High Low Glitter 2015?

 

2015

 

Looking for something fun and meaningful to do this New Year’s Eve? Think back on 2015. What were your highs, your lows and your glitters?

Last night, my family had our annual “HLG Dinner.” We shared our ups, downs and unexpected moments of 2015. It was a marvelous celebration of various accomplishments and relived joyful moments, as well as a meaningful way to reflect on the rougher events of the year and offer each other support and encouragement.

After dinner, we made sure to record our HLGs in our activity feeds on highlowglitter.com so we have a record of the year.

Feel like sharing? We would love to hear from you.

Happy New Year!

It’s No Joke: A Teacher’s Life in Tanzania

Our track with the "normal" background, Mt. Kilimanjaro

Our track with the “normal” background, Mt. Kilimanjaro

by Susan Kellerman

High: Holidays!

It’s no joke: teachers look forward to long holidays just as much as the kids do. This year is no different, and in fact, many of us at my school needed our December holidays more than normal. We are all stretched too thin the entire year, in many cases teaching an overload of courses, asked to volunteer to work with boarding students in the evenings and on weekends, and then also have had to pull together documentation and evidence for an upcoming re-accreditation by a leading educational organization.

On top of that, we have been squeezing in material in daily classes, to try to get through in 6 weeks what we normally do in 8 or 9, due to a late change in our school calendar that made Quarter 1 unusually long and Quarter 2, consequently, unusually short. (Neither of which are great, by the way.)

So, when the last parent left our gymnasium, and the parent teacher conferences had concluded around lunch time, it was with a huge sigh of relief that I walked back to my classroom, sat down, and for the first time in weeks was able to let my thoughts come together in their own time, without the urgency of needing to run off to get more work done. I pulled everything together on my desk, wrote my holiday to-do list (yes, many of us still get work done over the breaks!) and sauntered home, looking forward to some coming weeks of much-needed slowing down and ‘me’ time.

Low:  Difficult parents

It’s no joke: parent conferences are not normally something teachers look forward to. It’s unfortunate, that, no matter how hard you try, you can never help having that one difficult parent come and seemingly attack you for something that is not normally your fault. While it could have been worse, today was no different. It was a parent whom I had never met before, a mother of a boarding student who was new to us as of the beginning of the year. Her son is 14 years old and fairly self-sufficient, but let’s face it, still a teenage boy. I’m not a coddler; I deal with my students using the ‘tough love’ approach, especially with the boys. I have not held this boy’s hand, but instead set parameters within which he could easily take responsibility for himself and succeed in school. And if they can’t work within those or make some unwise choices, then there are consequences which they suffer.

For the 15 years I have been teaching, this has worked 90% of the time. Apparently, Mom would prefer that I take a more hands-on approach, and no matter how I tried to explain to her that I felt it was not appropriate for him, she wouldn’t budge. As the air in the room became more still and my seat became a little more uncomfortable, I tried every trick in my book to help this mom understand that we’d be doing her son more of a disservice. Didn’t work. Another important skill as a teacher: know when to back down and give in.

Glitter: A moment with my housekeeper

It’s no joke: local help is super cheap and easy here in Tanzania. If you hire one, your dada (the word we use for housecleaner, but that literally translates into ‘sister’) also comes so much more frequently than most people in the West are used to. Mine comes three times a week! She is Frida, this lovely older Tanzanian woman, who walks about 45 minutes one way to come to my house, do all the washing (clothes and dishes), cleans, irons my clothes, and pretty much does anything else I’d ask her to. I’m not sure how I would have survived these last 18 months without her. I have not taken the time to get too close to her – sometimes that can backfire and you are asked for help with everything from a new phone to doctor’s bills to grandchildren’s school fees – however I do enjoy my Friday afternoons when I come home from school and she is still here finishing up things. We often will take time to chat as we are both doing work and I have learned a little more about her, her life and her family. We laugh because, inevitably, I start cooking dinner and messing things up as soon as she’s finished cleaning my kitchen. She is so good-natured about it, though.

