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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Welcome to Social Media, Kiddo: Three Simple Things

My oldest just got his first phone. My Android began ding-ding-dinging with invites from my teenager to follow him on his brand-spanking-new social media accounts.
It has begun.
Today commenced with an alert that my son posted a new picture on Instagram. It’s his sister, in her bathrobe on the couch, being stalked by our cat. I messaged my boy:
“Social Media Etiquette Alert: always get permission before posting a picture of someone online.” (Because, you know, the cat might not have found that crouch position flattering.)
He replied back. “Oh, sorry.”
I texted him a thumbs-up and the kiss-blow Emoji, along with the words, “You have much to learn, young Padawan.”
For several years I’ve been hammering into my kids the sobering fact that they do not have the luxury of doing stupid things undocumented and with anonymity, like I and their father (who never actually did a bonehead thing in his life) enjoyed. One’s parents, teachers, employers, future spouse and descendants have unfettered access to whatever gets published to the digital cosmos. Anything done or said can be captured via ubiquitous cell phone camera, uploaded, and branded in perpetuity like a tattoo on the butt cheek of the internet.
So, my son, here are three more simple but powerful suggestions from your friendly neighborhood Mom who doesn’t want to see your future besmirched by ill-advised social media choices.
1. Before you post, ask yourself, “Is there even ONE person anywhere in the world I really hope never sees this?”
If the answer is “Yes,” delete immediately.
Some years ago a younger family member posted on Facebook a juicy little tidbit about an event involving her… er… love life. I commented, “Hey, do you want me to tell Grandma to stay off your page today?” Geez.
2. Before you post anything involving another human being, ask yourself, “If someone else posted this about me would I be cool with it?”
If the answer is “No,” delete immediately.
This one’s a struggle for me—and my conscience occasionally loses the battle with my baser self—when I’m tempted to post some scathing snark about a public figure. Try to remember that even the person you loathe most on the planet is still a person with feelings and a reputation they care about. And there are a plethora of trolls online who will say all the hateful stuff you might ever want to, anyway. Let them be the sleazebags while you take the high road. You’ll never regret the mean thing you didn’t say.
3. Figure out and leverage the privacy settings for each and every social media account you use. (And don’t even think about using them to box out your mother. I’ll know. I have spies.)
Jerks are everywhere. Some of them will address you on social media. It will hurt. But you are not at these cretins’ mercy. You don’t have to invite them over to hang out with you. He who has the highest number of Facebook friends doesn’t win any kind of prize, so unfollow, unfriend, block. Quality over quantity, my son. Respect yourself and value your contribution to society enough that you refuse to tolerate disrespect.
* * *
I want to tell you one more thing: you’re going to mess up. You’re going to post something that hurts someone, that embarrasses you, that you wish you hadn’t posted. (You’re going to do the same kinds of things IRL, too. We all do.)
When it happens, own it. Apologize for it. Do everything you can to make it right. And try to do better next time.
You’re on your way to adulthood. (And it’s killing me.) The perks are expanding, but the stakes are increasing. Think, think, and think some more about your decisions before you make them. I’m here to help, and to do all I can to keep you safe and on the right track.
But the fact is, you’re spending more time alone in the world (and now in the digital world) than in my company. It’s up to you to decide who you’re going to be out there.
I think you’re going to be amazing. Because you already are.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

10 Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Two People’s Days

Life is stressful. Sometimes it’s hard to look around at the world and find anything joyful about it.
I recently tried an experiment. I posted on social media, “What can I do right now that would make you happy?” Some of the requests I got surprised me:
“Write me a real, snail-mail letter.”
“Read this thing I wrote for my job and give me your thoughts about it.”
“Bring your family over for dinner with ours.”
I also got a marriage proposal from someone I’ve never even met, which made me think that maybe a simple offer of kindness is a more desperate need in our society than I formerly appreciated.
Fortunately, Hubs is secure enough that he laughed over my would-be suitor’s comment. But I warned my dearest love, “Hey buddy, you’d better keep your game up because I apparently have other options.”
Are you struggling to feel happy? Loved? At peace? How about trying out one or more of these ideas?

