The Lost Art of Being Thankful

I told a friend of mine the other day that I wanted to bring back the lost art of letter writing. I admit, I am guilty of sometimes just sending a thank you text. If truth be told, I probably am also guilty of thinking I have thanked someone when I probably thought about sending them a text, but I was in the car, and then when I got home my children were acting crazy, and then it was too late at night, and then it was too early in the morning, and then I just totally thought I had done it, but I did not really do it; so in essence I had not adequately shown my gratitude. I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to be the one that is so busy with life that I don’t stop to appreciate the people and things that make life worthwhile.

Recently, a man in my hometown, who I used to work with but rarely see, stopped by Southern Charm and brought me a cup of coffee. It was so thoughtful and unexpected. I sent my mom a text, “Billy Houston just brought me a cup of coffee. How about that?” Oh, I thought about texting him and saying thanks, but I wasn’t sure if I had his number, or if he texted, or blah blah blah. A week or so later, he brought me another cup of coffee. And it was on a day that I really needed a lift. Text to mom: “Billy Houston just brought me another cup of coffee. What the hell? How awesome is that?” That night, I decided I must send a written thank you note. When I got home, I decided that I couldn’t send him a note on my Barbie stationary (although I did send a note to a local pastor and his wife on a Barbie card and they found it endearing, or so they indicated), but I vowed to send a note the next day. When I got to work, I pulled a card out of my stash under the counter, wrote him a note, luckily ran into his daughter who told me he had a PO Box and gave me the correct address, put a stamp on the envelope, and managed to even get the envelope into the mailbox at the post office. Boom. Mission accomplished.

Why is this important? Because when people go out of their way to show someone kindness, they do it because they want to; not because they have to. And because the minute we stop doing random acts of kindness or we stop appreciating these moments of humanity, we become empty vessels. The people who show kindness do so to bring others joy. But if they are never thanked, or at least acknowledged, their light begins to dim. It sparks a chain reaction that lessens their desire to do for others. Then before you know it, we are all just a bunch of self-centered asshats who can’t see the needs of others and don’t care to reach out even if we could.

Last week I got a lovely hand written thank you note from Haley Ates. This didn’t really shock me. Her mama is an English teacher and obviously raised her right. (In case her mama sees this, yes, I know you rear children and don’t raise them, but whatever, I think reared sounds weird. Blame it on rap music.) Not to mention she is young and engaged and more than likely trying to use up all of her stationary so she can get some new cards with her new last name printed on them. But this week I got a hand written thank you note from a man. Not only a man, from a football coach. And it arrived within a week of the event for which he was thanking me. I don’t want to act like an athletic man is less likely to hand write a personal thank you note, but in my opinion, and man is less likely to hand write a personal thank you note.

The impression this left on me wasn’t that Haley and Coach Moore are a crazy rare breed of humans who know how to hold a pencil and lick an envelope. It let me know that they are humble people of gratitude. The impact of these notes was a reaffirmation of my need to not only continue showing others, whether friends or strangers, that I care about them through small tangible acts or tokens of kindness, but to also take the time to truly thank those who show kindness to me. I needed this reminder. It’s often easier to anonymously pay for a policeman’s lunch, or (my favorite) buy the blue-collar old man’s single can of beer at the gas station after he has gotten off from an obviously long workday, than it is to thank the people who are closest to us who do so much for us every single day.

By the way, a great random act of kindness is a hand written note. Feel free to help me bring back the lost art of letter writing or to steadfastly show small kindness to others by commenting or messaging me your mailing address, or the mailing address of someone you know who may appreciate the kindness of a stranger. I’m not saying I’m going to mail you a Barbie card before the weekend is over. I mean I’ve got wine to drink and this DVR isn’t going to watch itself. But it will give me a database, if you will, of people to share life with over the course of the year.

I think I’m going start by mailing a card to my mom. She lives next door to me, but I bet she would like to read my words of appreciation instead of hearing me casually calling, “Thanks!” over my shoulder as I walk across the yard carrying a can of Fresca or masking tape or whatever item I’ve borrowed that I will never return. And to whomever is reading this… hey, thanks.

moore-thank-card

Advertisements

Emojis and the Rapid Decline of Personal Relationships

I read an article today about people who were born before 1985, and how these people will be the last to know what life was like both before and after the internet. It was not a commentary on the internet being bad or anything like that. It is just that life after the interest is different than what it used to be. This got me thinking about life before texting.

