My Twitter account (Theo-sophy) got controversial a week ago.
Let’s blame him, okay? Just like you can blame the dog when someone in the room farts.
Theo took over my Twitter feed a few months ago, and he has gotten himself into a bit of hot water. Specifically, an argument with one of the most popular accounts – Thoughts of Dog. (@dog_feelings)
I love Thoughts of Dog. Like Theo, Zoey the dog runs this account through a young man who also posts as WeRateDogs. Thoughts of Dog is hugely popular. WeRateDogs is astronomically popular. And both sites are successful for a really good reason. They are adorable. (and by the way, Matt, who runs both sites, raises lots of money for sick dogs through WeRateDogs.)
Theo responds to Thoughts of Dog’s tweets.
All the time.
And this was the issue.
Matt apparently became more and more annoyed with Theo’s responses. He felt that poor Theo was “hijacking” his dog account in order to build Theo’s own dog account.
And he – that is, I – was.
But as I understand Twitter, that is how it works. You find people, accounts, (and dogs) who like what you do by finding similar accounts and commenting. If folks like what you write, then maybe they check you out. And perhaps follow you.
That is how it works.
It’s how social media works. “If you like A, then you might also like B.” (I often tell folks just starting a blog and asking me for my advice to do this … find similar blogs and post thoughtful comments.)
But I guess I overdid it.
I tried it at first for the very reason above. To see if people liked what I wrote and if they did, maybe I would increase my base. And the reason why I wanted to increase my base is right here in this blog and in my novels. If people like what I write, maybe they will also check out my blog. Maybe if they really love what I write, they might even read my books.
I am a writer. I write to be read. I want people to read what I write. I think that is normal (for a writer.)
But I guess I overdid it.
Because I did it pretty well. And this was also my reason. Because it was fun. It was fun to come up with silly, ungrammatical sweet responses to Thoughts of Dog. I looked forward to it.
And so did many others, I guess. Many people started commenting that they loved seeing what I would write to Thoughts of Dog. They, like me, looked forward to it. “The best part of my day is reading Thoughts of Dog and then seeing what Theo will say,” they wrote.
My own Tweets are not only responses to Thoughts of Dog. I tweet daily on Theo-sophy with Theo’s Pup Tip of the Day – a little snippet of advice and philosophy. I work hard on those tips. They are positive and life-affirming.
Like this one:
But, unbeknownst to me, Matt was increasingly annoyed, as hundreds of folks every day “liked” my comments on his sites.
So 10 days ago, Thoughts of Dog blocked me.
If you are not familiar with Twitter, when you are blocked by someone, you can no longer see their posts. You can’t access their site. You certainly can’t comment.
I was stunned.
I thought it must be some kind of mistake.
But it was not. When I tweeted that Thoughts of Dog had blocked me, there was in the Twitterverse, a little bit of outrage.
Not a lot though. I have 5 thousand followers; Thoughts of Dog has 2 million. His average tweet gets about 150,000 “likes”, My comments on his tweets average about 800 “likes”. That is about one-half of one-percent of his response. On a really good day, I can get to one percent. Not exactly hijacking. Thoughts of Dog has nothing to fear from Theo.
But still, the tiny, though vociferous, outcry was enough to compel Matt to actually have a private discussion with me.
He was mad. I was hurt. I don’t like not being liked.
But we worked it out.
He unblocked me. I promised not to overdo it.
I truly didn’t mean to compete with him. I was not trying to be better than his sweet site. It was just plain fun.
I did, however, want people to notice me. And his audience was a great place to get noticed.
And I am sorry and a little ashamed if I was not being fair.
This social media business can be tricky, I guess.
Theo will be walking on tippy toes for a while.
What do you do when people you admire disappoint you?
In your personal life, when someone disappoints you, you either forgive them and love them despite their failings, or you say goodbye and leave them behind you.
But what about those other people you admire? Famous people – celebrities, politicians, artists.
Maybe ‘hero’ is too strong a word. But you don’t have to be starstruck, only human, to connect in some strong, personal way with someone you only know through their fame.
