Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

Why write? Why not write?

Having been in the writing business for almost ten years (although I’ve been writing for quite a bit longer than that, on a non-business basis), I’ve learned many things. My hope is to impart them to my readers, both to share wisdom and to prevent you from making the mistakes that I did.

When you have something to say, say it. Sharing information is cathartic and if you find someone or some entity that wants to read it, so much the better. One of the lessons that I’ve learned through a significant amount of experience is that you are not the same as the work that you create. In other words, people will like you and not your work. Or more importantly, it’s critical to understand that a lack of positive response to what you’ve created in no way diminishes you. It’s simply the taste fairy thing.

Now that I recognize the value of this medium, I’ll be adding comments much more often. If you want to see more of me and what I’ve done so far, my website is http://www.csscribe.com. Looking forward to hearing from you – Shalom.

 

 

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Focus

One of the words that I use most often with students is “focus.” It appears that many of us have lost our focus in terms of what we should be doing, saying and demonstrating.

Looking around me, I see evidence that some of us have and some have not remained focused on what true priorities must be. If you’re inclined to whine about using toilet paper other than your favorite, by no means should you expect me to be sympathetic. You’re lucky to have any at all.

The same is true of liquor stores. Some are open and some are not. But if you’re going on and on about how they are essential, maybe you should take another look at what you need to survive. Alcohol may numb or desensitize you but it does absolutely nothing beyond that.

Someone’s terrific idea of opening stores an hour or two early for seniors is remarkable. If you’re there and more agile than some of your senior cohorts, why not offer to lift their bags or return carts in order to save them a few steps? Yes, of course, the hand sanitizer must be incorporated.

Let’s spend more time appreciating those who are working tirelessly on our behalf. Someone was recently shown giving cookies or some other token of appreciation to the trash collectors. What a great idea! If you see a firefighter, police officer or health care professional, take the ten or fifteen seconds to thank that person for their dedication and sacrifices.

This is not the time to be lazy, angry, stubborn or anything else that would interfere with protecting you, your family or the remainder of the world. While we may be confined to our homes, we have immense powers to help others through our words and acts of kindness.

Because we have individual relationships with God, I would never be so presumptuous as to recommend expressing gratitude to that God. But you may discover that doing so is gratifying and satisfying. It may also provide the best feeling of reassurance that you can imagine. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Rights and responsibilities

Our times of global uncertainty and crisis require what I believe is a careful distinction between our rights and responsibilities. What triggered this was a social media participant who ranted and raved about social distancing. She moaned about the fact that the closure of so many entities and the requirement to self-monitor violated her civil rights. It’s a shame that she has nothing better to do.

Here’s a simple example of the difference between right and responsibility: Let’s say for this example that I have tested positive for COVID-19 although I am not demonstrating any symptoms. Inadvertently, I have run out of milk (although I have plenty of toilet paper). Do I have the right to visit my local supermarket to get my milk, taking the chance of infecting who knows how many people?

Obviously, I don’t. But my civil rights to visit any store I choose at any time is not the subject at hand. While I do have this right, I do have the responsibility not to be in proximity of those who could contract my virus. And what if I don’t have the virus and don’t show any symptoms? That only barely impacts the answers.

While I still need the milk in this case, I also don’t know with certainty whether or not I have the capacity to infect someone else. The answer is that I will visit my supermarket, wash my hands before and after my visit, sneeze into a tissue or my shoulder and keep at least six feet between me and everyone else.

The situation in which we find ourselves changes all definitions of rights and responsibilities. By all means, I have the right to preserve my civil rights in most cases. But my responsibility to protect the people around me (generally six feet away from me) prevails.

No-one wants the situation in which we find ourselves. Being good-natured, rational and socially conscious is the answer. When all of this settles, the irate female can go where and when she chooses, with my sincere blessings. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

To be brave

On previous occasions, I have referenced a powerful and brilliant book that I have just finished. This is The Librarian of Auschwitz, and it has taught me more than I can possibly summarize in a short blog.

One of the most provocative and inspirational concepts I have derived concerns bravery, a strength that many of us seek to acquire during these challenging and frightening times. The idea, paraphrased, is that those people who are truly brave are the ones who are most afraid. For clarification, if we are not afraid of our various outcomes, the decisions we make are unimportant because any one of them is acceptable. This is tantamount to apathy, a disease worse than the one we fight.