This afternoon, with my renewed energy due to it being the first few hours of my long holiday break, I had some Christmas music on in the kitchen as I was making some pasta sauce to prepare for a friend coming for dinner. Frida sings in her church choir, and is something that we have talked about, both because I’m a music teacher and because I was raised Catholic, which is the religion she practices. I heard her start to hum as she was washing my clothes in the small room right off my kitchen. O Little Town of Bethlehem was playing. I listened in more closely and realized that she was humming the song. I asked her if she knew that song and she said, “Yes, nzuri sana!” (Yes, it’s really nice!) We continued for the next two minutes, her humming and washing my clothes and me singing softly and cooking dinner. It was such a lovely moment of bringing two totally different lives, cultures, and age groups together and stripping everything down to the root of it all: two women enjoying time together through a shared love of music and the season. No more, no less. I will never forget those two minutes with Frida.

Susan KellermanBorn, raised and educated in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Susan Kellerman decided to spend all her life savings during her senior year of high school and take a Spring Break trip to Spain with her Spanish teacher and fellow students. This was a watershed event, as it sparked her life-long interest in travel and a desire to one day live in Madrid. Fourteen years later, Susan was able to combine her career in music education with her desire to improve her Spanish speaking skills by accepting a job at the American School of Madrid. Currently, she is the music teacher and program coordinator at the International School of Moshi, in Tanzania and enjoying having Mt. Kilimanjaro as her backyard buddy.

Expat Pro

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by Kerry Nappi

High: A neighborhood of friendly faces

It took eight months, a neighborhood of friendly faces, one good friend, and a purpose to help me find contentment in my home-away-from-home of Bahia, Brazil. The last days were filled with small outings with my best friend and her 3-year-old, group gatherings at a pizza buffet we loved, and windy beach days when we all got to try surfing and watched the kids sit on plastic chairs from the barraca and let themselves be knocked over time and again by the waves.

Picture3My second high for these two months was a family trip to Chapada Diamantina, The Diamond Highlands, six hours from our beach home. The vacation had everything we love: sweeping vistas, arduous hikes, lost-in-the-mountains and river adventure, and eating local foods from the street cafes while listening to the sounds of the music festival around us.

To be fair, I am condensing two months of Highs into one, so I couldn’t let pass this chance to celebrate a time with more highs than lows.

Low: Not being available when your child needs you

I’m sure I have said this before, but the hardest thing about being an expat is also the hardest thing about being a mom: Not being available when your child needs you.

Right in the middle of our somewhat major move from Brazil to China, my older child, a freshman in university in the US, started suffering from health issues. Sometimes, I missed middle of the night phone calls; other times, I was facetiming and texting right through the worst of it.

In one case, a new friend in university helped my son by getting him to the ER twice in a weekend. This was a friend I have never met, but who was using my son’s phone to send kind and caring texts to let me know how he was and that she woudn’t leave him alone.

Another time, the illness occurred while he was with family for Thanksgiving break; a loving aunt and uncle were the ones getting him to a doctor and caring for him until he was well enough to ride the train back to school.

But in all cases, I wasn’t there. I usually like being an expatriate, but I never like not being there for my son, as grown up as he tells me he is.

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Glitter: Yinhang. And it worked!

You know you’re a pro at this moving around the world thing when your Glitter in one country parallels a Glitter in another country just a year before. I must admit, starting yet another language, and a tonal one at that, makes me nervous. If you don’t grow up with tones, your ears aren’t attuned to them by the time you get to my age. That’s going to be the problem with Mandarin. However, you don’t get any better if you don’t try, so that’s been my sole intent.

The first week, I used a lot of sign language and our driver’s rudimentary English to communicate. Google Translate and other apps have made international living so much easier. But one time, I just could not communicate the word I needed: bank. So I gave it a shot and tried to pronounce the word as best I could. Yinhang. And it worked! Let’s hope that all my needs will be so easily met and all my language attempts become Glitters!