They write, they sing, they act – they are truly larger than life up there on the big screen. Or they are ubiquitous and cease to be strangers but instead are somehow part of your life.
And you begin to to consider them friends. Important, influential friends.
And they aren’t of course.
You don’t know them.
You know a persona that they present to the world. Sometimes this is an admirable persona whose words really do make a difference to the world and to you.
But sometimes your admiration is suddenly interrupted by reality.
They are not heroes. They are just human beings. And maybe not even particularly good human beings.
It hurts to be disillusioned by your former heroes.
It’s happened to me. And on top of being disillusioned and ashamed of my prior admiration, I also had a practical decision to make.
Because I have written two different essays on this blog that include a couple of my fallen heroes.
One is Louis CK. I truly thought he was one of the most honest comedians of the past twenty years. And I thought he showed real consonance with women. One of his monologues, for instance, was about the bravery of women, who continue take a risk every time they date – every time they get in a car with a man. And yet they do. Eternally trusting in the goodness of people.
But then. Well, you know. Not trustworthy. Not safe for women.
So what do I do with that essay?
I could delete it. I could take out the reference to Louis C.K. I could leave it.
I wondered if deleting it or taking out the reference is dishonest. Is it like saying that I was never a fan? That I always saw through the bullshit?
But on the other hand, I don’t want it to look like I still support the man.
I feel like it is important to recognize that you were duped. Too many people are ashamed to admit they were conned. I need to admit it. Believing in someone long after you should because you can’t admit you were ever wrong is rather a big problem in the world right now.
And the other issue: I think it is a relevant, maybe even important, essay. I want it to be read. I have posted it twice (once in 2016, and once in 2018) because I thought it was important.
So in the end, I have removed the reference to Louis C.K. It is still a good piece. Just as good. Here is the link if you want to read it: Vulnerable.
And the other fallen “hero”? Well it is just a rather silly dilemma.
It’s Dustin Hoffman. Who I always thought was one of the best actors ever, but now, as I understand it – he’s not such a hot person. A lot of people who are great actors are pretty lousy people, I guess.
And my dilemma is that I had a very funny dream about Hoffman. And I wrote about it. I don’t quote him as a marvelous person. It’s not like the Louis C.K. post, where I think the message was too important to erase. If I were to delete the story, it won’t make one bit of difference to the world. It’s just funny. And I love to be funny.
So I guess it is just my own vanity that wants to keep the post. Because it doesn’t matter. It’s trivial. But I like it. I want it. Is that horrible?
So maybe I will keep it around. I’m just not sure. Here’s the link: Tootsie.
Does it make you laugh? Is it just plain dumb? Is it harmful or disrespectful to allow it to exist?
What do you think?
Just a quick message –
I have a freebie for you!
The Kindle version of my first novel, JUST WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED, is
On Amazon for the next 24 hours! (Ends on January 3rd)
Happy New Year, everyone.
PS. I hope if you enjoy it, you will consider writing a kind review on Amazon! (Authors love reviews!)
I went to Zumba this week – how I love to dance away a few calories – although I probably need to Zumba about fifteen hours a day for the next month to make an impact on Christmas cookies.
The class is conducted as a separate entity inside a very nice and busy workout gym. But I don’t really like the gym and all those weights and machines, and the noise. And especially – the muscly men.
There’s something about these big-armed, big-thighed, big-necked men that has always disconcerted me. My husband is big and strong, and I like it, but these guys are something different.
I’m not sure why. I think perhaps I feel judged. That I have an ordinary, slightly old body. (maybe I should change the title of this blog from Not Quite Old to Slightly Old. I’m certainly getting there.)
As I was leaving my class – which is mostly all women, except for one older guy who has no sense of rhythm but is very determined, and so therefore I love him), I had to walk through the scary-guy-filled gym. And my way down the aisle was blocked by two big blocks.
Two muscle-bound tattooed, shaved-head guys. Half my age and four times my size.
And as I tiptoed around them, I heard their conversation.
Big Muscles #1: “How was your Christmas?”
