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It’s Not The Holidays Without A Good Fight

It’s been years since I got together with a large number of family to celebrate the holidays. I miss the fights the most.

Yes, I went there. Why sit around in a quiet, food-induced stupor, when you can use a little alcohol to fuel more lively arguments? What goo

FIght!

FIght! (Photo credit: pangalactic gargleblaster and the heart of gold)

d is a family feast without contenders in opposite corners of the living room, hackles raised, old memories refreshed and a full head of steam enhanced by a glass or two or ten of bourbon-blasted eggnog?

Oh, for the days of  drunk Uncle Ed call Aunt Bertha a fat, useless waste of space, whereupon she smacks him upside the head with the half-full bottle of Dull Donkey gin and calls him a pie-eyed, pissy piece of s*&!. Uncle Ed then accuses Aunt Bertha of marrying her fourth husband for money, unlike the first three, whom she married because they were (in order), blind, deaf and older than original sin. She in turn reminds Uncle Ed that the reason he’s living in a trailer (not a mobile home, as he likes to call it) is that he prefers to drink his money, rather than pay for a real roof over his head. Uncle Ed gets up, wobbles over to Aunt Bertha, stuffs mistletoe in her ear and reminds her that when her current husband leaves her for another man, she can always get a job in professional wrestling.

Family: can’t live with ’em, can’t imagine the holidays without ’em.

What is it about celebrations that either bring out the best and worst in our nearest and not-so-dearest? Do our relatives bore each other that much, year after year, that they have to start raising cain instead of hanging candy canes? Does sharing gossip about who’s been divorced the most and who’s racked up the most baby daddies mean more than sharing the recipes for Mom’s ham glaze and apple cobbler? Speculating about cousin Binny’s possible meth habit is more special than watching the kids sledding down the hill?

You don’t have to put up with these people often. It sucks to be civilized to people you don’t respect, or who don’t respect you. But if you can manage to keep it civilized, at least for the length of time it takes to wolf down dinner and watch a football game, then you have shown that there is hope for humanity.

Then again, those family fights and feuds make good fodder for Instagram and Facebook, don’t they?

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Filed under family, Holiday, Relationships, thought

Fat-Shaming, Or Fit and Focused?

Maria Kang has been called everything from an inspiration to an idiot.

She’s a bully or a beauty; she’s obnoxious or outstanding. Why the range of emotions, and who is Maria Kang?

The Sacramento mom posted a photo of herself, in exercise shorts and bra top, alongside her three young sons and pointedly asked, “What’s Your Excuse?” And the floodgates of social commentary Hell hath opened upon her.

The mother of three, business owner and recovering bulimic makes no apologies for looking that good. She claims no hereditary or ethnic advantage, no hours-long workouts, nanny, caretaker or extreme dieting regimen. In her own words, “I’m a wife, mother, business owner and nonprofit founder. I dream. I set goals. I plan. I take action.” Makes sense when it comes to getting fit and staying that way. But what about the women (and at least a few men) who read her post, saw her photo and decided it was time to tie her down to the nearest weight bench and beat her with barbells?

Her detractors call themselves real people, normal people, average types. They slam Kang for fat-shaming, for being obsessive and unrealistic, for not really getting it when it comes to what most people face in terms changing their lifestyle habits.

On the contrary: I think she does get it. She’s been through an eating disorder, she’s had three healthy pregnancies in three years without excessive weight gain, she works, and most important, I saw nothing particularly accusatory in anything she wrote. I did not see her outright hating on fat people, or using a verbal cattle prod to force anyone to follow her lifestyle. Just posting the photo on Facebook, Pinterest or her blog and putting the generic question “What’s Your Excuse?” out there is not a sign that she hates YOU. And it’s not likely that you’ll ever look like Maria Kang, either. But that’s fine because neither will I; there isn’t enough workout time in the day or plastic surgery to achieve that.