Kerry Nappi was born, raised, and attended Smith College in Massachusetts. In fact, she had rarely left Massachusetts by the age of 22 when she decided she could both expand her horizons and help others by joining the Peace Corps. Thus, she landed in Tunisia for an amazing two year stint that, still, might have proven to be the end of her travel. At 24, she was back in Massachusetts, teaching at a laboratory school at Smith College, and starting to forget her Tunisian Arabic skills already. When she married a New Yorker at 28, it seemed New York would be her only culture shock. Her new husband, Steve, had spent 6 years in a Navy nuclear sub and wanted nothing more than to settle down on Long Island, where he had been raised.

As often happens when you make plans, though, life changes them without much notice.

Between forced job changes and new desires to see other parts of the world, Kerry and Steve moved across the country to Arizona with their 2-year-old for grad school, spent a semester in Tokyo while pregnant with their second child, and then started a new life in Michigan. Since 2000, their family of four has lived in Michigan, Hiroshima, Bangkok, back in Michigan, and are now beginning their newest assignment with Ford Motor in Bahia, Brazil. The kids, now 14 and 18, are considered Third Culture Kids, and Kerry is a Trailing Spouse. For the most part, it doesn’t seem like “trailing” as she is the one who has to forge forward in each new host country, learning the language and making new connections, from friends to doctors to schools, while Steve goes to work and the kids to school.

The life of an expatriate cannot be summed up in a few paragraphs. Volumes have been written about the experience. Perhaps a blog that allows her to focus on a High, a Low, and a Glitter each month is one way to steady that rollercoaster ride that is her current life.

Why I HLG?

hlgers

by Emily Everson

Why do you High Low Glitter?

I started using HLG after a YMCA Youth in Government conference where we reflected on our days at our nightly meetings. Since there were many of us, to keep things short and allow everyone to share we shared our highs, lows, and glitters. Once I got home from the conference, I realized how beneficial it was to reflect on the events of the day. My good friend, James Farnsworth, told me about the app and I downloaded it right away.

Who do you High Low Glitter with?

My best friends from high school.

What about the High Low Glitter experience has surprised and delighted you (aka what’s the glitter)?

Naturally, my friends and I were all nervous to go away to college and the potential of our friendships drifting. HLG has kept us connected in a way I never would have imagined. While life gets busy and we don’t always have the time to talk, reading everyone’s HLG before bed keeps us up to date with each other’s lives. Honestly, it has brought us all closer. We love it so much!!
EmilyEEmily Everson is a freshmen at the University of Minnesota studying at the Carlson School of Management hoping to major in accounting and non-profit management. She is from Lakeville, MN and graduated  from Lakeville South High School in June 2015. She volunteers at the YMCA on campus with the Youth in Government program, a program she fell in love with in high school. In her free time, she loves watching sports, running, and just being outside. 

Welcome to the Expat HLG Family Tanzania

by Susan Kellerman

High: Ninth Grade Music Class

The words “music theory” typically strike fear in the hearts and minds of developing musicians. With so much of the music in today’s world shared and learned via iPods, iTunes, Spotify or Pandora, it is rare to have students who actually understand, or even want to understand, the theory behind what they are hearing. However, as a music educator, it is important to me that, on some level, my older students have a basic understanding of the nuts and bolts of music as we know it in the western world. That is why, as I am focusing on Blues music with my 14-year-olds, this week we focused on intervals, scales, and triads (if those words mean anything to you)…all in the name of understanding the 12 Bar Blues progression-a key feature of any blues song. It wasn’t the most exciting material to discuss for an hour, but somehow I kept the attention of each student in the class and they were all actively engaged, asking questions, critically thinking and showing signs of comprehension. In the oppressive heat of an approaching Tanzanian summer, it gave me energy to finish out the day! 