Big Muscles #2: “Okay, I guess.” He paused. “This was the first Christmas since my Mom died.”
BM #1: “Oh, I know how bad that feels. I been there, too”
BM #2: “We all got through the best we could.”
And there, in this noisy, busy gym, I got teary. Teary and ashamed.
Why in the world do any of us judge each other?
I worry about these tough guys judging me. But I had judged them.
I thought they were different.
But they are just like me.
As I miss my Dad this Christmas.
Life is scary.
People are not.
When I was sixteen, my parents surprised me at Christmas by giving me oil paints, brushes, and canvasses. I could not have been more suprised – or more pleased. I was overwhelmed by the confidence my parents had in me. They thought I was good enough to paint – really paint – with the real thing!
I painted a few oils. My best one still hangs above my mother’s bed. I looked at it just yesterday. It definitely looks like a child painted it, but I am pleased to add – like a child with some talent.
Now that I am retired, and I am goofing off full time, I want to make the most of my goofing off.
Foremost, of course, there is writing. My two novels, (and one in stuttering progress), this blog, my twitter account, and even once in a while, a poem.
I will never stop writing.
But I have rediscovered painting.
I have not taken up the oils of my teenage years – although I may someday.
I am in love with Watercolor.
I always loved painting in watercolor. It’s so fresh and light and clear. I’ve never been very good at it though. I’ve taken a course or two throughout my life – mostly adult ed courses. And I liked it but I always ended up thinking that I had better stick to writing.
But last year, for some unknown reason – maybe Grace – my watercolor has come together. It works. My brain and fingers have figured it out. They must have been taking courses while I slept.
And of all crazy things – or perhaps not so crazy – what I love painting is:
I started with Theo of course.
And I showed a few people.
And someone asked me to paint their dog. And then another person. Then another.
And I ended up with a little happy business. How I love it!
My dogs look like this:
These are a few of the dozen or so I have done in the last few months. And I’ve got orders for three more for right after the Holidays. Cats too, so I am going to have to practice on my own kitties!
If you are interested in a portrait of your own dog (or perhaps cat), I am now ready to take orders.
I have been mostly painting 5 X 7 portraits done on paper that is 8 x 10. This is then really easy for the purchaser to frame – since there are a lot of standard mats and frames for that size. (Watercolor has to be matted and framed under glass – to keep it from fading and warping.)
The cost is $50 for a 5 x 7 plus $5 shipping in the US. (If you are outside the US, the shipping cost will vary).
I have a paypal account for payment.
For more details – just write me at email@example.com
My favorite subject!
Write me for details: firstname.lastname@example.org
( I will be setting up a permanent tab on the top of the page – with my samples and this email address…so you can always find it.)
Often, I read a joke or hear someone say, “Oh no, I’m becoming my mother!”
And I think… “Oh God! Oh, How I wish I were!”
Because my mother is everything I could ever hope to be.
Except short. She’s short. Only the bottom shelves of her kitchen cabinets have ever been useful to her.
Other than that… Yes. I would be exactly like her.
My mother turns 95 this week.
She has four children. She still calls us “you kids”, though two of us are in their seventies and two are in our sixties. She has six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren (so far).
She was married to my dad for 63 years. He died eight years ago and she misses him every day. But she smiles every day too. My father was a great part of her happiness, but her happiness is also her own. And it is intrinsic and unassailable.
To become my mother is to be happy.
She loves to laugh. She has a sense of the ridiculous. And she can laugh at herself. She loves to tell the story of being on vacation with my dad and sitting by the swimming pool in her bathing suit. She was already well past middle age. And a young girl walked by wearing the same swimsuit. My mother described the girl as “horrified.” “I bet she never wore that suit again,” Mom laughed.
To become my mother is to be an optimist.
My mother does not live in a bubble. She is well aware of all the ills of the world. But she also believes that most people are good and are doing the best they can. And that things tend to work out for the best. Life is sweeter when you look for the sweet things.
To become my mother is to be polite.
Years (many many years ago) I had a boyfriend that my mother did not like. But every time he walked in the door she made him a cup of tea. With honey. And put out the cookies.
