Guilt-Shaming for Charity

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Let’s talk social media. Not the Russian infiltration or the zombie screen-starers it has made of all of us. I want to talk torture by my friends, wonderful people who ought to know better.

First, I have a confession to make: I didn’t get you anything for your birthday. You and I don’t have that kind of relationship.

I do celebrate the day you were born – you wouldn’t be my friend if I didn’t feel that way. But we don’t have the kind of friendship where we get each other birthday gifts.

So, why, I have to ask you, did you think I would send money to your favorite charity in lieu of the gift I was never going to get you?

If you’re like me, your social media feeds are filling up with virtue. This friend and that friend are saying that, for their birthday, they are raising money for their favorite charity. Well, bully for them.

I have my own charities. They’re meaningful to me because of the things I’m passionate about. Animals. Children. The environment. And when I am feeling charitable, I give to them. But I’m not expecting my passions to be yours. You do you.

And, while I’m at it?

No, I won’t post photos of book covers or album covers. I know these people mean well too, but honestly, life’s too short for me to play these reindeer games of tag-you’re-it online.

And that goes double for prayer chains, angel chains, cut-and-paste-this-content posts and the WORST – the self-pitying “I’ll bet you won’t read to the end because you’re not a real friend.” No. Just stop.

You may believe in prayer. Cool. I believe in energy and sending good, loving energy and that’s probably pretty close to prayer. And I will send positive energy out for loved ones or even friends’ loved ones who are in trouble. But don’t blackmail me into it. Don’t guilt me into prayers, because that kind of thing? It’s bad energy, and it’s the opposite of prayers.

And, as long as I’m being cranky, here’s my final plea. No more photos of abused animals. I think people who abuse animals should be sent straight to hell, stopping only long enough for some in-kind torture along the way. But I can’t bear the photos. They don’t help the animals, and any monster who tortured an animal in the first place? They’re beyond the ability to be shamed on social media.

My birthday is in March. But you can give me my gift now. Do something nice for yourself. If that means giving money to charity because you enjoy the endorphin rush of helping others? Go for it. Just don’t tell me about it.

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FOGS

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Confession time. I am reading six books at the same time.

Last time, I talked about how I have FOMO – or the fear of missing out. So, you might think that I’m greedily reading all of these books because I’m afraid of missing out on something.

But, the truth is, the books are all for different reasons.

There’s the book that I’m reading for sheer pleasure; for a book club (the book When that I mentioned is for the book club) ; the autobiography that takes forever to finish; the one that’s going to be a movie soon; the book about the craft of writing; the one that’s teaching me about Ayurvedic health; and sometimes, there’s even a seventh book if a podcast guest is also an author, so I can bone up before I interview them.

And, that doesn’t even count the two daily newspapers, and the countless magazines that I’ve learned to get digital subscriptions for so I don’t kill more trees.

So why do I read so much stuff?

First of all, I love to read. I’ve always loved to read. I don’t read because of FOMO – the fear of missing out. It’s more like FOGS – the Fear of Getting Stupid.

The older I get, the more I worry that my knowledge will decrease. Or get out of date.

I can handle if my body changes with age. Well, I’m not thrilled about it, but I can handle it. But the thing that scares me the most is losing mental agility.

So I try to keep learning things. And I read. A lot.

What is it you do to keep your mind sharp? I can’t be the only one. Anyone else out there facing FOGS – the fear of getting stupid?

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Fear of FOMO

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I think I have the dreaded disease FOMO.

Do you have FOMO too?

FOMO is the Fear of Missing Out. I think it’s a marketing term like BOGO, you know, Buy One, Get One. But, while everyone wants to BOGO, no one wants to FOMO.

I think FOMO originated as a term when we got so many choices through social media that people began bouncing like ping pong balls between social engagements, never staying at any one party because something cool might be happening at the next one.

FOMO is the opposite of living a juicy life because you’re never really enjoying the life you have – you’re always acquiring more.

What FOMO is not is a bucket list. It’s not all the things you want to do before you die. It’s all the things you want to do right now.

I started my career as a journalist and I was really careful about staying objective. And then, I moved over to public relations, but I was still careful. The words I wrote might be close to what I felt, but they were never my words. In both jobs, my creativity was harnessed in service of someone else’s vision.

So when I threw all that aside and moved to Charleston, I decided to dive into the creative well and just let it splash all over me. So much to do.