Low: Not being surrounded by a  familiar support network

There are many amazing things about being an expat, however it’s not all a bowl of cherries. And, I think that friends and family back in the US sometimes forget that we, as expats, sacrifice many things for a life of adventure and travel. One of those things is being surrounded by family or a familiar support network during the tough times in life. This hit home today as I got word that a dear uncle of mine passed away overnight. Regardless of the fact that it wasn’t an immediate family member or that I wouldn’t get to see him often even if I did live in the US, it still is hard to receive and process this kind of news being so far away from family and close friends who know you well. Dealing with loss is something we each do in a very personal way and we all need just the right people to be near us during those times of loss. Being an expat means that sometimes, you have to grieve on your own or in a way that is not ideal. That will be my hurdle to jump over the next few days.

Glitter: Surprise Day Off!

Tanzania just went through a hotly-contested presidential election within the past two weeks. It was an interesting time to be here and I learned a bit about how elections work in another country. Unlike the US, where we wait several weeks to inaugurate the new president, here it apparently happens nearly immediately. Not quite a week ago was the winner announced, and already the inauguration is tomorrow. Living in a bit of a bubble, I had no idea this was going on. Neither were any students or teachers prepared when the outgoing president announced, just this afternoon, that tomorrow would be a national holiday. What does that mean? No school! I had students running into my classroom at the end of the day, bouncing up and down, asking me if it was true. Not only does it seem like Christmas for them, but the teachers are sometimes just as happy to have an unexpected day off as well!

Susan KellermanBorn, raised and educated in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Susan Kellerman decided to spend all her life savings during her senior year of high school and take a Spring Break trip to Spain with her Spanish teacher and fellow students. This was a watershed event, as it sparked her life-long interest in travel and a desire to one day live in Madrid. Fourteen years later, Susan was able to combine her career in music education with her desire to improve her Spanish speaking skills by accepting a job at the American School of Madrid. Currently, she is the music teacher and program coordinator at the International School of Moshi, in Tanzania and enjoying having Mt. Kilimanjaro as her backyard buddy.

When Will We Talk? Conversation Not Optional

iStock_000013963995XSmallOne evening a few weeks before my twin daughters were about to leave for college, I said, “We need to discuss when we will talk.”

“Huh?” one of them said.

“What are you talking about?” said the other.

“When will we talk?” I asked again.

“All the time,” one of them said, sweetly thinking she was addressing my pending empty nest angst.

“Whenever we want!” the other said with a “DUH mom” tone in her voice.

I was sending my kids off to college in my mid-40’s but suddenly I felt very old: “When I was in college, it cost money to make long distance phone calls home. Prices went down at 5pm after business hours, and dropped even further after 11pm and on weekends.”

“Seriously?” one of them asked.

Yeah. Seriously. I remember when Ma Bell (google it kids) broke up in 1984 and long distance plans got competitive. My mother was thrilled to find a plan with cheap long distance rates after 7pm. Cheaper rates aside, we still only talked once a week at most. It still added up. Fast.

My children were mystified. They could not comprehend why we would schedule a time to talk. I let it go. But I shouldn’t have.

At the start of freshman year, the calls home were frequent and focused. But quickly they went from being substantive conversations to snippets of conversations interrupted by friends in dorm rooms or an arrival at a destination or an “important” text needing an instant reply. We tried finding time to “just talk” but it was too easy to postpone or cancel calls. And if we did connect on the phone or over Facetime, distractions still split our attention more often than not.

I wasn’t pissed or even sad. I just noticed. I noticed that despite all the ways we have to stay in touch with each other – email, text, social media platforms, Skype – we were actually communicating less. This revelation in part led me to create HighLowGlitter.com, but while online HLG posts give a great snapshot of the little moments in one’s life, it doesn’t replace a good quality conversation. The kind where you focus all your attention on the person you are talking to and end up having a meaningful exchange that strengthens your connection and relationship.