I have frequent conversations with my friend, Terry, about different happenings in this world, specifically in large cities in America, where common sense and appreciation for human life seem to be lacking. We discuss how the cycle can never be broken until a generation is taught and believes that all life has value and  this generation lives in such a way that they relay this message to their children. I’m not going to make a leap and blame that on the internet, but I do think that the age in which we live makes it more difficult to have personal relationships.

It is easy to be anonymous behind the security of a keyboard, and it is even easier to form “friendships” through social media with people whom we have never met. These things are catalysts for discovery, freedom of speech, networking, business, the list goes on and on. Much good comes from the ease of electronic communication. But much is also lost. Many people whom I wish would read my opinions on this matter have already tuned out by now. It seems even a Facebook post that is long enough to warrant a hyperlink in order to “see more” is a post that is too long for a millennial to read. A post with a link to a blog that contains nothing but words instead of a photo based source of information with mere captions beneath is certainly not of interest.

No one wants to talk to anyone anymore. I’m not sure why they even call cellphones phones. I know very few people who actually use them to make phone calls. I get it. A text is simple and easy and fast. But a text really isn’t that important. I called my dad once and asked him if he got a text from me to which he had not yet responded. He told me that he heard his phone indicate a text had been delivered, but that he was in the middle of something and had not checked it. I was incensed. What if it had been an emergency? He calmly answered that people dying on the side of the road don’t text someone, they call someone. Well, alright.

The worst is when someone sends you a question via text and the answer isn’t that simple, and you are driving. So you dial their number and call them, but they do not answer. You just sent me a text! I know you are there! Answer the phone! Nope. Nothing. Fine. Google your own damn answer if you can’t exert enough effort to answer my call. How about the person who sends you a slightly critical text but they put LOL or the wink face emoji at the end of it? “Saw you across the parking lot. Wearing leggings as pants I see. Wink face emoji.” Is that supposed to soften the blow? Does the wink face mean that you did not just call me out for not taking the time or effort to change out of what I slept in before I went to the Piggly Wiggly to get wine? Between the blow softening emojis and the chronic call decliners, I’ve had just about enough of cellular technology.

The good news is I still have three friends who will always answer my call. They are my Tribe. We can text each other, too, but we make time to have actual conversations with each other. As Trish would say, we “connect.” Trish isn’t the leader of the Tribe, but she is the resident cheerleader. Trish is a management consultant. I used to think she always wanted to make things all about me, listen to how I was really doing, and know what I really thought about things because she was always “on.” But I realized that she doesn’t have this personality because she is a management consultant, she is a management consultant because she has this personality. We don’t make plans to meet up for dinner, we make plans to connect. We don’t talk about the weather, or what the girl in the grocery line in front of us had on; we talk about what we are doing that brings us fulfillment or how we need to better ourselves so that we can mentor others. It sounds exhausting, but trust me, it’s empowering.

Terry is the member of my Tribe who keeps us all grounded. She owns her own business, and has an adult child with special needs. She isn’t a complainer, she is a doer.When we met, we were total polar opposites politically and religiously. Over the years she has morphed into this completely different person who, somehow magically, is still totally the same as she ever was. It’s probably odd that we constantly discuss politics and religion, considering those are two topics I find it better not to discuss. She does her best to keep us all healthy, or at least aware of what oil, seed, or nutrient we should be consuming mass quantities of at any given time. She owns a coffee shop, although she doesn’t drink coffee. She also cares for a handful of progressively ill and elderly dogs. The more messed up they are, the more she seems to love them. Maybe she feels this way about people, too. Who knows? Maybe that’s why she likes me so much.

Becky is a successful career person in the medical field. She has two enchantingly obnoxious daughters and one ridiculously perfect boyfriend whom she annoyingly refers to as the most handsome man in the world. Don’t get me wrong, the man is handsome, but some of us (me) aren’t in a relationship and get tired of hearing about how good looking her man is. It’s like if you’re on a diet and your friend is in the back seat eating a dozen doughnuts. You know doughnuts are good. You’ve had a doughnut before. But you don’t have a doughnut right now, so you really don’t need her describing how great the warm, soft, glazed rings of deliciousness are while you’re in the front seat sucking on a celery stalk. Becky is the member of my Tribe who brings the fun factor. You never know where a night with Becky might lead, but like I said, she has a really good job, so she can afford the bail money.