    1.    Email someone for no reason. Open with, “I was just thinking about you.” Ask how his day is going. Ask if there’s anything she needs that you could help with. Tell him you hope things are better regarding whatever topic you last spoke about.

2.   Tell someone a joke. Your spouse. Your kid. Your coworker. Ask a stranger in line at the grocery, “Can I try out a joke on you?” (Make it a clean one.)

3.   Buy or make someone a gift. When you’re out running errands pick up a greeting card or a book. If you’re an artist, make a tiny painting, sculpture, bookmark, or origami flower. If you like to bake, do one or two extra muffins or cupcakes. Give the gift to a friend or neighbor for no reason at all.

4.   Feed someone. Pick up a frozen lasagna and a bottle of wine (or a pint of ice cream). Put together your family’s leftovers into a single-serve bento-style dinner box. Swing into the drive-thru and pick up two meals: one for you and one for the lady who lives alone on your street, or the friend who just had a baby, or the guy who’s batching it while his family is away.

    5.    Tell someone he or she is doing a great job. At whatever: “Thanks for running the office so seamlessly” or “You’re really an amazing mom/dad” or “I love the way you just ______.”

6.   Leave a secret-admirer/friend gift on someone’s doorstep, under their windshield wiper, or on their work desk. A single flower, a tiny box of chocolates, a tea bag or packet of hot cocoa and a mug. No note or signature necessary.

7.   Serenade somebody. Vocal talent not required. Sing You Are My Sunshine to a kiddo. Or When I’m 64 to your spouse. Or You’ve Got a Friend In Me to anybody. Extra points if you can pull off Bohemian Rhapsody or Sweet Violets. (Especially if you do it in an elevator.)

    8.   Ask someone to play a couple hands of cards with you. Rummy, Hearts, or just Go-Fish. When’s the last time you sat across the table from someone, got way competitive, and both begged the deck to give you the card you need?

9.   Dig up an old (fun/flattering/festive, but not embarrassing) picture and tag on social media the person who’s in it with you. “You haven’t changed a bit!” is a great (with several layers of possible meaning) way to introduce it.

10.  Have a Skype coffee with a long-distance friend. Set aside an hour of time together with no agenda at all. Ask what’s the best thing that’s happened in the last week. The worst? The scariest? The funniest? You’ll be surprised how fast that hour goes.

It takes very little time and energy to spread some love and kindness around your world.
And the part of my social media experiment that surprised me the most? Fulfilling my friends’ simple little requests gave me an enormous boost of joy.
Blessings and happiness, friends.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

"Blood & Soil" is Not Flesh & Blood

"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:11-12)."

We’re not wrestling against racism.
We’re wrestling against generational curses.
We’re not wrestling against white supremacists.
We’re wrestling against national curses.
We’re not wrestling against ignorance.
We’re wrestling against familial curses.
We’re not wrestling against bigotry.
We’re wrestling against personal curses.
We’re not wrestling against hatred.
We’re wrestling against the demonic.
We’re not wrestling against men and women.
We’re wrestling against the Kingdom of Hell.
We’re not wrestling against political ideologies.
We’re wrestling against the Father of Lies.
We’re not wrestling against history.
We’re wrestling against Satan.

"Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth,
and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one
and take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication (Ephesians 6:13-18, emphasis mine)."

We will not overcome by hand-wringing, and shaking our heads, and wielding our own torches of fury and words of hatred. We will overcome evil by being what evil does not want: LOVE.
We must BE LOVE.
We must ACT in LOVE.
We must PRAY in LOVE.
There is no other way for one who calls Jesus “Savior”.

