Social Networking might be killing my social network

unlikeI never seem to learn from my mistakes, so learning from others is clearly out of the question.

My plunge into social media is a good example.  I should have left it alone, knowing what others were posting for the world to see, but I guess in today’s highly electronic, ubber-connected, instant update world, social networking is a lot like food.  You need to have it (arguably), but if you do too many rounds of the McDonald’s drive-thru, it might just kill you…metaphorically speaking.

Finding old friends online has been fun and a heck of a lot safer than showing up at a 30th High School reunion with more gut and less hair.  On the web, they only see what you want them to see.  Some folks should close the curtains a bit more than they do, if you know what I mean.

My problem with being on Facebook is keeping my big yap shut.  It’s like poker in a way.  I’m one big ‘tell’. ‘Eww!  Two aces!’…everyone folds.  My lips flap away uncontrollably and everyone else leaves the table – usually with my money.

Social media outlets like Facebook are an all-you-can-eat buffet of opinion, idealism, voyeurism, fear, stupidity and anger, and it’s too tempting for me to step away from.  All those topics your mother told you polite people don’t discuss – religion, politics, selfies, are open season on the internet.

Well, this social buffet is filling me with nasty cholesterol and gas, and it’s making everyone else yell ‘Cheque please!’.  But I can’t help it – too many tasty tidbits to nibble on and not enough self control.

Opinions are like….well, you know the saying.  Everyone’s got one.  They’re also a double-edged sword.  We share them, thinking everyone will climb on board, cheering and supporting us.  If we’re really lucky, we’ll get an obscure retort from someone that our friends will attack like a fat kid on a Smartie.  All we get mostly is a couple of ‘likes’ and that’s it.

That’s my problem.  Someone posts an article about how processed cheese is a secret plot by the government to make us fat and lazy so we’re easy to control, and BAM!’  I’m diving in like it’s free crab-leg night at my favourite buffet.  Strap on the bib and keep the melted butter coming!  I’m writing in a flurry of quips, commentaries and rebuttals that are driving huge chasms between me and my online friends.

I know I should leave it alone – just shut it off, but it’s not that simple.  My social networking ‘work’ is very important you know…analyzing the latest ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ fail videos, or watching cats falling off of furniture.  Very intellectual stuff.  It’s no different than eating a healthy salad, then someone putting out a platter of bacon sliders.  What’s a guy to do?

When I over-eat, it’s only me and my belt that suffers.  But when I can’t resist challenging every opinion on the internet, I pull back another sour layer of the onion that I am, and no one wants to see the layers of my onion….and it’s making my ‘friend’ list smaller.

‘Like’ if you agree.

Seniors: Yard Sale Predators

senior yard saleThey start early, getting a jump on the competition.  Scanning the ads in the local paper, marking the good ones with a yellow highlighter, counting out the money in their change purse – hiding the big bills so as not to suggest they’re willing to pay too much.  Pulling out the map book and planning a route for Saturday morning.  Meticulously scheduled, their logistical prowess would humble the military.

Up and dressed before dawn, they set out in their beige Buick, tank full – trunk empty.  Like tea-cozy predators, they move with fluid precision through the neighbourhoods, staking out their victims before the tables are even set up.

The scent of musty clothing attracts them like sharks to blood.  Mixed with a fresh spritzing of rosewater, a frenzied, feverish rush comes over the seniors like a wave of Ben Gay joint rub, and it’s on!

The big Buick slows to a purr.  Only the constant melodic ‘tic-tic’ of the left turn signal breaks the still silence of their stealthy patrol.

The best yard sale veterans know that you don’t stop the car unless  you spot  something good.  Parking and walking around wastes valuable time and energy, so like gang-banging low riders cruising through East LA, they lower the power windows and ease up on the gas.  She slowly reaches across the seat and without even looking, gently touches his hand.  The silver-gray hairs on his arm stand up in excitement.

‘Stop’, she whispers, almost song-like.

He can’t hear and keeps driving…….”STOP!” she finally shouts.

The over-used brakes on the Buick creak the big boat to a halt, dead in the middle of the street.  Motorists honk at the sudden stop in traffic, but their protests are in vain.  The old couple have locked on to a potential find, set amongst makeshift tables made of wood beams and saw horses.

A treasured find usurps any traffic law.