My daughters are now seniors in college and I am an older wiser 50-something.

This fall, after too much digital-squawking, and too little real conversation, I said “we need to discuss when we will talk.” This time, I did not follow it with a history lesson. I didn’t have to. My girls agreed. I think we all knew we were paying a price for settling for the snippets. We were missing too many details, nuances and subtle intonations that only focused, meaningful conversation provides. Not to mention, the rich emotional connections and idea exchange that come when we talk.

Interestingly, now that we have a committed to conversations, all our quick texts, emails and HLGs are put in perspective. Before they didn’t feel like quite enough, because they weren’t. They weren’t satisfying or sustaining our need for deep, meaningful connection and communication. Now instead, our digital squawking feels like a delicious, fun snack that holds us over to a satisfying, healthy meal.

 

Expat HLG: Spain, Fall Colors & the Refugee Crisis

Glorious from Alex Smith in Sweden

High: Travels to Spain

The first week of October we were able to spend ten days back in Madrid, Spain, our former home. It was just what the doctor ordered. A dose of sunshine, 24 degree temps (75 fahrenheit), great food and wine, late nights out and reconnecting with amazing friends, often in plazas with more great food and wine! It’s always nice to change the scene for a few days and escape the daily routine. It’s even better when you can do that in a place that you’re passionate about. When you’re a long-term expat and move countries, your identity begins to change and you glean pieces of the places you’ve lived. Spain will always be a sort of sanctuary for my soul. It was great to recharge my batteries.   

Low: Refugee Crisis

If you’ve followed the news at all recently you have read about the historic refugee crisis occurring in Europe as millions of people are displaced, the majority now coming from Syria. Sweden happens to be one of the top destinations for refugees seeking asylum so during the past months there have been thousands of people making their way to Sweden – on boats from Germany as well as by train from Denmark. Because of Malmö’s geographic location it is the main entry point into Sweden for most refugees. For weeks our central train station has been a welcome center to more than 900 asylum seekers per day. The Red Cross has a stand set up to provide information when people arrive, give them a hot coffee and other basic supplies. Many refugees also curl up on a blanket for a night’s sleep in the train station.

The stories of what many people have gone through to get here are heart-wrenching. It’s hard to imagine being in the situation of having to risk everything to leave your own country. It has to be terrible when the fear of dying while escaping is less than the fear of staying in your own home.

One evening after getting off my train and making my way through the station I saw a group of refugees with a couple police officers and Red Cross volunteers. They had just made contact via cell phone with family members who had been separated in the migration process. They were crying tears of joy and jumping up and down together in collective joy and relief. The emotion was palpable and I couldn’t help but get choked up. It was as if the images from the news had come out of the television and met me face-to-face. It made it real instead of merely something happening “over there” that you can easily forget.   

Glitter: Fall Colors

After years living in Boston and New York City I was spoiled with amazing fall colors and I still miss it most this time of the year. The past two fall seasons have been subpar in Malmö and I had basically succumb to the fact that I won’t experience fall again like on the East Coast. This year, however, we have been enjoying some fantastic colors. My morning bike rides to work have been filled with “ooo” and “ahhh” moments. Yellow and orange leaves formed beautiful canopies over the bike paths creating a sort of living kaleidoscope as the light passed through. I’m grateful Mother Nature is giving us this beautiful show before our days turn to pure darkness! 

Alex-SmithAlex Smith’s semester in Seville, Spain became the motivation for his leaving the comforts of a corporate job in his native United States to rekindle his love affair with Spain. He is the author of Study U Abroad: The 5 Keys to Unlock Your Awesomeness and Transform Your World, a book that empowers students to stretch beyond their comfort zones and seize the opportunity for self-growth while abroad. Alex currently resides in Malmö, Sweden but has lived and worked in Boston, New York City, Atlanta, Barcelona, and Madrid. He draws on his personal and professional life experiences to help students and expats thrive abroad and back home. Connect with Alex at studyuabroad.com.