Because we do not wrestle against flesh and blood.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Everyone Wants Your Money

I just read a scathing article about MLMs (multi-level marketing companies) like LuLaRoe, Rodan & Fields, and Amway. The gist is that the MLM business model—which propagates itself in part by encouraging sellers to recruit other sellers from whom those upstream take a cut of the profits—dances very near the line that separates a legitimate sales enterprise from a pyramid or Ponzi scheme.
If there is only one thing I can successfully knead like yeast into the bread dough of my children’s financial acumen, here it is:
EVERYONE wants your money.
When friends invite me to their homes for candle, book, lingerie, bag, kitchenware, or whatever parties, it is not because they like to hang out with me, or because they hope their products will enhance my life. It’s because they want to make sales, and they are capitalizing on the currency of our friendship and the cultural norms of social relationships in order to do so.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it’s important to my own financial well-being that I understand it. Otherwise I will find myself monetarily supporting every person who asks me to chuck some funds his/her way. If I like the product, I go to the party fully intending to buy something as I am expected to do. If I don’t, I decline the invitation.
Your employer wants your money, too. She wants to pay you as little as possible, while getting as much value from you as she can. The more talent/skill/education/experience you bring to the table, the better off you’ll be in the salary and benefits negotiation, but make no mistake: your boss would gladly pay you half what she does if she could get away with it.
GoFundMe and the like annoy the heck out of my penny-pinching self with their bald-faced grabbiness. But at least these folks are refreshingly up-front, right? “Not even going to try to make you think you’re getting anything out of this transaction. Just give me your money.” And a whole lotta people do.
Do you know why your favorite stores move things so often? It’s not because they need to keep their staff busy, nor is it just to improve the aesthetics of the place. It’s because when you wander around trying to find the thing you came in for, you’ll happen across stuff you didn’t know you wanted till you saw it. Impulse buys are gold for retailers. And they cleverly put items to tempt children (sugary cereal, toys, candy) at knee-level and below, because when your kid is having a full-on meltdown in the middle of the aisle, marketers know that nine times out of ten you’ll buy the little tyrant anything just to shut him up and get other shoppers to stop giving you the hairy eyeball.
It’s all about separating you from your money.
All of it.
Everyone wants your money. Life coaches, consultants, photographers, artists, doctors, landscapers, lifeguards, performers, event planners… they all want your money. They may love what they do and genuinely long to do what they do for the benefit of others and of society. But not without remuneration. To quote the Joker (the Heath Ledger version), “When you’re good at something you don’t do it for free.”
If providers give free samples or free estimates or free goodies, they’re doing so not because they love and care about you but because, like drug dealers, they’re hoping they’ll hook you and you’ll pay them to give you more.
Every single advertisement you’ve ever seen, heard, or read was created with the sole purpose of convincing you to hand over your cash to the maker of the product or provider of the service. And marketers generally try to do so by getting you to think about how your life isn’t as special and wonderful as the lives of those who have that thing.
Think about that.
A friend of mine refuses to teach her kids about money because, “Money is dirty, and I don’t want them to deal with it until they have to.”
I disagree. Money’s not dirty. Money’s just a thing, a tool for living. Financial success or failure comes down to one very simple formula that even a fourth-grader can grasp:
What Comes In minus What Goes Out equals either a positive or a negative number.
What Comes In is what you earn or receive. For most of us that tends to come from only one or two sources: job income and possibly inheritance or gifts from parents/grandparents.
What Goes Out is every single item you spend money on all day, every day: groceries, eating out, your cable bill, Starbucks, postage stamps, new shoes, gas, insurance, a mani/pedi, concert tickets—all that stuff you need and all that stuff you want. You get bombarded every day and everywhere with ask-messages from people who want you to give them your What Goes Out.
Everyone wants your money.
That sounds cold, hard, and cynical, I know. And I’m sorry if I’m breaking your heart. But not knowing this basic truth will break your bank, if it hasn’t already. Ignorance of the foundational greediness of business leads to doe-eyed dreamers falling for get-rich-quick charlatans and too-good-to-be-true schemes.
And don’t even get me started on the lottery, which is essentially a tax on people who can’t do math.
Those who get in on the ground floor of shady businesses often do clean up. But they do so on the backs of those who come after them, who frequently end up losing hundreds or thousands of dollars chasing the wind. (Congrats on your success, Money-Grubbers; I hope karma bites you in the butt for financially devastating other people to get you there.)
Everyone wants your money, friend. Remember that next time someone offers you a deal that’s too good to miss out on.
Because the only deal that’s truly too good to miss is the one where you walk away with your money still safely in your fist.