As for me, I’m not sure what I contribute to the Tribe. But like the others, I stay pretty busy. I own my own business and am a single mother to two teenagers. I have a very active relationship with the Real Housewives of Orange County, New York, and New Jersey; and in a month or so, I will have an insatiable relationship with the Hallmark Channel as they begin to air their completely unrealistic, romantic, Christmas movies. So it’s easy to say that the four of us are all very busy people. The thing is, we make time for each other. We put forth effort – and it takes some serious effort – to arrange time to connect with each other. Trish is constantly flying all over the world, Terry has the shop and Bobby and the messed up dogs, Becky has her job and girls and the most handsome man in the world, and I’ve got my work, my kids, and a DVR that’s 89% full; not to mention, we don’t even all live in the same town. But we carve moments out of our busy schedules to talk on the phone and to connect in person on a regular basis.

The end result of this is a strong network of support and love that any one of us can lean on at any time. I can pick up the phone and make a call and one of these women will answer my call. I can’t say that about the other 959 contacts in my phone. I mean, my parents usually answer, but hell, my own damn kids don’t answer me half of the time. But if I text them, they will get back to me. They might even send me a kissy face emoji, or the little pile of poo emoji.

The article I was reading was actually about a book that delves into what it feels like to be the last generation to remember what it was like to live before the internet, and the author relays that the  book mentions something called Analog August where people unplug for a month and get back to the basics. Yeah, that’s not really realistic, but stepping away from the trappings of social media is. I love Facebook, but it’s not my singular means of communication with the world, and it certainly isn’t my means of finding my self worth. Maybe we all just need to open our eyes a little. Maybe we should use one of our fingers to dial a friend to chat and do a little less texting. It’s great to have opposable  thumbs, but maybe there is a better way to forge meaningful relationships other than tapping them on a tiny little screen. You know, if we actually talked to each other, really talked about things that are several layers below the surface, maybe the next generation could start to imagine what life was like before the internet. Or we could just keep on using acronyms and emojis to quickly brief each other on the mundane things in our day that have nothing to do with the people who we really are. Single tear sad face emoji.

 

Here is the link to the article: http://qz.com/252456/what-it-feels-like-to-be-the-last-generation-to-remember-life-before-the-internet/?utm_source=parWD&mbid=social_fb

 

Love, Small Screen Style

One of our kids is going to be President. Maybe not my kid or your kid, but one of their friends, or Instagram followers, or someone they met at football camp will become the President of the United States one day. This should scare the crap out of you.

Do you follow your kid on Instagram? What about Snapchat? Don’t worry about Facebook, that’s for old people (like me). Do you follow their friends? I do. And it is eye-opening. My youngest son is a mess and he posts silly things that make me roll my eyes. His friends send me snapchats of themselves with goofy faces and I send them back. I double tap their Instagram photos from time to time. Sometimes I will comment about how pretty they look or that I am proud of them. The other 90% of the time I am mortified.

Studies have shown that so many online relationships result in marriage because 1) the people on dating sites are serious about having a relationship and 2) relationships formed and developed over the internet escalate faster that traditional dating relationships. There is a boldness fostered by the the computer screen. There is a disconnect that makes it easier to share opinions, reach out, flirt, bully, etc. Couple this with the trend of selfie-taking, self-centered young people who are all but attached to their electronic devises and you have a recipe for disaster.

Remember when you couldn’t go on a date until you were old enough to drive? Remember when there had to be a reason to go somewhere, like a school dance? Dating now consists of staking a claim on someone and promoting it on social media. Ten-year-olds are dating. They claim a girlfriend/boyfriend in the classroom, and then have an electronic relationship right under your very nose. Nothing irritates me more than middle school aged children proclaiming their love on social media. (Actually, that’s not true. Reading comments on Instagram where one boy will comment on another boy’s photo, “UR so gay” like that’s an acceptable way to participate in playful trash talk makes my blood boil. Especially when they come from families that have enough sense to teach their children that it isn’t appropriate to use language that demeans any group of people. Change the word from gay to retarded and I will also flip my lid.)

