Fish or Cut Bait?

Fish or Cut Bait?

Recently, I discovered that an organization I have been associated with for a number of years has changed its mission and its financial objectives. I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened, but it seems small changes were made over time. Each change was so small that I didn’t really notice till it was glaring in my face. And not only is it glowing in my face, but the same organization suddenly asks for money way more often than they used to. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about supporting an organization that has a mission with which I agree. But when I no longer agree? What do I do? How do I know when to do it? What do I do when I no longer agree with how the money is being spent?

If you’ve never heard the phrase “fish or cut bait,” it’s a saying that means “proceed with an activity or disengage.” It can be used in business…maybe in sales, you have a customer who is taking up a lot of your time and energy in trying to make a sale, and that energy/time might be better spent elsewhere. You have to decide if you’re going to “fish or cut bait,” meaning you have to decide if you are going to continue to pursue the sale or walk away and look for other sales that might have faster, more positive results. In a personal context, if you’re dating someone, there might come a time in the relationship that you have to decide it you want to stick with the person long-term or walk away from the relationship. Kind of like “should I stay or should I go.”

And that’s how I feel about this organization. I’m trying to decide if it’s worth more investment of my time and money, or if I should just walk away, since I no longer agree with the way the administrators are running the show. It’s heartbreaking, because I believed in this cause wholeheartedly…till I didn’t. After all, there are lots of other organizations that I actually agree with, and they would love to receive my charitable donations. I know that any funds I’ve been funneling toward this organization would be welcomed at my college alma mater, my sorority, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, or Ronald McDonald House…and I agree with their purposes, their missions, and their spending. But it’s not that easy. I’m personally invested with this particular group, and that’s what makes it difficult. It’s like a marriage almost…you become so invested…and if your spouse slowly changes his/her beliefs about everything you’ve ever agreed upon, how do you know if/when to file for divorce?

No, I’m not filing for divorce…don’t go starting that rumor.

Here is what I finally had to do to come to a decision: I had to sit down and make a list of the things that have changed. I had to sit down and make a list of things I continue to believe in about the organization after all these changes. And after doing that, I could see clearly that there is very little about this organization I agree with in 2022. Because of that, I have chosen to “cut bait.” My charitable dollars and my volunteer time will be redirected elsewhere. Will it make or break the organization? No. They will notice that I’m no longer volunteering for the cause, but they likely won’t even notice I’m no longer contributing money, and that’s OK. I will notice. I will know I am no longer contributing to an organization whose ideals do not align with my own. I will no longer contribute to an organization that, in my view, is no longer being a good steward of the dollars I contribute. I’m not going to start a battle. I’m not going to continue to “fish,” because when I have tried to express my views, they went unheard.

I won’t go out and say ugly things about the organization. I will let their actions speak for themselves. I won’t try to damage their reputation. What they are doing might even be popular; it’s just not popular with me.

And you know what? It feels good. It feels good to know I stand for something. As my daddy used to say, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” The quote doesn’t actually belong to him. Alexander Hamilton gets the credit for the origin of that saying. But it’s true. Even by simply changing the direction of my philanthropy, I’m standing up for something.

It’s likely we have all found ourselves affiliated with groups whose ideals we ultimately questioned. I know friends who have lost faith in their employers, their churches, their schools, and charities. Several years ago, our city’s largest charitable organization was involved in a spending scandal and lots of people stopped volunteering and contributing. It happens.

In this situation, I chose to “cut bait,” and it feels good to channel the support elsewhere…to organizations that have ideals in line with my own.

***When becoming involved with a non-profit, it’s a good idea to find out how much of the money you donate is going to administrative costs and how much is actually being used for the mission. Charity Watch is a good place to check. You can see their website here. At the website, enter the name of the nonprofit, and you will see their grade and how they spend.***

Remember Leif Garrett?

Remember Leif Garrett?

Yes, this is on my mind today…Leif Garrett. He was a teen idol when I was a preteen in the 1970s. He had been on a couple of TV shows…Three for the RoadFamily (with Kristy McNichol), and a guest spot on Wonder Woman. He had a singing career with a hit in I Was Made for Dancing. He was in the Walking Tall movies. He was on American Bandstand. And he even had his very own TV special on CBS. All that happened before he was 18.

I don’t even know why I started thinking about Leif Garrett yesterday. Sometimes, I start looking for movies I liked as a child or teenager, and yesterday, I thought of a coming-of-age film from the 80s called Little Darlings, starring Kristy McNichol and Tatum O’Neal. Somehow, that made me think of Leif Garrett.

Oh, he was such a dreamboat at the time! With his flowing blonde locks and surfer-boy looks, lots of teenage girls had his posters all over their bedrooms. Back then, we had Teen Beat and Tiger Beat magazines (remember those?) to keep us up-to-date on our teen idols, and in the late 70s, Leif Garrett was at the top of the list. But as we all know, most teen idols don’t last. Most are a flash in the pan…including Garrett. But there was something different about him. He had charisma that the others didn’t have. Well, David Cassidy had it, but I can’t think of anyone else from my time who had the same X Factor as Cassidy and Garrett. Somehow, David Cassidy managed to reinvent himself as an adult in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on Broadway, but the only place we’ve seen Garrett was Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew…sadly.

I’ve seen clips and read articles about him over the last 24 hours, and his story is tragic. He started acting in commercials as a child before moving into TV and movies. At some point, a management team decided to make him a singing star. With his charisma, Garrett was a walking dollar sign. He felt like he had no say in his own career and told Rosie O’Donnell on her show that he didn’t see a lot of the money from his fame.

But the real turning point in his life was a tragic car accident when he was 17. He was driving his Porsche, and a friend was riding with him. They had an accident, and the friend was left paralyzed from the waist down. Alcohol and drugs were involved. All terrible. It’s also something that could happen to lots of teens…a cautionary tale.

