Monday, August 26, 2013

Cold Turkey Facebook

My little problem was totally out of control.

It had gone from a curiosity to a necessity.  From habit to full blown addiction.

I was doing it every chance I had.  As soon as I woke up. While (over) cooking. While I should have been, if not playing with, then at least supervising, my kids. As soon as I parked my car, but thankfully, not at stoplights.

Sometimes I’d find myself doing it after even the West coasters had slowed down.  Long, long after I’d promised myself just five more minutes and was officially offing brain cells by severely compromising my sleep.

It was Facebook, and I was addicted to it.

Like eating, it wasn’t something I could realistically give up.  Sure, I had friends who never touched it, or did so rarely, but as a blogger, this was not an option for me.

My Facebook compulsion wasn’t just about keeping in touch with friends all over the world, and learning what they found important and what was going on in their lives.

It was about growing my site, having my work shared and sharing that of others.  It was about learning from others' artful status updates.  It was how to promote the two books I'm in, affectionately nicknamed Pee and Lipstick, as well as the upcoming show I'm part of called, That's What She Said.  And most of all, it was never missing a beat with my blogsisters -- a group of women, many of whom I've never met, who I need in my life every day.  

But whether I was using it to stay connected or to fill a gaping emotional hole, I clearly needed to make some changes.

So on vacation I stopped.  Cold turkey.

I took the app off my Ipad and Iphone, making Facebook harder to access. My laptop stayed home. I checked FB once in 7 days, simply because someone had sent me a message, and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t urgent.  Which of course it wasn’t, because if someone is sending urgent messages only via FB I’d be willing to bet something is seriously wrong with them.

And here’s the thing.  Being off Facebook felt AMAZING. 

I felt free. One less thing demanding my attention made a big difference.

For better or worse, I wasn’t completely unplugged.  I checked email with alarming and shameful frequency.  I volley texted. 

What I didn’t do is lose hours of my life in brilliant, banal and bizzare status updates, photos, videos and articles. 

Nor did I have to wonder about the value of, or the response to, my own.

Instead, I read books.  I wrote posts by hand, to be edited when I entered them into the computer.  I didn’t reconnect with the Hubs as much as I would have liked, but we’ll blame that on our offspring who decided that vacation bedtime was synonymous with running around and shouting like extras in a Braveheart battle scene. 

I’m back home now, back to posting on my own site and Facebook, as well as pinning and tweeting and google-plussing (none of which have me by the lady bits like Zucky’s baby).  The “Gone Fishing” sign has been removed from my blog, and I need Facebook's mysterious algorithms to trumpet whisper my posts to the world. 

I hope that instead of being a Facebook addict, I can find a way to use it sensibly – to make it part of a healthy online diet. 

I hope I can learn to budget and schedule my FB time. 

And most of all, I hope I can go against human nature.  That I can shout something out to my online community, go live life in the real world, and then, hours later, come back to see if anyone heard me. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

How to Use Emoticons and Exclamation Points Effectively

You tend to become overwhelmed and flustered in person-to-person confrontations.  

You leave the discussion feeling like a chump, defeated and resentful, rehearsing what you woulda, coulda and shoulda said. 

The next time you decide to send an e-mail. Now you can say what you mean! 

Unfortunately, you overcompensate.  You are too direct, and now you have someone plotting to have you run over by a speeding bus. 

What to do?!

A direct, yet sensitive missive is possible with the use of emoticons and exclamation points!  These trendy darlings of the punctuation world allow you to be blunt, but with a little hug!

Let the following outline show you how to use emoticons and exclamation points professionally – really and truly LIKE A BOSS!

Paragraph #1: Remind the recipient how much you like him or her.  Be sure to exaggerate.  Note a specific time you spent together.

You know I think you are the best thing since boxed wine!  We have had oil tankers full of fun! Our conversation about alternative household uses for contraceptive sponges was one of the best times I’ve had without the aid of rubber cement! :-)

Paragraph #2:  Communicate a spirit of mutual goodwill.  Discuss your feelings and what you hope to avoid. 