Today, for the sake of those closest to us and ourselves, we must have sufficient fear of contagion to take all of the right steps to prevent it. If washing our hands two or three times a day is a good idea, five or six is a better one. On a recent trip to the supermarket, I saw an older lady wearing both surgical gloves and a mask. Given her increased risks due to age, I’m thinking that it was an intelligent decision.

We all have occasions to convert our healthy dose of fear into responsible action. When six feet is the required distancing space, it must delete hair styling, manicures and other activities that include close proximity. An excellent alternative to protect that professional’s income is to purchase a gift card or certificate.

More can be done with regard to the employment crises that surround us. A significant number of local restaurants are offering curbside or delivery service of selections from their menus. In addition to paying that restaurant’s bills, many have chosen to pay their servers with some of the proceeds, taking some of the sting out of their lost gratuities. If you are at all like me, cooking every meal is tedious and by electing to go meals, we are doing good for everyone involved.

And some of my favorite news stories are those of small groups of residents joining together to provide meals or groceries to those within that group who are in need of support. Today, I surveyed my neighborhood to see if any around me needed groceries that I could collect for them on my trip. The next time I leave to shop, I will make it a point to see if others have needs.

It’s easy to convert fear into action. From my standpoint, not to act is to invite a horrible disease to appear and end life – a conclusion that is absolutely undesirable. Shalom.

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A new interest

A great and priceless thing is a new interest! How it takes possession of a man! How it clings to him, how it rides him!  Mark Twain

Any time that my life is sufficiently without stimuli to create important writing, I am always confident that Mr. Twain will provide assistance. This is the quote that I secured from him, one that seems particularly timely.

As many of us are quarantined or self-sequestered, it’s easy to become stale or grumpy. Restaurants here don’t allow sit-down dining; shopping is an inconvenience rather than anything resembling pleasure and most of us are waiting for something good to happen that will improve our status.

What an excellent time to develop a new interest! At the top of my list is the possibility of writing in a context you have never previously attempted. Write some poetry, for yourself or a loved one. Investigate a new genre such as non-fiction, fiction or essay. If you conduct some research, you will find a contest or a site seeking new contributions.

If that doesn’t ring your bell, take up a new craft. As recently as this morning, I’ve begun researching sewing surgical masks. There are many patterns out there and whether or not they can be used in a healthcare setting, they must be of value to some. That may not be your style. Buy a canvas and some acrylics or watercolors. Get some charcoal and just begin drawing.

And one of the best alternatives is to make reading one of your life priorities. The number and variety of e-books out there is staggering. And it’s a great opportunity to investigate a new subject – there are too many to name. As I tell my students, reading a book is a gift for your brain. If e-books are unavailable for whatever reason, you can order books almost as easily in hardbound or paperback formats.

Call someone whom you haven’t recently reached. Write a letter to a distant friend or relative. Whatever it may be, get out of your head and do something that simply feels good or productive. There are always opportunities to contribute something to our world. Shalom.

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Fields of hope

Our current global pandemic has provided me with time to reflect on our world, both from a local and a much larger perspective. One of the images that I saw was that of a large field of flowerpots, each filled with a specific inhabitant of our planet.

While this may sound a bit strange at the outset, the pots are arranged by community. As I look through the student population section, I see rows and rows of seedlings, each with a tiny smiling face. Pots are closely spaced, not only for the sake of camaraderie, but also to benefit from the sustenance provided by the sprinklers and sunshine.

Moving from this small, pleasant community, I wander to the political pots. All of these faces are scowling, with the exception of a few good samaritans and dedicated public servants. Their faces are easily distinguishable from those of the children. They are larger, more wrinkled and sincerely unhappy. Because the negative expressions dominate, it’s easily concluded that the environment is not conducive to growth.

Another field of flowerpots discloses inhabitants who are demographically diverse. They are young and old faces that are all looking up, ostensibly for wisdom. Faces are of all colors, dimensions and sizes. Their demeanors range from expectant to excited to afraid to anticipatory. Pots are all the same size, indicative of the space that each one occupies within the community.

