Category Archives: Reflections

Through my eyes

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

 

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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…

You’re Doing It Wrong

In the wake of the Zimmerman trial, I have seen articles from respected news forums about teens being slaughtered for having a Free Zimmerman bumper sticker on their car and a Hispanic man being beaten “for Trayvon.” These reports have been further investigated and have been exposed as false. But I saw the article on Facebook. One of my college educated friends shared it. It must be true, right? The sky is falling and many are blaming mainstream media sensationalism.

Can you blame them? I like to get my news from E!, personally, but you can’t walk into a coffee shop or waiting room without pretty, polished talking heads discussing the latest trial. They have countdown tickers at the bottom of the screen with the hours until the verdict is anticipated. They have forums to argue what the defendant should have worn to court. They profile the attorneys. They analyze juror reactions. They interview neighbors, old girlfriends, cousins-once-removed and fifth-grade teachers. And none of this stops when the verdict is reached.

I argue that it is not the mainstream media that perpetuates a legacy of stupidity, but it is social media that creates a frenzy of ignorance. Let us first agree that people who take the law into their own hands and perpetuate violence in the name of justice are ignorant people. Sure, they may be passionate. They may even be dynamic. But the bottom line is; they are ignorant. I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of these ignorant folks didn’t spend the bulk of their week watching continual trial coverage on HLN. Instead they saw a “news article” that one of their buddies shared on Facebook or a retweet of their favorite reality star’s “official” Twitter account.

 It is so easy for us to hit Like or Retweet or Share anything and everything. With the slightest touch of a finger, we perpetuate false information. We copy and paste quotes from articles via The Onion like they came from CNN. And even more scary is that this same internet is being used by college interns to sort the facts from the fiction before head writers and producers plant the information in front of the anchor or into the field reporter’s ear.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge fan of social media. My addiction to Twitter, Facebook and now Snap Chat is only rivaled by my dependence on diet sodas mid-morning and white wine at bedtime. The thing is, I earned a college degree back in the stone ages when you had to actually go to a library and open a book. There was no internet. If you googled someone back then, you’d probably get slapped in the face. But even then, a cursory glance around the fraternity social would make it painfully obvious that the world is peopled with idiots. The only difference was, if we wanted to create mass hysteria, we had to get out a phone book and call all of our friends individually and hope to God we didn’t get a busy signal. It took days to plan what we would do on a Friday night and where the hell we’d meet. Heaven forbid you get the time wrong. You’d never figure out where everybody was!

Now don’t get all riled up and think I’m being mean to the younger generations. As hard as I had it in college, at least I didn’t have to walk to school in the snow, up hill both ways like my parents did. I could go on and on about how today’s college kids are more active and proactive in the direction of their own lives, our country and our world; due in large part to social media. (For instance, did you know that young Libyans organized their revolt and eventual eradication of Gaddafi via Twitter? It’s true. Google it.) It’s not just my younger counterparts who are oozing virtual oafishness. Out of my 900+ Facebook friends, it’s hard to find more than a handful of thoughtful, intelligent posts on any given day, and this likelihood decreases exponentially during football season. Sometimes, it is the older generation that leads the charge toward mindlessness. It’s called Snopes, Grandma. And if you don’t know how to use Photoshop, then you probably shouldn’t share a bunch of really unbelievable pictures that you saw on Facebook.

If Betty Sue came to your house and told you that your mother had lost her leg in a freak price check incident at the Piggly Wiggly, you’d probably pick up the phone and call your mama to make sure she was okay. But if Betty Sure posted an article on FaceBook about mutant monkeys holding twelve hostage at a Wal-Mart in Tuscaloosa, fourteen people would share it coupled with their non-spell-checked commentary on the state of our world due to Obama (if you’re South of Atlanta) or Paula Deen (if you’re North of West Virginia). Is it really too much to ask that we think for 3.4 seconds before we click Like, Share or Retweet? Far be it from me to tell anyone how to live, but if you give more thought to what you want on your pizza than you do the articles, images and statements that you are exhibiting to the world as a representation of the person that you are; then you are doing it wrong.