You are a tremendous assistant!! I would never scold or patronize you :-)  I hate, however, to let things fester!!  I had a roommate who shied away from confrontation, but then would become very passive-aggressive:-(  She slapped me Dynasty-style when I dared to dip my spoon in the vat of pasta salad she kept in our living room :-(  I know!! So uncool!!

Paragraph #3:  Humbly state your grievance.

Because I prefer not to send an email without someone checking it over, you regularly proofread and “correct” my writing :-)  I can’t help noticing, however, that you might be more than a little spelling challenged :-) :-( !!  On several occasions you changed my work, and inserted the WRONG homophone :-( :-( !!!  This was a huge issue for our clients, Da Rhodz Skolaz, who are sticklers for good writing :-(  :-)  Upon receipt of a message stating, “I’m sorry your throat is soar. Please stay home so it can heel,” Mista Sock Rateez questioned whether I had passed kindergarten!!!! This hurt deeply:-(   He knows I went to Yale!!!!!!!!!

Paragraph #4:  Using I statements, declare your feelings and defend yourself. 

I am concerned that I will be blamed for losing DRS, clients of the highest value, when I, in fact, speak their language!!!  At their last visit, we talked for hours about Christian symbolism on Jersey Shore.  I AM capable of producing a very well written letter!!! Did I mention I went to Yale  :-) :-) :-)?

Closing Paragraph:  Summary.  Statement of future goals.

It is my sincere hope that I was not unduly harsh :-(  I merely wanted to be honest and forthcoming  :-) !!  I think you are a queen of a co-worker!!!  With a little focus you’ll attain the writing skills of that kindergartner in no time! 


Just imagine the above letter without the emoticons and exclamation points!


These days, with emails and texts taking the place of face-to-face, or even phone conversations, the ability to write compassionately is key. 

Isn’t this the sensitive, yet honest message you would love to send to someone who upset you?

If you had offended someone, wouldn’t you feel not only relief, but comfort, upon receiving such a considerate message?

Isn't this the boss you'd like to have, if not the boss you'd like to be?

You tell me :-) :-) !!!!!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hug When There Are No Words

In Memory of Scott Fitzgerald

There are no words.

Courtney, a writer friend who shares her beautiful wordcraft and photography on her blog Our Small Moments, lost her husband -- the love of her life and the father of her wonderful young children -- to the scourge of cancer.  

Scott was only 34.  He was taken far too soon.  He had so much more to give, to live for.  

There are no words.  

I always want to say something. I am a dancer.  I am a writer.  I talk non-stop.  Sometimes I cannot function for all the monkey chatter and movement in my mind and body.

Yet there are no words.  

Not the right ones anyway. 

I don't know how to adequately convey how heartbroken I am for her.  How angry and sad I am that she is going through this because of that fucking horrible disease. How I can't imagine how she is feeling, but...

But I fear saying something trite or wrong.  Something that inadvertently trivializes the enormity of what she must be feeling.  

There are no words.

When I was a new mommy, I remember reading a piece in the New Yorker about a parent coping with the sickness and death of his baby boy.  The tiny child had had a brain tumor and underwent multiple invasive procedures before leaving the world after so painfully brief a time.   

The author wrote that for the grieving person, nothing could be further than the truth than "there are no words."   

There are too many words.   

Words oceans and oceans deep.  

The words never stop.  

My father died last year.  We had been estranged for a long time. I couldn't stop thinking and processing and remembering and wondering what I could have done differently.  I was numb yet couldn't turn my brain off. 

Still, I appreciated every kindness from my family, students, acquaintances, colleagues and close friends.  I knew every word, whether a phrase I had heard before or something new and profound, was from the right place.  However awkward the words, it meant so much that they wanted to be there for me.  

And when people didn't know what to say at all, hugs worked too.

Even if the hugs made me cry harder.  

