So I chose not to deal with it at all.

There were so many times I wanted to stop before I finished deleting. But I had declared I would do it– and I didn’t want to back out.

And honestly, I haven’t given my friends much lee-way: they probably don’t know what to say anymore. If they pressure me to go back, I’m annoyed. If they encourage me to go back, I’m annoyed.

Maybe the truth is I regret my decision, and am afraid to go back. It would require so much more work this time.

I have no way to access my original profile– it’s locked up. I checked to see if facebook’s policy was true– and it was. After 14 days, if you don’t log-in or use the Open ID to comment anywhere else through facebook online, your profile becomes defunct. It remains within facebook’s archives, but you’re still locked out.

I would have to start over completely– re-add people. Some people might not re-add me, because I already deleted them, even though I deleted everyone.

I wouldn’t have any pictures at all.

On the other hand, I would have a fresh start.

A few people said, ” Add me if you come back!”

For some people the verb was WHEN.

I have a friend who successfully lived without facebook for entire year, plus almost a full week. But even he went back. He certainly proved that you can do it– what I was trying to prove.

But he missed the camaraderie. He’s having fun being back.

What would be the point of me trying to stay away for x number of months? Of not going back?

At this point, I’m just being stubborn. I think now it’s more about pride than anything else.

And who’s missing out? Me.

I’m missing out on what’s happening with my friends, on easy access to local events and a quick way to communicate with my family.

My privacy concerns still stand– I still believe facebook is manipulative and unethical.

But it’s where the people are. Where everyone is.

I want to go back to the party.

“Unplugging from social networks”: OR What happens AFTER you Delete Your facebook Profile

By Amee Bohrer

Today’s column, “Unplugging from social networks,”  is my fifth and most personal Common Sense column. And unequivocally the best enterprise story I’ve written.

I took an enormous personal risk with this choice. But it’s already worth it.