To become my mother is to be fair.
My mother does not get outraged very often. But if she does, unfairness is at the root of it. “Even-Steven” is one of her favorite expressions, especially as applied to “us kids.” She counted presents under the Christmas tree. She counted jelly beans in Easter baskets. And getting to select tv shows or slices of cake. Speaking of TV, my mother even hates unfairness in fiction. She despises shows where an innocent guy gets was framed. “How could they do that! That’s not fair!” she hollers at the TV.
To become my mother is to be knowledgeable.
My mother is well-educated. She became a nurse by applying to school over her parents’ objections. And packing a suitcase and walking alone to the hospital training program. And over the years she has continued to emphasize education for herself and for us. All her children have graduate degrees. She keeps aware of current events and trends. She has seen the latest viral video – even if she sometimes calls it a virus video. She is a news junkie, even at 95. And OMG, people better be treated fairly. She may not get out much anymore, but she had her absentee ballot early.
To become my mother is have proper priorities.
My mother is a worrier – no doubt about it. But she always worried about the right things. All her worries are based on one basic issue – whether the people she loves are okay. And happy. My mother always said that if the choice is between having a clean house and having fun, the fun would always win. “Housework can wait,” she said, “and you will not remember in a few years how many times you vacuumed. You’ll remember going to the beach, though.”
To become my mother is to be easy to please.
My mother likes everything – from a sumptuous dinner to McDonalds. Diamond earrings and drugstore makeup. A heartfelt speech. A jigsaw puzzle. Photographs. Getting her hair done. Good shoes. UConn Girls Basketball. Lottery tickets. A fresh loaf of bread. What do you get her as a present? Anything!
To become my mother is to feminine.
Feminine in the best sense of the word. My mother embraces womanhood, in all its forms. She is happy to be a girl. She loves all the girly things – makeup, perfume, jewelry. But she also believes that girls can do ANYTHING. And encouraged her three daughters to try everything and expect to succeed.
All my successes in life started with her belief in me.
My greatest success would be to become my mother.
There’s an old joke my father used to tell.
A guy goes to the doctor and lifts his left arm over his head and says, “It hurts when I do this.” The doctor replies: “Don’t do that.”
I thought of this today as I was making coffee this morning. I cannot understand why someone hasn’t invented a coffee pot that doesn’t drip water down the pot when you are trying to pour it into the coffeemaker.
Anyway, I am pouring the water into the coffeemaker and the water is dripping down the side and onto the floor.
And, just like yesterday and the day before, there is a cat Niko, standing right below me, getting wet as the water drips on his head. He’s giving me a nasty look – the kind that says, “WTF??? Why is it raining in here???”
And I said to the complaining cat – “Why don’t you just stand someplace else?”
Like the doctor in the joke, if it hurts when you do that, don’t do that.
If it is raining on your head, get out of the rain.
Of course, there are times when you can’t avoid the rain.
Sometimes the nasty raindrops are coming from a family member you usually love, or from a boss at a job you can’t afford to give up right now.
And sometimes the rain is better than the tornado.
But there are times when you can easily just get out of the rain.
– You could read an infuriating tweet and just continue to scroll past.
– You could listen to a good audiobook when the traffic is bad.
– You could shut the TV off when the program is obnoxious.
– You can try a different hobby or sport if you aren’t having fun anymore.
And, easiest of all, you could just get our your umbrella.
Yes, there is rain that is unavoidable, but you still don’t have to get wet.
A lot of rain is that slow drip of criticism. You can take a drop or two, shake it off. But if you stand out in the criticism drizzle, eventually it will soak you through.
So get out your umbrella, your raincoat, your boots, and a hat.
The holidays are here. And along with all the love they bring, the festivities are bound to have their share of drizzles.
The kind of drizzles that say:
– Why aren’t you married yet?
– You shouldn’t let your children get away with that.
– You spend too much money.
– You’ve put on a little weight.
And my personal favorite (meaning just the opposite) – criticism of my taste.