What If I Went?

My latest television obsession is The Week the Women Went. I stumbled across it while I was flipping channels and the premise intrigued me. Basically, the shows produces found a small town entrenched in stereotypical, traditional roles. Most of the women were stay-at-home mothers and their husbands worked long hours or worked away from the home. The mothers took care of the majority of the housework and child rearing and the fathers worked hard so they could do so. The women who worked were hands-on business owners who were an integral part of both their business and their home.  Then the producers removed all of the women (age 18 or older) from the town for one week; leaving the men and children to fend for themselves.

The producers throw in some usual occurrence oddities, like a little girls beauty pageant, which the fathers have to take care of, thus throwing them even more out of their comfort zone. Two of the guys decide to tag team and live together for the week; which sounds good in theory, but sometimes less is more – especially when it comes to 15 month old children.

One young man (who still lives at home with Mama) proposes to his girlfriend just as the women are leaving. The poor girl says yes and then boards a train with her future mother-in-law (who didn’t know the proposal was going to take place) and leaves for what could prove to be a very interesting period of getting to know her future family.

There is a single mother on the show. She leaves her three kids (two girls age 15 and 12 and a son who is not much younger than that) with her boyfriend of 7 months; a young, handsome, never-been-married Marine. I don’t have a young, hot boyfriend with whom I could leave my kids, so they would have to stay somewhere else.  It will be interesting to see what happens with this particular family. The marine, age 24, doesn’t qualify to date me based on my Chronological Chart of Eligibility. Corey’s Chronological Chart of Eligibility basically states that 1) in order to be dateable, a man must be at least double the age of my oldest child and 2) must not have a single son who also falls into this age group. Nothing is more awkward than dumping a guy for his kid, so I find it best not to put myself in that situation. Anyway, this Marine is not even double the age of his new teenage charge, therefore I’m not sure I would have left her with him, but to each his own. Either he is going to man up and be the marrying type, or he is going to request a transfer to a new base before the week is halfway through.

My first thought when I started watching was that the men would be crying in no time and the children would realize just how amazing their mothers were. But before the first episode was over, I started to wonder if that is what would really pan out. I think the men will gain a new appreciation for the women in their lives, but what about the women? How will they survive this week away? Then the horrible question popped into my head, “What would happen if I went?”

I’m a business owner and single mother of two boys. I get the kids dressed and fed and off to school, open and run my business, pick them up from school, help with homework, grocery shop, pick up from football practice and volunteer at the school – all while training a puppy! I’m Wonder Woman, right? I know two parent families who don’t juggle as much as I do in a week. My world would fall apart if I left for a week…or would it?

I suppose my children would stay with their father, or perhaps my parents. I could write payroll checks and write up daily plans for my store and leave it with my employees. But unlike the women on the show who have the majority of their identity based in being a wife and mother, I am used to being away from my kids. They visit their father every other weekend and for a few weeks over the summer. I enjoy my free time and am not one to pine away and wonder what the little angels are doing without me.

The part that scares me is the curiosity – fear, even – that someone else can not only do what I do, but do it better. What if the kids do better in school? What if they don’t fight as much with each other? What if they drop five pounds or start cleaning their room or worse; what if they figure out that I’m not that good at being a mom? What if sales increase at my store? What if shoppers enjoy it more when I’m not there? What if the atmosphere is better? What if the displays are more creative? What if the only thing keeping my good life from being great is me?

The Week the Women Went airs on Tuesday nights at 9:00 Central on Lifetime, and I’ll be tuning in each week as this social experiment unfolds. I’m a little apprehensive to watch, since most of the reality television I watch makes me feel better about myself – you know, the girls on the Bachelor are cuter than me, but they aren’t usually that bright – but this show has already proved to be a catalyst for some deep thought and self reflection. I hope that by the conclusion, I have learned as much as the actual people in the experiment. Or at least maybe I’ll learn how to get a 24 year old Marine to date me.