It’s tragic. The friend’s paralysis is tragic. The guilt and downward spiral afterward of Garrett are tragic too. Had he not been in show business, would this have happened? It’s an ugly business. Tragic. He became an addict…cocaine, heroin…sad. Was it the guilt of the accident that sent him over the edge? He made some bad choices, but this was a kid who had too much freedom and too much power too early. Who could handle that at 17? Fame and money make a strange life for a teen. Even good people can get caught up in the trappings of fame. Drugs plus guilt…perfect storm.

I am not diagnosing Garrett. I am not a psychologist. I just wonder what could have been. I look at that innocent face of the 1970s, and I want him to have a mother or someone else to keep him grounded. Had he been more closely supervised, and had he not chosen to drive under the influence that night, would his life have spiraled out of control? It’s sad to look at the photos of that sunkissed, young, hopeful teen and know what a terrible turn his life took. I don’t think he was a horrible individual. He was a teenager without boundaries. He’s likely not a horrible individual now, but wow, he has had a tough life. If he had stayed clean, would he be living a “normal” life now? We will never know. Some teen idols go on to have seemingly healthy lives, but the vast majority seem to have more issues than the “average” kid.

So that brings me to Garrett’s book, released at the end of 2019. Of course, I didn’t know about it then, and I didn’t hear about it earlier this year. With COVID in our midst, there hasn’t been a lot of press about the memoirs of former teen idols. But when I learned about it yesterday, I ordered it from Amazon, and I’ve read a couple of chapters, and it’s pretty darn good so far. It’s called Idol Truth: A Memoir. Yes, I will be the first to admit that I tend to be sympathetic. I’m a bleeding heart. I tend to want the best for people, and I’m sure I will still want the best for Garrett when I finish this book. If you’re interested, you can order from Amazon here. It will be available on the Audible app on August 11…I’ve already preordered it.

In the meantime, I’ll give my teenage daughter some extra hugs and be grateful that she’s a normal teenage girl living a normal life in North Carolina…not a teen idol. And I’ll tell her the story of Leif Garrett as a cautionary tale. I’ll tell her how quickly his life spiraled out of control, and hopefully, we will both learn some valuable lessons from Garrett’s experience.

Answer the Freaking Door! (Life with Teens)

The doorbell just rang. I knew my teenage daughter was expecting a friend. I’m in my room knitting, because I’m recovering from a stomach bug. I stopped and listened for movement upstairs. Nothing. I picked up my cellphone and called my daughter. No answer. Instead, I got a text from her saying, “Hey.” I responded, “GET THE DOOR.” I would say I was in disbelief, but I wasn’t. She’s a teenager, and somehow, they become more self-centered than they were at four. Hard to believe, I know, but if you’ve ever parented a teen, you know it’s the truth. And I remember 16. I know we are just entering the “I know everything, and Mom knows nothing” years. How long does that last? Till 25? Ugh.

I’m taking notes on all this teenage fun. I find that if I keep notes on it, it actually becomes humorous. I can laugh about it. Here are a few notes I’ve made:

  • No matter what I wear, it’s wrong, and she will wait till other people are around to tell me. Seriously? Seriously.
  • Occasionally, I feel like a walking wallet. No joke. We just got home from vacation, and I noticed during that week that she heard nothing I had to say unless she needed money to purchase something she wanted. I’m not kidding.
  • I sneeze wrong. And I breathe wrong. Oh, and I pronounce things incorrectly…usually, it’s the names of rappers that I pronounce incorrectly. First of all, I didn’t even know DJ Khaled and Khalid are two different people…and clearly, I pronounced one of them wrong.
  • My resting face, while not “resting b**ch face,” is apparently annoying to my daughter. She has asked, “Why are you making that face?” My response? “I’m not making a face. It’s just my face.” And of course, that gets an eye roll.
  • Which leads us to this: an eye roll is the response to just about everything.
  • If I linger in her room after we have talked about something, she will look at me for about five seconds before saying, “OK. You can go now.”
  • Apparently, everybody else gets to have more fun than our daughter does. Apparently, I’m the only mom who actually expects her to go to sports practice and do homework. We know that’s not true, but she sure makes it seem that way.

That’s not a complete list, of course, but it gets the point across. But here’s the thing: just like most teenagers, behind all that sarcasm and eye-rolling is a sweet girl who still loves her parents and wants to please us. I know that, because she also does this:

  • When she gets a good grade or a bad grade, she immediately calls me or texts me. If it’s good, we cheer together. But if it’s bad, she knows I will say all the right things to help her and encourage her…set her on the right track.
  • When I’m not feeling well, she calls me before she leaves sports practice and asks if she can bring anything home to me.
  • At the end of a recent vacation, when I asked her what her favorite thing about the trip was, it was the day we were together the whole day.
  • She actually uttered these words to me recently: “Mom, you do parenting right.” What?!?! A high compliment? She didn’t mean I’m a sucker. She meant we communicate really well with each other.

She’s figuring it all out…and I am too. Teenagers are an interesting bunch, and we all need to remember we used to be teenagers. I know she needs my help navigating these years, and so far, she’s doing pretty darn well. She’s not perfect, but then again, neither am I.

As a teenager, she is somewhere between a child and a full-fledged adult. These years are interesting, and they are fleeting. Before I know it, she will be off to college and thinking she is way smarter and way cooler than I am…even more than she does now! But she’ll still call me…and not just for money. She’ll call me to share accomplishments. She’ll call me when she doesn’t feel well or when she’s sad. I know, because I did the same thing. In fact, when I had a stomach bug two days ago, I wanted to call my mom.

Gotta go give my girl a hug.