– You liked that movie? I thought it was awful.
– Writing fiction is just a waste of time.
– I would never shop there.
– That’s not what I would call authentic Thai food.
You need a really big umbrella to keep those raindrops from spoiling your parade.
Your umbrella in this case is called self-assurance. Self-worth. The confidence to like what you like.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
And that other great philosopher – my dog Theo – last week tweeted this:
You can get out of the rain.
PS… This week, Amazon is offering the Kindle Edition of my novel, LUCINDA’S SOLUTION, for 99 cents. Click here.
A Thankgiving rerun from a few years ago….
Just skimming through the New York Times, and I saw a review for the new movie, “La La Land.”
From the review and the trailer – I really want to see it.
Not that I see a lot of movies anymore. But, when I was a kid, and up through my twenties, I saw just EVERYTHING.
So here, for Thanksgiving, I’d like to say thank you to all my movie-going friends:
My sister Christine, who often had to take me when I was really little, and I know she didn’t want to, but always did, and showed me how to pay attention in the theater.
My sister Claudia. It was with her, when we were in our twenties,that we saw EVERYTHING. Every movie released, I think, between 1969 and 1975. She would drive anywhere to see a movie. I remember going to see “The Sting” with Claudia and my little brother Tommy, and Claudia drove all the way to Canton, and when we got there it was sold out. We were walking back to the car, all disappointed, when the theater manager called out to us and said he would set up a couple of folding chairs in the back if we were willing. We loved our special seats and the manager even gave us free popcorn to make up for the uncomfortable chairs.
My mother, who loved the movies just as much as we did. She saw all the dreamy musicals back in the 30s and 40s, and thought that all of Life should be that romantic. She scoured the sofa cushion for dimes so that we could go to the Saturday afternoon matinee.
My father too – who liked to go to the drive-in and see John Wayne movies.
My brother Tom. Not only did we sit on the folding chairs for “The Sting,” he gave me one of the best laughs I had ever had at the movies besides “And don’t call me Shirley.” He was about nine when we went to see “The Sound of Music.” Back in 1965, movies like “Sound of Music” were Events, with a capital E. You dressed up and took the whole family, and afterwards you would eat at Howard Johnson’s. So we got all gussied up and went to the “Sound of Music.” During the garden scene where the Captain and Maria realize they love each other… oh, it was so romantic… and Tommy said (not in his inside voice) “Boy, they have really big hedges!”
And one more memory with my brother Tom – Claudia and I took our young teenage brother to see his first R-rated film. My mother was hesitant at first, but decided it was okay. She jokingly told me not to let him watch the “risque” parts. So during a very steamy scene, I leaned over to Tom and said (not in my inside voice) “Mom says ‘Don’t look!”
My friend Doris. Doris and I were inseparable as kids. We would go to the movies together and often stay in the theater and watch through a second time. Then we would act out the movies in Doris’ backyard: “Tammy and The Bachelor,” “Pollyanna,” “Gidget.” And she often let me play the starring role.
My friend Barbe. Sometimes with Claudia too, we saw more movies in the 70s than probably anyone in the universe. We liked Jane Fonda especially – “Coming Home” and OMG, Donald Sutherland (swoon) and Fonda in “Klute.” And Barbe liked coffee afterwards – you can’t get much better than that.
My friend Chris. Good for foreign films and obscure weird stuff – which you always need once in a while.
My college roommate Lisa. She took a film course our senior year. And if they were going to see something really great, she would run back to the dorm and get me. This was pre-cell-phone, pre-text days… she’d literally run back and all out of breath, she’d gasp, “Come NOW! ‘Jules and Jim’!” And she’d sneak me in.
My friend Tim. He liked horror movies. I have forgiven him.
So it’s Thanksgiving, and I’m saying thanks to Hollywood and thanks to my movie-going companions. We saw a lot of good (and some awful) movies together.
And by the way, I don’t just want to see “La La Land” because of the good review, or because it looks like my mother’s beloved romantic musicals.
I want to see it because my husband has always said that’s where I live.
Here’s a true story about speaking up and about listening.