Finding Our Places

Trying out a new noodle shop with our relocation specialist.

Trying out a new noodle shop with our relocation specialist.

by Kerry Nappi

High: We can make a home there.

After a long, 3-leg, 30-something-hour journey (it’s hard to know whether to count layovers and time changes, but suffice to say, we were in the air for 27 hours), my husband and 15-year-old daughter and I arrived in Nanjing, China from Bahia, Brazil for our pre-assignment trip with Ford. The first day there was so disappointing, both in the quality of housing we saw and the quality of the air we breathed, that I worried for my next three years!
Sarah's new school's canteen

Sarah’s new school’s canteen

Thankfully, the next two days were game-changers. Not only did we find a lovely home to rent for three years, but we visited the school my daughter will attend and, in all probability, graduate high school from in 2018. Nanjing International School was filled with enthusiastic teachers and administrators and boasts a beautiful campus and, more importantly, a great program. Sarah was able to shadow a 10th-grader the next day, discuss which classes she will sign up for before we move in November, and meet with the advisor of the school’s Model United Nations team ~ even procuring a spot (as Lithuania) in their upcoming MUN conference for her first month in school. We really can make a home there, and now the process has begun.
A cozy corner of our living room in our new house in China.

A cozy corner of our living room in our new house in China.

Low: Stranded in a foreign country

My daughter and I arrived at the Nanjing airport without my husband (who was staying behind for 3 more weeks), without cell phone service, and without any yuan. The driver dropped us off and wished us a good trip. Then we approached the Lufthansa check-in counter and were told: There is no flight. Lufthansa pilots are on strike.
That moment of panic when you are stranded in a foreign country with no safety net is as good a low as any! My first reaction was to cry out: “But I have no money and no cell phone coverage!” But things very quickly got resolved! The Lufthansa counter agent gave us his cell phone to use his personal “hotspot” to email and message my husband and my friend in Brazil on call to pick us up the next day. (Of course, my daughter had to teach me how to use “hotspot,” but that’s a tale for a different blog on technology lag in my generation!), and before I was done, the nice agent had rerouted us via Air France. Instead of a layover in Frankfurt, we had layovers in Hong Kong and Paris, and we finally got home to Brazil after 4 flights and 29 hours of air time. Good to know we do it all again in a month…

Glitter: Finding a place

I got the text at 3:20 am on a Monday morning.  It was unfortunate for me that I was even awake at that time, but I’m glad I was! It was from my son: I MADE IT! I AM A CADET! And by that, he meant he had gotten a spot on George Washington University’s MUN team. One of the reasons he wanted to attend school there was their reputation as a nationally ranked MUN team, and I was so pleased for him!  It’s a great moment for a freshman in university to find a place where he can do what he likes to do best with others who share his passion. His glitter was my glitter.


Kerry Nappi was born, raised, and attended Smith College in Massachusetts. In fact, she had rarely left Massachusetts by the age of 22 when she decided she could both expand her horizons and help others by joining the Peace Corps. Thus, she landed in Tunisia for an amazing two year stint that, still, might have proven to be the end of her travel. At 24, she was back in Massachusetts, teaching at a laboratory school at Smith College, and starting to forget her Tunisian Arabic skills already. When she married a New Yorker at 28, it seemed New York would be her only culture shock. Her new husband, Steve, had spent 6 years in a Navy nuclear sub and wanted nothing more than to settle down on Long Island, where he had been raised.

As often happens when you make plans, though, life changes them without much notice.

Between forced job changes and new desires to see other parts of the world, Kerry and Steve moved across the country to Arizona with their 2-year-old for grad school, spent a semester in Tokyo while pregnant with their second child, and then started a new life in Michigan. Since 2000, their family of four has lived in Michigan, Hiroshima, Bangkok, back in Michigan, and are now beginning their newest assignment with Ford Motor in Bahia, Brazil. The kids, now 14 and 18, are considered Third Culture Kids, and Kerry is a Trailing Spouse. For the most part, it doesn’t seem like “trailing” as she is the one who has to forge forward in each new host country, learning the language and making new connections, from friends to doctors to schools, while Steve goes to work and the kids to school.