“What do you see?”, he asks cautiously.  She says nothing, but reaches for the door handle.  It won’t open…he hasn’t put the car in park yet.

She throws a contemptible look at him.  He will pay later for this blunder – after their nap.

“What do you see?” he repeats, now with the Buick safely in the park position.

“I can’t believe it”, she says.  “Must be a fake”.

There on a rickety card table covered with a plastic checkered table cloth sits a set of clear blue candlesticks glistening in the morning light.  Beside them is a matching 4-piece wine goblet set.  The mother load!

Even with her advanced glaucoma, she easily spotted them from the moving car.  Years of instinct and practice have paid off.  The big wrap-around polarized sunglasses help, too.

She’s a pro, and offers the first volley as she approaches the display; “How much for the mugs?“, she asks, knowing that the answer is irrelevant.  She’s not here for the mugs.  She wants to see who she’s up against before entering the negotiating ring for what she’s really come for.

$1 each”, the friendly seller replies.

What if I want all 4 of them?” The crafty senior asks, testing the waters.

Well, they’d be $4 total, but I can throw in a Disney movie or a book for free if you took them all”.

They’re good, she thinks to herself.  Bundling to move more product.  Very savvy.  This person is a worthy foe, but all the best rewards are hard fought for.  Her husband leans in to hear.  He’s seen this seductive dance before.

“No thanks. I’ve already got too many mugs”, the old lady rebuffs.

While the husband distracts the seller with a shallow conversation about the cool weather they’ve been having, the old woman slides over to the table with the candlesticks and wine glasses.  She doesn’t pick them up right away.  She doesn’t want them to think she’s too eager.

“Hmm” she muses. “These tea cups are cute, but they don’t match my set”.  All part of the carefully choreographed game she plays with the unsuspecting seller.

Now the husband moves in close to her, suggesting they should leave.  This is her cue to reach for the blue ‘gold’ she’s after.  It takes all her strength to keep from shaking.  These are the real deal!  She can tell by the weight and the markings on the bottom.

“What do you think of these, Herb?” She asks, with a doubtful look on her face.  Betty Davis would be humbled by her acting abilities. He shrugs his shoulders in a perfect wing man tact – act like you’re not that impressed.  In reality though, he shrugged because he couldn’t hear what she asked.

Now she’s ready.  All week – the planning, the scheduling, the stops only to watch Jeopardy and eat some creamed corn on toast.  It all comes down to this.

“I’ll give you $5 for those dusty old candle sticks…and the matching glasses”, in an uncaring manner, but her loins quiver and a bead of sweat appears on her brow.  It could just be the heat.

“Well, I think they’re some kind of antique.  I was hoping to get $20 for them”, was the quick reply.

Foreplay, the old lady thinks.  This just makes the climax all the more intense.

“For those things?  They’re not worth that much. How about $10?”.  She tries not to blink as a curl pops out of her tight blue-rinsed weave.  Her husband has moved in closely, just in case her bum knee gives out on her like last week.

“Okay, I guess so.  SOLD!”

SOLD.  The old couple have waited all week for that one brief moment of pure ecstasy on hearing those words. SOLD.

He looks at her, and she looks back at him.  Their hands touch as they reach for their bounty.  Her soft, nearly opaque skin glistens against his gnarled hands, but at that instant, they breathe deeply together.

He pays the seller, and she reaches for a tissue tucked into the sleeve of her blouse and dabs her upper lip.  The big Buick barks back to life, releasing the traffic chaos it created.

Later, as they admire the new finds on their fireplace mantle, they fall asleep in each others arm chairs, while a rerun of Matlock drones in the background.

Next week?  The Flea Market.








Yin and Yang – the glue of marriage

Yin YangAfter 28 years of marriage, I think I might just have finally started to begin to think I maybe kinda understand a tiny bit about my lovely bride.  I think she had me down on day 2.

I don’t mean to suggest that I’ve been completely assimilated to her thinking though.  My clay isn’t quiet as malleable as she’d like it to be.

It’s amazing how we ever ‘hooked up’ as the kids say (or do they say that any more?).  I was a city boy, and she was a country girl.  We met in college which, I guess by default, was the great equalizer.  Nothing drives people together faster than hunger and loneliness.

I think there’s real truth to the adage that ‘opposites attract’.  Maybe it’s a core desire to coax the other to your way of thinking, or if I was a romantic, I might say it’s the different way they gaze at the moon, but I think our differences might be more basic than that.  I think we’re just intrigued by a different lens through which they see the world.