The hugs reminded me that I didn't have to hold it in.  I didn't have to be strong because I was trying to play the stoic like a character in a movie.  It was permission to give into the torrent of emotions that were better expressed as tears than as words.  

And it was love.   

The love I could no longer direct at my Dad, via a hug, was coming to me.

The language of the body says it best. 

Because of distance, I can't hug Courtney.  I can't take her weight -- let her lean on me even for a minute, to feel the wishes of strength and peace and comfort I want to impart in a gesture instead of in words.  

I wish I could, because not being able to do so feels powerless.

But I can show support of her journey ahead with a donation toward relieving financial pressures.  

No amount is too small.  

Click here to donate.  

And hugs work too. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Worst Mom at the Brookfield Zoo

She snatched it right out of my three-year-old daughter’s hand. “It’s not your turn, it’s hers,” she snapped. 

It was another mom visiting the zoo, a grown woman, upset that my daughter had stepped ahead of hers to turn the handle of the machine that simulated a tiger’s roar.

Trying not to be a helicopter mom, I was chatting with a mom friend a few paces back from the fence in front of the tiger habitat.  Our kids were in full view.  Mr. R, my four year old, was turning the machine as fast as he could.

People behind him seemed impatient, so I took a few steps closer and asked him to stop.  He looked at me cheekily and kept turning the wheel. 

“Get down, NOW!” I scolded.

Mr. R obliged and stepped down from the platform.  As soon as he was down, before I could get any closer, his sister, Lady A, came up behind him and tried to get a go.

And then…

“Did you really just rip that out of my little girl’s hand?” I hurried over to my daughter and swooped her up in my arms. 

“I did not rip it out of her hand.  My daughter was waiting.”

Was there really a line?  Or a herd of kids trying to work the machine ASAP?  “I saw you and you did.”

“Well your son cut in front of her before, " she retorted as she her helped her little girl have her turn.

Oh, so now my whole family has offended you. “If I had seen him do that I would have said something to him.  Maybe you should learn how to speak to children.”

“Yeah, well, maybe you should learn to watch your children,” she called as she put her daughter in her stroller and scurried off, her last triumphant words hanging in the air. 


Only the presence of children -- mine and hundreds of others -- kept me from letting loose on her a string of expletives that would have reduced a gang leader and four street hookers to tears.   

Publicly insulting another mom’s parenting is as low as it gets. It’s the kick in the balls of the mommy wars.

Why do moms need to treat each other like crap? Are we all so angry and insecure?  Is the mompetition just too much?  Can’t we all just get along -- cut each other some slack?

In that spirit, I am going to give this mom the courtesy she didn’t give me.

She doesn’t know that dealing with two children -- aged 3 and 4.5 -- requires the neck rotation of an owl, the patience of a saint, and the  “whatever” attitude of a complacent tenth-grade stoner.  She was with one child, who appeared to be under two.  One child may not be easy, but once you double, or triple (or more) that, it definitely ups the ante. 

She doesn’t know that it takes a village, but the village has to be kind, not a mob with torches and pitchforks.  She never got the memo that you are extra nice to other people’s children.  Especially children you don’t know.  That if you want to correct a stranger’s kid, you do so in the nicest way possible, and you look around to see if the mom is there first.  (And trust me, in that crowd I was pretty easy to spot.)

She doesn’t know that parents need to stick together, and build each other up, not tear each other down.  Parental solidarity is everything.  A little empathy can be the difference between a parent losing it or holding her head a little higher when a kid makes a major mess, is being a total jerk or is in the throes of a meltdown.  

She doesn’t know that you keep your judgments to yourself.  And you never insult anyone’s parenting.  No matter how tired and angry you feel.

I feel sorry for her for being so mean and so clueless.  

For acting so ugly to another person’s child.  

Hopefully she’ll learn someday.  

Maybe time will teach her.  

Or maybe, just maybe, it will be karma in the form of some Mama Bear ready for battle, one whose searing comebacks roll off her tongue like ghost-pepper-flecked honey. 

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