The life of an expatriate cannot be summed up in a few paragraphs. Volumes have been written about the experience. Perhaps a blog that allows her to focus on a High, a Low, and a Glitter each month is one way to steady that rollercoaster ride that is her current life.

I’m Calling Bull Shit on FB Birthday Love

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Over the last couple weeks I have read several familiar Facebook posts. They all read something like: Thank you all so much for the amazing, amazing birthday wishes. I feel so blessed and grateful and honored and special and cared for and loved by all of you. Lucky me. Blah blah blah.

With this last batch of posts, I could not help but go visit the poster’s page to see for myself all these amazing birthday wishes. In each case, I estimate about 90% of the amazing birthday wishes read: “Happy Birthday!” or “Have a great day! Do something fun!”

Call me crazy but is that really an amazing birthday wish?

When you add to the fact that Facebook prompts your friends that it is your birthday, I can’t help but call bull shit on what I am calling “Amazing Facebook Birthday Love” phenomena.

Not only are these sentiments less than amazing, they are less than authentic. Now, before you discount me as some bitter, righteous, anti-Facebook evangelist, I am simply going to ask you to think this through with me. Okay?

Let’s say it’s a Thursday in October. It’s not your birthday. It is not your spouses birthday nor child’s birthday. To the best of your knowledge it’s not any of your friends’ birthdays. You have no clue that you know anyone with a birthday until you log into Facebook and see someone you went to high school with and an acquaintance are celebrating birthdays. Facebook prompts you to send them both a birthday wish. So you post something, right?

WHY?

My initial informal survey tells me your answer will be something along the lines of it being a nice – easy – thing to do, wanting your friend to know you saw it was their birthday, were thinking of them, etc.

And I believe that. But I also believe, because you were on Facebook in the first place, you were bored and looking to be entertained. (Sorry but that is the simple, perhaps depressing, fact of the matter.) In turn, this means that sending those birthday wishes on Facebook was really a form of amusement for you, not an authentically motivated action to reach out and acknowledge the birthday boy or girl. (After all you didn’t even know – or care until you signed onto Facebook – that it was these people’s birthdays)

Now flip this around. Let’s say it’s a Thursday in October. It’s your birthday. You start to read the stream of birthday wishes on your Facebook page. You feel loved and cherished. I get it. That makes sense.

But time out. Why do we really post birthday greetings on our friends’ Facebook pages? When it is your birthday it is easy to read these posts as thoughtful, genuine acknowledgments of you – an amazing out pour of love. I hate to burst everyone’s bubble, but they aren’t.

Those amazing birthday wishes are your friends killing time. And there is nothing wrong with that. But let’s call a spade a spade. All your gratitude for this “Amazing Facebook Birthday Love,” is really Facebook’s amazing way of keeping your friends on their site a little longer.

True Amazing Birthday Love comes in the form of genuine, meaningful gestures your friends make to celebrate you and your birthday: phone calls, emails, texts, cards in the mail.

It’s a Thursday in October. It’s my birthday. Since I don’t let people post on my Facebook page, I am fascinated and amused by those of you have wished me a Happy Birthday by commenting on my post about gun violence. I see dozens of my connections have messaged birthday wishes. I do appreciate the sentiments.

But meaningful, amazing, feeling so loved? Not from these Facebook messages. Rather these feelings come today from people like my friend Jim who every year on my birthday is the first to send wishes not because Facebook prompted him to (he doesn’t do Facebook) but because his calendar did and he was motivated enough to put that information into a thoughtful email that brought tears to my eyes.

So, let’s all keep spreading our birthday cheer, but how about we stop pretending that it is much more than a fun way to think about each other and distract ourselves.