I love surprises – the good kind at least.  No one likes the surprises you get in a hospital…”Surprise, we’re gonna have to go ahead and remove that digit after all”.  Not a balloon and cheer kind of surprise.

No, I like birthday surprises.  I really like surprising people!  Maybe it’s a morbid fascination of watching the confusion and disbelief on their unsuspecting faces, but surprising people gives me great joy.

My wife?  Not so much.  In fact, since we first started dating, she regularly reminded me how much she doesn’t like surprises.  She wants to see what’s coming, buster! There was and never will be any confusion about this.  DO NOT SURPRISE HER!

But like those two bumbling guards in Monty Python’s The Holy Grail, simple instructions are completely lost on me, since surprises are fun…..for me.  So, what did I do?

swamp castle





For my wife’s 40th birthday, I organized, with the help of a team of scheming friends, the most elaborate ruse ever concocted.  It involved multiple levels of deception, fake parties, hotel bookings, real ‘parties’ to throw her off the scent, even included pseudo-friends that may have never existed, all in the name of….’SURPRISE’!

I’ll save you the gory details – the shock, the tears.  It wasn’t a ‘happy surprise’.

But that’s the stuff of relationships.  Our differences keep it exciting.  Admittedly, sometimes horrible and regrettable differences, but exciting none the less.

We can even watch the exact same program and have totally divergent responses.  Take ‘The Biggest Loser’ for example.  We sit and watch the show.  My lovely suggests we need to take out the bikes and get into shape.  I watch the same show and think ‘Gee, I’m in awesome shape compared to these guys – I’m gonna make some popcorn to celebrate my superb health’.

I’m a glass half-full kind of guy, I guess – fun first!  If we have a busy day lined up, and the weather is nice, I’ll always say ‘fun first’! Lets get outside and enjoy the beautiful day – the work can wait.

While this sounds very ‘in the moment’ and cheery, there’s a big downside to always eating the dessert first.  It means that nothing important really gets done.  Housework; laundry, cleaning, getting groceries, etc., get pushed back, and you end up living in a crazy, chaotic world that just might end up on a TLC show.hoardersSo, me being the ‘surprise me’ guy, needs an adult around to remind me to pay the bills, change the dryer lint trap, and put my clothes away.  That’s my wife’s role, and she’s good at it.

It’s a terrible job to have – at least it seems like it to me – always being the voice of reason.  The practical one. The huge payoff of practicality is almost never fully appreciated, is it?  Our house is mostly tidy, we can find stuff like wallets, keys, and phones, and there’s usually enough food in the fridge to make a meal with.

You don’t notice if your keys are where you left them, but you sure do if they’re not!

Lists! My sweet bride makes lists.  Grocery lists, ‘honey-do’ lists, reminder lists.  For big upcoming events, I’ve even seen her make lists of lists.  Sometimes they’re disguised as sweet notes, but they’re still lists:  ‘Kids, don’t forget to walk the dog, put on your laundry, and put your dirty dishes in the sink.  Love, Mommy – xoxo’.

I’m big enough to acknowledge that those lists are helpful – they keep us on track. And I have to admit, they help me to figure out what needs to be done so I can go and play…a touch of order in my chaos.

It’s those opposing forces that create this weird and beautiful balance in our marriage.  Mix a little salt in the chocolate milk and you get an unexpectedly great taste. Those contrasting flavours bring out something more delicious than the ingredients would be on their own.

Now, don’t misunderstand me.  My darling loves having fun, too!  She can party and laugh with the best of them.  Few things please her more than relaxing by the pool with a glass of wine. It just needs to be prioritized amongst the ‘must do’s’, or it won’t be enjoyable for her.  I get that.

And that’s exactly what this goofball needs.  The Yang to my Yin.

Maybe trying to figure each other out is part of the joy and mystery of our marriage. Maybe we aren’t supposed to be able to correctly predict what the other is thinking.  We should, at least, love and respect our partner for what they bring to this dance we call marriage. We should thank God for giving us the strength to bare our souls in trust to another human being, even if that other human being doesn’t understand us.

My Yang is exactly what this Yin needs.  And that surprise party?  Well, in the end, we had an awesome time with our friends.  I also had to swear on my life never to pull a stunt like that again!  Sweet Yang!