Back to young love. Young girl posts selfie (with or without duck lips) with some overused, cliche hashtag, such as #blessed, and immediately their 14 year old boyfriend will comment something like, “I’m so lucky, bae” [heart-eyed emoji, heart-eyed emoji, heart-eyed emoji]. Or young boy posts photo of he and girl together (usually in the school parking lot) and captions, “Can’t believe it’s been two months” [#blessed]. The girl will quickly comment something like #bae #truelove #justthrewupinmymouth. Oh, wait, not that last one. That was me.

Are you as a parent watching this? Are you showing these exchanges to your own child and explaining to them that this is not how life works? These kids don’t even talk to each other. They text each other. All the time. Have you read a text exchange between a tween-aged couple? Do you read your own child’s texts every day? If not, you should. My twelve year old has a cell phone. Or I should say, he has the use of a cell phone. I pay for it. It is mine. The content on said phone is my responsibility. I check his browser history, text messages, Instagram direct messages; you name it, I’m reading it. But I see these conversations happening openly on Instagram all the time. Where are the parents? Do they really think this is productive behavior? [Sadly, I have seen parents actually condone this by commenting heart-eyed kissy-faced emojis on these posts instead of telling their kid that four months of incessant texting at 13 years old isn’t actually what love is.]

If your 11-15 year old is having three week anniversaries, celebrating their love, texting a significant other four hours a day, and is feeling #blessed in general because of another human in the same age group; start cleaning out your basement. Little Johnny is going to be living in that basement about two semesters into college because he is either A) about to enter into the world with completely unrealistic expectations B) about to be involved in a teen pregnancy C) completely unaware of what happens twenty feet beyond himself D) all of the above. I used to wonder what parents were doing while their kids were behaving like this. But the answer is more than likely staring at a screen themselves. Just this morning I was looking at a Snapchat story consisting of a video taken in a common area. You can clearly hear the parent of the child in the background talking to someone else. They are completely unaware that they are being recorded.

This brings me to my next rant: adults who constantly interact with things/people on their cell phone instead of the living, breathing human next to them. But I will save that one for another day…

The Auburn Football Creed

I believe that this is a terrible game and that I can count only on better games to come. Therefore, I believe in liquor, hard liquor.

I believe in sarcasm, which gives me the ability sit through an afternoon of bad football.

I believe Vern and Gary need to retire, without which I cannot continue to watch football on CBS.

I believe that if I eat enough chips and dip that I can slip into a food coma and forget an entire game before it has even ended.

I believe in a fence or hedge around a field because it protects the lives of the coaches from drunk fans.

I believe the players on my television can hear me, therefore I will continue to scream at them, as well as the coaches.

I believe in my team, because they continue to play their hearts out even when it seems like all is lost, and even when armchair coaches like me are slamming drinks, shoving chips in their face, and screaming obscenities at Gary when he criticizes all of college football during plays under review.

And because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it.

**Originally penned as a Facebook status during the Auburn loss to LSU on 09.19.15

Fabric Scraps

If it isn’t monogrammed, is it really yours? This is the general sentiment here in the South. I may not understand it, but I am surrounded by this mentality. I own a store that provides embroidery, and I’ve seen some crazy things that people wanted monogrammed. And I’ve seen some crazy things that people wanted embroidered on said bizarre items.

Lace collars, seersucker shorts, and all things Little Lord Fauntleroy are plastered all over the Southern male from birth until the kid is old enough to figure out he isn’t getting boobies like the other little children who are dressed like girls, and revolts against his mama by kicking and screaming in the aisles of Wal-Mart until she succumbs to her son’s overwhelming desire for a graphic tee.

For the girls, its hair bows large enough to plop atop an automobile being gifted in a Lexus commercial, ruffles on pants, monogrammed everything, and appliqué. The latter has become the status update of the apparel world. For instance, if you think your little daughter is a little princess, you take scraps of fabric and sew it to other fabric in the shape of a princess and embroider the words Little Princess above or below the fabric stuff. If they are turning one, you sew a cupcake or candle or whatever and embroider the word ONE. Maybe you’re going to have another baby. Big Sister would be the way to go. You can have whole parties planned around the theme of your kid’s appliqué. Photo shoots, Christmas cards, birthday parties, school pictures, major and minor holidays…there really isn’t a reason for a day to go by without putting your young daughter in a shirt with an appliqué.