Several years ago, there was a family that dealt with a serious crisis. Their two-year-old toddler was very ill, and was in the hospital for months. (It all turned out well – I am happy to reassure you… but it was touch and go for way too long.)
The father and mother spent almost all their time at the hospital. Their respective employers were kind, understanding, and generous. But even given the compassion of their families, coworkers, and managers, the situation was awful.
They faced trying to maintain some semblance of job performance, household maintenance, the commute back and forth to the hospital, trying to become instant experts on hospital policies and insurance – all the while their little son was critically ill. How could anyone think of anything but that tiny hurting child? And yet they were supposed to.
It’s a cliche, but entirely applicable – mother and father passed like ships in the night. They took turns being the hospital parent, spending every other night in a chair by the bed. They saw each other only in half-hour whispers as they shared the latest information and situation as they exchanged places.
They were exhausted and frightened and doing their best.
And all this while, there was someone else in the picture.
They had another son, only four years old, waiting at home.
The mother and father were there for him as much as possible – in turn with the hospital shifts. And they had loving babysitters (I was one).
But mostly, everyone’s mind was elsewhere. We were consumed – who would not be? – with the small two-year-old fighting for his life.
One day, when the mother returned from her hospital shift, and the babysitter said her goodbyes and departed, the mother was standing in the kitchen, wondering if she had the energy to make any kind of supper for herself and her four-year-old.
The little boy watched his mother from the doorway as she took food from the fridge and starting her meal prep.
“Mommy,” the boy said.
“What?” said the mother, half-heartedly and without pausing from her task.
There was silence. The boy waited for the mother to stop her work and look at him. She finally realized this and turned to him.
He looked at her with all the hope and wisdom and patience that he possessed.
“I could really use some attention,” he said.
She put aside the food and took her boy by the hand. She brought him into the dining room and took out the Candyland board game. They sat at the stable and played Candyland. She could have played distractedly. She could have just gone through the motions, as she had gone through the motions a hundred time.
But she truly played. She watched him take his turns and move his token around the board. She laughed when he got lucky and she groaned when she drew poor moves.
They played like they had never played before.
She put all her attention into the game and into her little boy. It was twenty minutes of respite.
They both needed it.
Everyone was a hero in this whole story – mom and dad and sick little boy who recovered and big brother and grandparents and aunts and uncles and the doctors and nurses and babysitters and employers. But that day there were also two small heroic acts.
The little boy who was honest enough to say simply and directly what he needed: just some attention.
And the mom who gave him for a little while exactly what he needed.
Dinner could wait.
There is a moral here. No matter how tough things are, ASK for what you need. And if someone else is doing the asking, LISTEN.
A few days ago I was feeling sad.
There was no particular source of my sadness – no single or series of events to make me unhappy or bring the tears to my eyes.
Just that general overall feeling of Sadness.
I probably could not explain it if I had to, and I probably don’t need to – because I am sure every human being has those moments or days – or even years – of vague heartache.
I am normally a cheerful person.
So I considered all the things I could count on to cheer myself:
Play with the dog.
Have some ice cream.
Go out for gourmet coffee.
Read a book.
Go makeup shopping.
Talk to my mother.
Take a walk.
Listen to music.
Take a warm lavender-scented bath.
All those things are beautiful activities that always elevate my mood.
So what did I do?
Something so subversive, so revolutionary it didn’t even feel like me.
I gave myself permission to be sad.
Not forever. Just for the day.
I am at heart a happy person.
But sometimes us happy people are under a lot of pressure (self-imposed, usually) to always be happy. To be happy every minute. To look happy. To make others happy.
To be bright and optimist and funny.
Well, just for the day, I said,
I was sad.
Now I can’t say that it felt ‘good’ – I was sad and that is not good.
But if we have an inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, can we, just once in a while, claim the right to not pursue it – just for a day?
I felt a respite.
A relaxation of my face in letting go of my smile.
A solace in allowing myself the right to be sad.
“I’ll be fine,” I told myself.
“I’ll be fine. Tomorrow.”
And I was.