Go ahead and keep working out and have a goal: look like the best person YOU can be. Because if you want to work out to the point of looking like Maria Kang or anyone else, it probably won’t happen. You’ll give up and walk away from your workouts long before that point. Some goals, like being YOUR best, are attainable with planning and action. Others are just a dream because the time commitment, the money or the equipment just isn’t available.

And don’t slam her just because she looks the way she does and displays it on Facebook. After all, you can post there, too.

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Filed under blogging, Children, Current news, Exercise, health and beauty, inspirations, social media, thought

I’m The Bride And You Owe Me

Wedding Dress

Wedding Dress (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A friend sent a link to a recent Huffington Post piece from a woman who gave a bride and groom what she thought was a decent wedding gift. Turns out, the bride was underwhelmed.

The recipient of the $100 cash gift decided to let the giver, a recent college graduate with student loan debt and without a full-time job, know exactly what she thought of the amount and why it was not sufficient:

In terms of the amount we got from you both was very unexpected as a result we were very much short on paying off the reception because just for the cocktail + reception alone the plate per person is $200 (as per a normal wedding range with open bar is about) and Mike and I both have already paid for everything else including decor, photography, attire etc., and didn’t expect we had to cover that huge amount for reception as well.”

Something tells me the bride won’t be getting a lot more Likes on her Facebook page from this guest. Had I received a note like this, I would have sent a toilet tissue roll cover to the bride, stitched with the words, “Here, b!$*h. Hope this covers it for you.” I don’t know if the groom knew about the note; the post does not reveal that. If so, then these two trolls deserve each other. If not, I hope someone forwards a copy to him, and he does the smart thing: files an annulment and heads for the hills. It won’t get better from here.

At what point did weddings cease to be a union of love, witnessed by nearest and dearest, and become a bean-counting extravaganza, where wedding gifts were calculated into the cost of a five-course dinner, open bar with top-shelf booze, choreographed dancing, full orchestras and five-figure prices for the wedding dress? I’m not suggesting that a couple should skimp on the best they can afford, but how about priorities, folks?

  • A good photographer rules. You cannot redo hotos. If video matters, same thing applies. If you’re going to spend anywhere, let it be here. 
  • Good quality food and drink matter. No one needs to be overwhelmed with multiple courses or piles of messy, trendy little finger foods. Food needs to make sense for the occasion, rather than blowing the budget. And alcohol can be beer and wine only. You don’t owe your guests Johnny Walker or Grey Goose.
  • Speaking of food: there are a lot of wedding cake options out there. Look online for ideas, check with family and friends to find a baker (hint: check with local baking instructors and cooking schools to see if anyone can help. I found a fantastic wedding cake baker when I took a Wilton cake decorating class – she was the instructor).
  • A wedding dress can be beautiful without being a budget-killer. Shop at the end of the wedding dress season (dresses run in seasons, just like cars) for a bargain. Check department stores for dresses for the wedding party. If you must have the groom and his party in tuxedos, look for a package deal for the entire party.
  • “Decor” does not have to be purchased; this is a one-day event. It can be rented or borrowed, or even crafted by hand. Check with antique and vintage shops and thrift stores for items you can buy and reuse (flower vases, tablecloths, napkins, place cards).
  • Decide early in the planning stages what you must have, what you can live without and what can be negotiated either way. That gets the budget under some control, and you won’t be easily swayed at those bridal shows, where everything looks so cute and wonderful that you must have it.

And as for gift-giving: keep it within the budget you’ve set for yourself. Don’t be manipulated into handing over cash, like a bank teller who’s just gotten the robber’s note. You’re not responsible for the party. If the happy couple wants to get down and boogie big, let them bring on the Benjamins.

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Filed under blogging, budget, Current news, thought

New Job? Yes! No Compensation…No Thanks

Networking Freelancers

Networking Freelancers (Photo credit: solobasssteve)

I’ve started a serious job search. And while I’m not a veteran at this kind of thing, I’ve done it enough to know that things have changed.

Put it into automotive terms: I’m holding onto the steering wheel, but the car it’s attached to looks a whole lot different.