Considering the Southern lady’s love of a monogram, and the unfortunate reality that Southern women over the age of thirty also think it is acceptable to wear clothing with the prominent display of Disney characters, glitter, and/or ruffles at the end of one’s sleeves and pant legs; I think it is time to introduce the adult appliqué. Maybe some fabric scraps sewn into the shape of a beer mug with Sloppy Drunk embroidered above it. Maybe some nice suede sewn into the shape of a prescription pill bottle with Medicated embroidered below. How about a cute patchwork puppy that states Bitch. The possibilities are endless, really. I mean, most of us are already looking at others and judging them for who we think they are. Why not take out some of the guess work?

An Open Letter to Girls Who Take Selfies and Edit Them with Phone Apps

Gee, you look so natural.

Gee, you look so natural.

Stop. Just stop.
Just a thought: if you aren’t happy with your appearance, don’t take and post selfies that you have “edited” using free photo enhancing apps on your cellphone. You do realize that the only person you’re fooling is that kid from second grade who moved to Japan to play the cello in the Japanese National Orchestra and hasn’t seen you since 1984, right?
One of my friends and I send each other ugly selfies almost daily. Nothing breaks the monotony of waiting for a pap smear like getting a text from a friend with a selfie of herself with veins bulging from her neck and looking all pop eyed. Especially when the doctor walks in and you’re still laying there with your gown on backwards giggling. Anyway, she and I also like to grab photos of people from our Facebook friends who have clearly enhanced their selfies, and send them to one another. If only it weren’t a sad cometary on how our culture is so obsessed with portraying an image and persona on social media that isn’t even mildly representative of our real life, then I could laugh about these photos even more. The point is, girls, that you think we all think you really look like that, but in reality, we saw you at Winn-Dixie yesterday, and you didn’t have a halo behind you and deep, baby-blue eyes.
Back when I was a kid, I used to watch this show named Moonlighting. It starred a former, aging Cover Girl named Cybill Shepherd and a little known guy with a receding hairline named Bruce Willis. Every single time Cybill was in the frame by herself, a soft glow lens was used. Look, I wasn’t there. I don’t know if they filmed her with her own special camera, or if they just fluffed her up in editing, but it became so damn distracting that I couldn’t even watch the show. Bruce Willis: normal. Cybill Shepherd: moonlight glow. Back and forth, back and forth. It drove me crazy! Now I realize it was the 80s, but I’m willing to bet that ABC had better editing equipment in their California studios than your cellphone does, even if you do have an iPhone 6. So if ABC couldn’t fool me when I was ten, what makes you think you can fool us with your own hazy shade of Photoshop?
The thing with phone editing apps is that they aren’t really photo editing programs. Trust me, Anna Wintour isn’t sitting behind her desk at Condé Nast fluffing up the next cover with an Instagram filter. These filters apply a specific look to the entire photograph. It’s not like you can go in and streamline your waist like a seasoned artist. You can crop the photo to cut off part of your arm so you don’t look so big (yep, I do that one all the time, can’t help myself, I have Oprah arms), but you can’t pick and choose portions of the image to enhance. The other day I saw some girl’s selfie and it had so much softening filter on it that she looked like Voldemort. Hello!!! You managed to erase your giant zit, but you also don’t have a freaking nose!!! That’s not normal, people!
Make up. Oh, sweet Mary and Joseph, let’s talk about make up. If you have a phone app that puts make up on your selfies, for the love of all things holy, please delete it. Right now. Go ahead. I’ll sit here and wait. If you don’t care enough to put a coat of paint on the barn, then don’t digitally do it in the pictures. And whatever you do, don’t add it to the other people in the photo. Unless you just ran a color run, chances are there will not be any bright pink color on your face after a marathon. Seriously, you just puked on the concrete in front of God and everybody. Don’t be trying to fool your Facebook friends into thinking you look refreshed and pink lipped after you just ran farther in one day than I’ve ever run every single day in my entire life combined. And if you wear glasses, um, if you put eyeliner on digitally, it will be ON TOP of your glasses. We can see that. We know it’s fake. Stop it.
I guess what I want to say is embrace yourself. Be who you are. Be proud. But if you decide you don’t really like your looks but want to continue to take photos of yourself anyway and filter them before posting them on Facebook, don’t get pissy with me when I see you in public and have NO IDEA WHO YOU ARE because you don’t have Clorox white teeth and floating orbs of radiant light floating about your head.