My conclusions are that we are able to gain a wide selection of data from those around us, just as we have the ability to influence them. As we share space, we share expectations, from viewpoints that are as diverse as our backgrounds and our faces.

Ultimately, I believe that it’s all about hope. Because most of us are looking up, we could be searching the symbolic warmth of the sun or the guidance we receive from God. We are all in this situation of virus and death as a large field of growing entities, relying on what is above and around us for strength. Shalom.

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The enchanted child

One of the most gratifying aspects of teaching is the process of identifying what strategies work best. Much of it is trial and error, but the majority is simple classroom common sense.

The most obvious indications of success are the responses I receive from my kids. Many of them, especially the youngest, will directly and descriptively say what they like or don’t like.

I like your nails. I like your hair. I like that you bring us candy. I like talking to you. I like listening to you. I think you’re smart.

It goes on from there. What they cannot articulate is that I feel it is imperative to speak to them as if they are intelligent human beings. They are. And the best proof of their understanding my respect for them is the enchanted child.

Virtually every day that I teach, I experience a magical child. This is usually a boy but now and then the magical child is a girl. It continues to amaze me that almost every class has one.

This child will tug on my sleeve or tap me on the arm. Next, he or she will ask a question or make an observation or volunteer information. In each case, the enchanted child will deliver a silent hug, the first of three or seven or twelve throughout the day. Child will express love or advise that I am the best substitute or best teacher in the world.

Somehow, it’s never occurred to me to ask why the student feels this way. During childhood years, the process of articulating many emotions is underdeveloped or completely absent. More importantly, I never want a student to feel pressured to justify feelings.

The most wonderful part is that I never know who the mystery pupil will be nor do I know what will cause him or her to materialize. By this time, I’m convinced that this is one student who transforms each morning from yesterday’s class to today’s.

It’s supernatural and fantasy and as pure fabrication as it sounds. But how else could multiple classrooms create so many princes and princesses? Shalom.

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Working as a community

At this moment, the world is in the grip of one of the most terrifying, life-changing events in our history – that of the Coronavirus. Large or small, young or old, we are all aware of its power and potential, for as much as any of us can anticipate how it will play out.

My school district and many others are now closed, at least for the next three weeks. Our children are receiving data from any and all possible sources, some reliable and some quite a bit less than trustworthy. As adults, we have an explicit and imposing responsibility to be judicious about what we are saying and to whom.

The neighborhood in which we live has one of those fashionable forums where various residents make comments or inquiries about subjects that are pertinent both locally and beyond. One of the presumably well-intentioned neighbors has just released her second tirade about how stupid we are to go shopping, eat in restaurants and horde our toilet paper. This is all at the expense, she says, of being able to intercept and prevent our contracting the virus.

While I find her remarks personally distasteful and entirely inappropriate, they are also extremely dangerous. Neither she nor many others have a substantial amount of truth available on the Coronavirus. We don’t know how it happened, how to protect ourselves from it and for how long we will need to be vulnerable to it. With all that in mind, why start browbeating your neighbors who are already under sufficient stress?

In other words, let’s be kind and supportive of our friends, family members and neighbors. Let’s avoid rumor and conjecture. We must also avoid dispensing advice, particularly when you are probably no better informed than most of us and have no authority to dictate behavior.

Stand by your neighbor and offer support whenever possible. Stop the pontificating and preaching. We are all concerned about our world and must work on protection and preparation, not insinuation and lecture. Our kids are listening. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

If I could

If I could make huge changes to the ways with which we communicate in year 2020, I have numerous modifications that I would effect. For one, I would find a quick, convenient and thoroughly effective method for deleting spam. Having done a bit of research on this dreaded online curse, I’ve determined that the word comes directly from the pork product that we all know and love or hate.

This is a very costly habit that has been the scar on internet communications and dates back to 1978. If you believed that you could remember email without spam, you would have to trace back to then to find it missing.

On a daily basis, I question the realities of social media and whether they do greater good or bad. On the upside, many of us have found the means by which to connect to family members and friends who would otherwise be invisible. On the downside, we spend what I think is an inordinate amount of time checking on the newest and best posts from those in our network and outside of it.