My mom died fairly young – she was 72, and that seems young to me. Did she have that sense of so much to do, so little time left? Because I hear that drumbeat beneath everything I do.

I don’t want to do anything later. I want to do it all now.

The kind of FOMO that people talk about that comes with the distraction of social media prevents you from being truly present, because you’re always looking ahead to the next.

I feel like what I have is not FOMO – I’m not scared of missing out. It’s more BIO. Bring it on! Or maybe BOTJ….Bring on the juicy!

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Dancing with Daddy

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When my parents danced, their marriage played out on the dance floor. The two moved together in rhythm, my mother throwing flirtatious little grins over her shoulder as dad spun her, my tall father’s body like a comma so he could lean close and whisper in my petite mother’s ear.

The two anticipated each other’s moves and the dance floor would empty around them as other dancers’ energy flagged. My mom and dad danced every dance at every wedding and every Mardi Gras ball and every party.

Like many girls, I learned to dance atop my father’s feet. Jitterbugs and waltzes and crazy turns and dips.

When it was time for my first school dance, my mother watched from the sofa while my father and I turned methodically around the living room, all of us laughing at my mis-steps.

“Just watch my eyes and not your feet,” my dad would say. But gazing into his eyes was an intimacy for my mother and nothing I could sustain without breaking into nervous giggles.

Later in life, I took dance lessons. Salsa and ballroom. Country western line dancing. I could cha-cha and boogie on cue. I couldn’t wait for the next family wedding so I could take my dad to the dance floor and finally keep up.

And, finally, a cousin married. That night, after many dances with my mother, my dad held his hand out to me while my mother, fanning herself, went off to get a cool drink.

I faced my dad, right hand loosely clasped in his, left hand perched on his shoulder. The music started. And I stepped on his feet. And then he stepped on mine.

“Sorry,” he said with a wince.

And, the secret was out. My dad didn’t know dance steps! My one-two-three-cross was at cross-purposes with the dance he was trying to lead.

“I just dance,” he said, shrugging.

We stumbled through the rest of the song and then, with relief, my dad reclaimed my mother.

It would take years – years of watching my parents swoop along the dance floor – before I realized that dancing isn’t about the steps. It’s about improvisation. And feeling rhythm. And trusting someone enough to follow, even when you’re not sure where the heck they’re leading.

Dad’s been gone for two years now and I’m still dancing. I’ve gotten pretty good at leading, but I’m still a novice at that following stuff. On and off the dance floor.

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50th Anniversary Party
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Editing Friends

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I was reading a book by business writer and nice guy Daniel Pink. It’s called “When,” and it talks cites a bunch of studies about the best times to do things…from scheduling big meetings to delivering bad news.

It’s a cool book – well, Daniel Pink is a cool guy and yes, I have actually met him. In fact, I may do a whole thing on this book in the future, but for now, I want to focus on one part.

So, in one part of the book, Pink says we have three stages of life…the launch, which gets us from childhood to young adulthood; the harsh reality stage, when life slams us with setbacks and sadness, along with some triumphs. And, finally, the final bittersweet stage.

That last stage starts around age 60 or so.

And the scientists found that the last stage is a time in which the number of friends drops.

You might think that’s sad, but you have to look more closely at the data from the researchers – and they are from the Washington University in St. Louis and Stanford University, in case that kind of thing matters to you. Anyway, these researchers say that it’s not that older people lose friends. It’s more that they EDIT friends. Because there are friends and then there are FRIENDS.

First, there are the kinds of friends who are like family. The womb-to-tomb kind of friends. Those friends, we keep. And, then there are the other friends. The Facebook friends. The nod-to-at-the-grocery friends. The friends you only see at yoga class. Those friends? We start to shed them like a snake sheds its skin.

And it’s not just that these friends drift away. We actively delete them. The researchers say the closer we get to the end of life, the more we narrow in to what’s really important in friendships, and that means fewer, but deeper, friendships.

Interestingly, this phenomenon was true for any ending, not just the end of life. End a job? Suddenly your lunch companion isn’t around anymore, and that’s fine. Graduate? Your study buddy isn’t on speed dial. It’s natural.

I did an episode of my podcast, Keep it Juicy!, on decluttering recently. It’s all about getting rid of the stuff that brings you down and doesn’t bring you joy. If you haven’t worn it in a year, toss it. Don’t be the family caretaker of all the memories. Stuff isn’t people, so have a yard sale.

All of that makes sense.

Except…

Except when it doesn’t.