Zumba: 1, Corey: 0

If only we could look on the outside how we feel on the inside.

If only we could look on the outside how we feel on the inside.

I have a varsity letter for cheerleading. I dead-lifted 155 lbs for time at CrossFit. I own really nice running shoes. And I’ve watched two whole seasons of So You Think You Can Dance. So how hard can it be to wiggle around to some music? So hard that today, I came to the realization that I will never, ever, even remotely, be considered cool. Hell, cool probably isn’t even cool anymore. Now it’s sick. Or maybe sick was yesterday’s term. I’ll tell you what’s really sick. Sick is that Zumba crap. And I don’t mean sick like cool. I mean sick like you’d have to be out of your ever loving mind to want to try that stuff once you’ve hit the back side of forty.

Back to my demise of cool. It started when I would joke with a young waitress and she would fake laugh like I was witty and scurry off to get me another diet Coke. I figured she just didn’t get the joke, right? Then, one day I made a clever comment to a few college age kids at a gas station. I honestly think I saw one of them roll their eyes. Seriously? I am cool. I do not look my age. I can still do the splits. I’ve even got rap music with explicit lyrics in my iTunes. But today was the final epiphany. Today, sobbing in the parking lot of the community center, it finally hit me: I am my mother’s age. I will never be cool again. I am old.

What brought me to this stark realization? Zumba. Actually, it wasn’t even Zumba, because this class doesn’t bother with the licensing fees. It was “dance fitness.” I got my ass handed to me by something called dance fitness. Oh, I hear you, sister. It took you two months before you could get all of the choreography. I’m catching your drift; it was the hardest thing to figure out that body roll. But here’s the thing: I didn’t leave dance fitness six minutes into the class because I felt like I couldn’t physically handle the grueling arm movements. No, this class gave me a mental beat down.

I would describe to you in length the intricate series of kicks and flicks and popping and locking that was going on all around me in dance fitness, but it would only underline my ever loosening grasp on the modern world. This body roll thingy? Honey, rolls go on a plate. If a roll is going to be a part of my body, it’s going to be from the inside out in the form of cellulite. My body rolls hang over the top of my pants. They peek out from beneath the backside of my bra strap. They are not part of any sort of rhythmic or graceful movement. And this pelvic thrust action with coordinating arm movements? Listen, I’ve got two kids, and a stork didn’t leave them on my door-step. I have been privy to some pelvic thrusting in my day. But not in front of a giant mirror and six other spandex clad thrusters. It’s awkward when I’m watching TV with my kids and the dance to Greased Lightning from Grease comes on. Do you really think I’m going to jerk my baby maker back and forth with clenched fists at my side in front of God and everybody? I don’t think so.

I went to the Zumba website, just to take a look. Maybe I was looking for a chat room where I could find some sort of support group for Zumba drop outs. You know what I found? They had the nerve to describe their “fitness-parties” as “easy to follow.” Well, turn out the lights, that party is over. Maybe I should have dipped into the kids’ ADHD meds before I went, because I was totally lost. Better yet, maybe I should have brought some for the instructor because as soon as I would get one part of my body moving the same way hers was, she would totally change what she was doing! It would be like asking your grandmother to climb Mt. Everest and just about the time she’s making it to the top you yell, “Never mind, Grandma, we’re going to climb this mountain over here instead!”

So if you’re wondering where you’ll find me in the morning, it won’t be at dance fitness. I’ll be somewhere totally uncool like drinking coffee and talking about the weather, or at the Piggly Wiggly buying some Activia. This old broad won’t be shaking her way into shape. Sign me up for Silver Sneakers. I’ll go sit on a folding chair and do arm curls with 12 ounce cans of vegetable soup.