Another downside is the endless supply of advertising, most of which is either unsolicited or irrelevant or both. It doesn’t matter which social media venue you choose – you can either find the best way to rotate your crops (a good one when you live in a big city) or 49 new and creative things to do with popsicle sticks.

All you need to do is display any interest, remote or immediate, in shoes. Suddenly, you’ll see every shoe manufacturer, retailer or distributor that has anything whatsoever to do with footwear. And it’s pervasive. You’ll see it on your email screen, social media and spam.

By this time, you’re probably shaking your head and saying, “Yeah, right. And you can do exactly what about this?”  I’m hoping that as we make huge leaps in our technology, we will find method by which we can ensure that we receive only that information that we want. Yes, I know. That’s restraint of trade and potentially anti-democracy. I’ll take my chances. But I can definitely do my part in unsubscribing, deleting and blocking as often as possible. Dreaming is good for the soul, after all. Shalom.

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Being mean

A prompt from my new book of writing suggestions that I find quite provocative invites me to write about the meanest thing anyone has ever said to me. It’s not a bit difficult to remember but what is more important is the fact that I can’t remember too many mean things in my past.

Years ago, I was one of those who thought they would find companionship or happiness or the love of my life by means of a dating site. This was one of those first meetings that took place in a French restaurant not far from downtown Denver. We had spoken several times and finally met.

The lunch was nondescript and my recollection (this was about twenty years ago) was that it ended quickly. As we walked out to our respective cars, this was the statement made by this entirely unimpressive gentleman: “I just want you to know that you misrepresented yourself. First of all, you’re not very attractive. Secondly, you said that you were slightly overweight when in fact you are seriously overweight.”

It’s easy to think of perfect responses, some of which don’t include obscenities. It’s pretty sad that I remember it as clearly as I do because the ultimate response would be to have forgotten what he said. As I remember, my answer was something along these lines: “It’s probably difficult to be as perfect as you think you are. Glad that we didn’t waste more time than a lunch.”

The prompt is quite a good one, primarily because it teaches us about words that hurt and the ability we have to deposit good into the universe rather than ugliness. From here, I’m of the opinion that he had a multitude of things that he could have said. “I don’t think that we are suited for each other. Thank you for your company – I don’t believe that I am the companion you are seeking.” There are probably twenty others.

When it’s possible, I believe that we all have the imperative to suppress meanness or reckless statements. This man neither considered nor cared about the effects his statement would have. Happily, I was successful at placing him in the past (except for his remarks) as quickly as his words deserved. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Unanswered questions

Are there protocols associated with sitting in a dental waiting room? If there are, they aren’t published for patients to observe. And no-one has ever notified me what they are.

Consequently, my writer mind wanders freely. The lady to my left has those large black rings planed in her earlobes. Are they designed to let you hang clothes to dry hands-free while you walk through Walmart? There’s no way to know and my best guess is that it wouldn’t be a good idea to ask her. She looks as though she would ponce without any specific provocation.

And what about the lady to my right? She was working on a crossword puzzle and I suspect it would be unseemly to ask if she needs help.

Another source of interest is the collection of dog toys and foods in an alcove adjacent to the hall leading to operatories. Are they also doing dental work on canines? There were none present to ask or observe wearing bibs or other dental contrivances.

When I finally spoke with the dentist, I asked him about the dog apparatus and he reported that they welcome service dogs to the facility but they must remain in the alcove for hygienic and other reasons. That makes sense. It’s easy to imagine reclining in a dental chair and having Fido wander in and jump on my lap.

The remainder of dental office protocols are to be found in my imagination. It’s obvious that you would never bring a sound device of any kind and blast your music preference for everyone in the building. I’ve never seen any inquire about the wait and, “Why is it taking so long” until the dentist or hygienist appears.

If you are at all like me, you have formidable respect for healthcare professionals such as doctors and dentists. This appreciation deletes the possibility of acting strangely in healthcare premises. But my imagination continues to operate, so much that I want to ask the benefits coordinator if the dentist asks her to remove her nose ring before he works on her teeth. My hope is that he doesn’t clean her nose ring with the same device as he uses to clean teeth.  Shalom.