Early in my working career, we had no social media. No Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other digital assistance for finding job listings, networking, posting a resume, etc. Networking in the old days involved a telephone, actual paper resumés and a lot of drinking in bars. And when a job was posted (in something called a printed newspaper), you faxed your resumé from your office, someone else’s office or a UPS Store. Now, anyone can find a job posting, email, click, attach resumé and hit Send, without ever leaving the comfort of the couch and bag of Cheetos.

And there’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed recently: the idea of working for no pay, just for the possibility of getting one’s work, usually freelance writing, noticed, on someone’s blog, magazine or other publication, for which they are likely earning money. No compensation…um, no thanks. Whatever it is I plan to do from now on, I’d like to get paid for it. I can work for no pay elsewhere; it’s called being a volunteer.

I’m getting the word out to my network, and won’t have an issue trying out part-time gigs, just to see if they are a good fit. I’m not sad or pained by the end of the old working life. I’ve seen it coming for a long time, and kept up the pretense of life support for far too long. I’m getting the money and insurance details in order, and making sure bills are paid off and there’s a good stock of supplies for us and the cats. The Husband was shocked by all this, but handled it well. He saw it coming, and I think he believes I’ll be around the house more. On the contrary, I plan to be busier than ever, I will install a lock on the home office door, and I will find something that makes me want to get up and get to work every day. Never again do I want to feel like a day of work is a four-letter word. And thanks in advance for your support. Oh, and job leads/ideas are also welcome.

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Filed under blogging, employment, freelancing, technology, thought

A Real Friend Likes You After You Eat An Onion Sandwich

English: me and my friend

I’m not one of those people who lives in accordance with the number of “Likes” I get on Facebook.

And while I appreciate my Twitter followers, I don’t spend time agonizing over how many I have or who I follow.

And some days, the legitimate comments I get on my blogs and my food column are outnumbered by the spam slammers promising me everything from more Google hits to a greatly increased libido.

If the year’s personal losses have taught me anything, it’s the value and definition of true friends. I have one of those, and I spent time with him this weekend. He has recently experienced the deepest and most personal pain of life’s losses, but he has such grace, humor and kindness, that his sorrows seem to sit lightly on him, if you don’t know him. I was supposed to be the strong friend this weekend, the listener, the one with the shoulder to lean on. Turns out I needed strength, an understanding ear and a place to lean, too.

We cried, laughed, had lunch, shared and remembered, and I realized that this friend of nearly thirty years is someone with whom I don’t have to be a politically correct, always-in-control, grown-up human. I can say anything without causing him shock, ask him anything and get an honest answer (even if it’s not one I want to hear) and know that what is said between stays there.

Everyone should be fortunate to have several close friends; a network of people to rely on at any hour. If you think of life as a car, the scenario will occur when all four tires go flat at once, the steering wheel falls off, the transmission starts shifting on its own and the engine makes a noise like a locomotive just hit your living room. That’s when you need those friends.

Because I also write about food, I guess the best way to characterize our friendship is to put it into food terms. He’s the kind of friend who still wants to be with you right after you’ve eaten an onion sandwich. And I am one lucky soul, stinky breath and all.

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Filed under food, inspirations, mental health, Relationships, thought

I finally “Facebooked” – and I have friends!

Who knew?

OK, they are real friends (as in people I know and see on at least a somewhat regular basis), and they “friended” me first, (they may be doing that to put some writing on their walls), but hey, I feel like I finally hit the 21st century – and it did not hit back, for a change.

Using social media will certainly help my Next Life cause: I can get the message out about my writing and reviewing, tell folks about the chocolate website, and spend quality time (as opposed to quantities of time) staying in contact with friends.  I’m not out there looking for lost loves (I never lost any, but I did chase away a few) or scores of barely known acquaintances to “friend” in a desperate attempt to show how many people I can corral onto my wall. I do need to adapt and embrace whatever is available that will get me to the next place I want to be. Here’s how I look at it: if new and improved technology is good in my kitchen, and good in the garage (at least, that’s what the husband says when he heads for Lowe’s), then it’s good for my Next Life.

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Filed under freelancing, social media, technology