I Can Handle That.

There is something about being honest with yourself. Sometimes I think we are more honest with other people than we are with ourselves. But then again, there are those of us that just hear whatever we want to hear regardless of what is actually being said. Generally speaking, there are a few phrases that tend to be confusing for many people. These phrases are “I just want to be friends” and “I can handle that.”

“I just want to be friends” is a phrase often uttered by a male to a female. What the guy is really trying to convey to the girl in this situation is “I just want to be friends.” But in many cases, what the female hears is “I just want to be friends with you right now, but I bet if we were to continue to hang out together, like all the time, and you did a bunch of nice stuff for me like my laundry or cook things for me or have sex with me a lot; I bet I would wake up one day and realize that I’m actually in love with you and that nothing would make me happier than making you my wife.”

Similarly, when a woman is in a conversation with a man and he says something like “I just want to be friends,” she may reply with the phrase “I can handle that.”  Now what the female really means in this instance is “I can tell myself that I can handle that and I can do my best to constantly suppress my true feelings for you while falling deeper and deeper in love with you, and then I will beat myself up over the fact that you were honest with me from the start and I was really the stupid one to think I could handle it even though I can’t so it’s really my fault and not your fault at all; and now the only real question is whether I should totally loose it emotionally and go off the deep end in a public place, preferably in front of your new girlfriend and your coworkers, or if I should eat nothing but Ben and Jerry’s until I’ve gained fifty pounds and only leave the house when I absolutely must go to the grocery to buy food for the seven cats I’ve adopted from the local shelter, most of which are mange ridden and unlovable – just like me, or if maybe I should just start using meth and become a back alley hooker.” Although this seems implied, many men do not actually take this away from that simple phrase. What they incorrectly hear and understand is, “She can handle that.”

So is it that we are not honest with each other? Or is it that we seem to just hear what we want to hear and say what we think people want us to say? I think guys and girls do this equally. Or maybe girls do it a little more than guys do. I’m not sure where I’m going with this except maybe this: If you love someone and they tell you they just want to be friends, just be honest with yourself. You can’t handle that. Just walk away. If you haven’t really changed, but you want to; don’t say you’ve changed. Say that you haven’t changed, but that you want to. I’m all for that “if you can believe it you can achieve it” bull-crap, but you know what? Saying it doesn’t make it so. If it did, I’d be a size two, tan person living off my monthly interest payments on my vast fortune amassed from sales of my best-selling novels.

Asunder

She sat quietly, steeping in curiosity, counting time on her fingers. One’s dawn was the other’s twilight. Separated by more than time and distance; two ends of the spectrum never to meet, much less collide. One anxiously waiting; the other willing time to slow to an end. Stomping on concrete and rolling over sand, duty and boredom and wonder filled their days. Loved from a distance, separated from a life once known; the closest of strangers poured out their secrets into the wind. They swirled with the currents and intertwined before dissipating; the remains slowly waltzing to the ground. Their lives and dreams and delusions all lay shamelessly, basking on the sweet scented softness of the fresh-cut summer grass. As her eyes closed, his eyes opened; and they found themselves once again alone.

Unanswered Letter

My heart lies somewhere in the bottom of a box. I poured it out with ink and tears. I stopped and started it a hundred times. I looked at it again and again. My fingers trembled as I folded it. My chest ached as I sealed it away. I cried as I inscribed your name. And then I let it go; closing it in a tiny metal casket and hoisting the flag. The days ran together, one into the other, and my heart drifted across the ocean. Guarded by a dozen soldiers, it traveled space and time. Then somewhere between the sound of gunfire and the blowing sand, it came to rest in the bottom of a box; forgotten in the madness of war.