Now, maybe I haven’t reached that final stage yet. I’m not quite 60, although I can certainly see it waiting around the corner.

And I’m not talking about when you finally fire a toxic friend…actually, I did a whole thing about when you need to fire a friend.

 

So, no, I’m not talking about the kinds of “frenemies” that you need to get rid of, pronto, no matter what stage of your life you’re in.

But…

I moved to a city where I don’t know anyone. If I didn’t want to stay inside the house staring at my husband – and he would have started making references to The Shining after Day One – I had to meet people. I had to make new friends.

I can’t say they are my soulmates like Liz, my very best friend from college days. But they are fun, I care about these people, and they end our dates with “I love you,” so there’s at least some mutual affection.

I’ve been here for about five years. And maybe I just got in the habit, but I still feel that every new person I meet could be a friend. I still get excited when I click with a new person and we make a date to get coffee. I’m not editing, I’m adding.

I like to think of it as building up a valuable collection.

And I don’t feel like these friendships clutter up my life or that I need to edit them.

I’m like a magpie, collecting soft things for my nest. Not every friendship is going to meet every need. But someday, some quirky emotion will have me pulling a particular friendship out of the nest and it will be just exactly what I need right then.

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Brand Me

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I was talking with my friend, Brenda about this very blog.

“You have to brand yourself,” she told me.

Now, I know enough about branding to know that she wasn’t talking about a flaming piece of metal to my flank. She’s talking about the marketing kind of brand.

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as: “A brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers”

Companies do it all the time. The Pillsbury Doughboy is the playful provider of family baked treats, and Zappos is the online provider of shopping made easy for all the shoes you could want. Or at least, that most people could want. Maybe not me, because I have a true shoe addiction. But that’s a blog for another day.

So, I guess in that sense, branding myself is setting myself apart from everybody else out there. And that’s kind of a problem.

Talk about uncomfortable! I went to school to be a journalist. This was back in the Woodward and Bernstein days, when the reporter – well, reported – the story. You stayed in the background, didn’t let your real opinion show, and just gave out the who-what-where-when-why.

That’s not me! I’m not the story! I don’t want to be a brand!

How can I maintain a consistent brand when I’m still figuring stuff out? Even at my advanced age, I’m still making it up as I go. Heck, on any given day, you don’t know how I’m going to leave the house – dressed in Earth Mother flowy clothes, or a sharply tailored dress. It all depends on my mood.

Moodiness is fine. But, what Brenda explained to me is that I’m all over the place. I have this lifestyle blog called, “Stilettos Not Required,” that lets me get really up close and personal. And I have a podcast called, “Keep it Juicy!” that lets me act as the objective interviewer. I have followers on both.

But, unless you’re my husband – or Brenda – you probably don’t know about each other.

So, this blog is an introduction.

Stilettos, Meet Juicies. Juicies, meet Stilettos.

I think you’ll like each other.

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You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

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Before I tell you this story, I have to set ground rules. I’m not posting photos. Not gonna happen. You’ll get clip art and like it.

So.

I think I get what old age is going to be like: it will be making up heroic adventures to explain injuries sustained in the most mundane ways.

I think I cracked my rib.

And, for my readers, I’m going to be honest about the injury.

I was posing for my husband, a photographer who is always frustrated by the lack of cooperation his spouse exhibits whenever a camera lens is turned her way. I do not like the way I look in photos. I have an image of myself, one that props up my self esteem, and I do not care to see it contradicted in four-color glory.

But, finally, in a burst of what-the-hell, I agreed to let him take photographs of the boudoir nature. I had lost weight. I wasn’t getting any younger. He finally asked often enough. Whatever the reason, the date was set.

My husband set up a privacy cabana of hanging bedsheets on the upper porch to ensure privacy and capture the best daylight. And there we were.

I decided to try a pose on my stomach and then I remembered someone said that Kim Kardashian simultaneously arched a bit and sucked in her gut for the best photos. So I tried. Slowly. But even moving with caution on the hard wooden porch, I heard a crack from my left side.

The pain went all up my side for a second before settling beneath my left breast. No, not a heart attack. This tale is a comedy, not a tragedy.

Now, the day after, it hurts to press on my sternum, hurts to twist certain ways, and god help me if I sneeze. The rib is either cracked or bruised, neither of which can be treated with anything but time. But that story is just for you.

For anyone else who sees me wince, I’m going to expound on how I saved an entire city from a villain, super-hero style and got injured in the battle. Because, who would believe the truth?

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