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.

 

 

Magic

Do our definitions of words such as magic and magical change as we get older and more mature? Or has the world become more magical as civilization progresses, sometimes evolving? Having spent some time on the concept of magic, I think that it’s a little of both.

As children, magic was usually associated with card tricks, rabbits in and out of hats, and disappearing acts. It’s probably safe to say that we generally observed magic from a distance, with clear definitions of what constituted magic.

At this stage of life, I am beginning to widen that definition as I make numerous observations of the world in which I live. Yes, we still have the David Copperfield version of magic, as well as magicians who occasionally compete on America’s Got Talent. But there is also a vast quantity of magic that surrounds and astounds me.

To begin, I think that children are magical. They are all conceived in essentially the same way. From there, they all emerge as unique as blades of grass or springtime raindrops. Youngsters think about as much or as little as they choose, as often as possible. Sometimes they emulate parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and siblings. Very often, they don’t.

Many of the scenes I witness in nature are absolutely magical. One day I stroked the muzzle of a very pregnant pony. An hour after I left her, she gave birth to an active, curious, and perfectly designed mule, later to be named Moscow. Truly, this is an example of nature’s magic – creation and curiosity.

Sitting in the back yard, I can almost see our bushes grow. We cut them back to very short limbs and within weeks, the limbs are over my head, lush and green. Grapevines demonstrate the same magic. One day they produce clusters of tiny flowers and soon they magically boast hundreds of grape clusters.

If you are inclined to redefine my magic as acts of nature, help yourself. What nature does to vines, trees, ponies, grapes, and the ever-changing nearby mountains is always a source of wonder to me. Maybe it’s merely my sense of awe at the miracles within the world that occur entirely without and in many cases in spite of the intervention of man. Shalom.

Only 1%

One of the most unfortunate products of social media is the sudden prevalence of countless ridiculous competitions. It’s easy enough to move past or ignore them. But I continue to wonder about their purpose.

Here are some examples. Give yourself $10 for every offensive or illegal action you have committed. If you’ve had a DUI, streaked, egged and TP’ed someone’s home, or stolen something, you can add another $10 for each of these accomplishments. What’s the point? Do I want to appear more evil than you?

Some of them indicate that if you can’t find a word or phrase, you have the mind of a 98 year old. Which 98 year old is that? How is this measured? The other one is the dare to find a word or name that begins and ends with particular letters. The enticement is that only 1% of the population can do this.

To begin, it’s never difficult to come up with two or ten words with these letters. And what is the population to which you are referring? Is it a bee colony or cage of gerbils?

I’m guessing that some people find it gratifying or entertaining to be part of an elite group. Or maybe it’s just a way to spend time. This phenomenon may be another consequence of the pandemic, where people had nothing but time to spend online. To me, the whole idea is dumb. Why do we need to compete over inane or absurd contests?

Show pictures of your parents or grandparents, past or present. Display photos of your kids and grandkids. Post videos of people being kind to one another. Or celebrate anniversaries of important events or accomplishments.

Being able to read words backwards neither pays my bills nor makes me a better person. It seems that I’ll have to treat social media as I do the endless pharmaceutical television commercials for conditions I am not likely to experience. It’s simply something else I can’t fix so I’ll continue to search for the good in any media I experience. Shalom.

Tail wagging the dog

Every now and then, I wonder how many of my actions are the direct result of the actions of others. Someone cuts you off on the road. Does that impact the way you drive or do you ignore it and proceed? As a writer, someone insults your work. Does that cause you to respond accordingly or do raise the price of what you’ve done?

Some of this is obvious. We all heard the warning from our parents – if everyone jumped off a certain cliff, does that mean it’s okay or smart for you to do the same? But I would suggest that we need to be cognizant of how we are impacted by the words or deeds or others and make certain that our own actions are consistent with who we are.

Here’s a good example. Some days, a classroom is full of rambunctious kids. I’m confident in saying that it’s not because of me or my teaching methods. Certain kids simply act out more than others and a large percentage of it is copying behavior of classmates.

What is the right response? I can’t yell or single out one or two kids to put them on time out. Responding in anger or frustration just can’t happen, particularly because there are students who  didn’t act poorly and shouldn’t suffer for the behavior of others.

And so, the good teacher remains calm, walks up to the offenders, quietly suggests that they return to their seats, and congratulates the non-participants for their decisions not to get involved in poor behavior. In most cases, the class returns to normal and the offenders are clear that they are rewarded for good decisions, not bad ones.

Retaliation is never acceptable. You took my parking space so I’m going to bust out your windows. In addition to that being a criminal act, it simply doesn’t make sense. My preference is to respond to unkindness with kindness.

Whenever possible, I will smile at a driver who chooses to snarl at me for whatever reason. I’ll do the same to someone who barges ahead of me to get a seat in a restaurant. Surprisingly, the lack of nastiness on my part is gratifying and satisfying – dispensing ugly behavior never feels good. Shalom.

Shucks, shavings, and shingles

Watching television recently, I couldn’t help but notice how much time has changed the language that we now find acceptable in our standard programming. Whether it was in the fifties or sixties, I clearly remember there being a huge outcry about a television program that included the words “hell” or “damn” in their scripts. It was felt by many, many people that these words were unacceptable.

Now I hear words on television network programs that would have shocked these folks out of their underwear (can we appropriately say underwear?). Without articulating all of the words I hear, they include the b word, the p word, the s-o-b expression, and everything in between.

Before you think about calling me a prude or a stuffed shirt, I have been known to use a variety of bad words in my life although rarely, if ever, in front of children. My mother died when I was fourteen but as hard as I try, I can never remember her using one obscenity. In those cases, where she might have been angry or frustrated, she chose the words “shingles” or “shavings” in lieu of a word that she found unladylike.

Likewise, I don’t remember hearing my dad use obscenity except for one f-bomb when he was having trouble tying a tie. My best guess is that it was thought to be unseemly or inappropriate for children to hear adults use bad words. And so, he was usually faithful to that philosophy.

It’s easy to reach conclusions, correct or incorrect, about what the inclusion of bad words in our lives suggests about the society as a whole. Yes, we appear to be more liberal. Television has succumbed to the habits of the world that it represents. We have become more inclusive in terms of the language that we find suitable. Or maybe the watchers of television just don’t have the standards in terms of the morality of language that they used to have.

At this point, I am beginning to miss a more stringent set of rules with regard to the words we use. Our language has so many wonderful words that sound better and function just as well. My only option now is to lead by example, darn it. Shalom.

Curiosity

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.  Albert Einstein

Observing a student asking questions is the best and most obvious method to determine a child’s curiosity. Presenting information in a classroom, we can always see who’s interested, whose mind has wandered, and which young person is seeking more enlightenment. At the end of any lesson, I ask if there are any questions. It’s always the brightest and most curious who will want to know more.

One of the realities of the classroom is that lessons are often quite structured and linear. That doesn’t mean that neither the teacher nor the student is without an occasion to elaborate. Here’s how that looks (or should look).

We are discussing dinosaurs. There is a substantial amount of factual information about dinosaurs, when they lived, where they lived, what they ate, etc. But because most children are fascinated by their ancient predecessors, it’s a perfect chance to promote curiosity.

How about creating a class dinosaur? We can build it, color it, name it, and make it a permanent resident of this room. Or you can each create your own personal dinosaur. We’ll get all of the materials needed to make it exactly what you want. While we’re at it, let’s give him or her some special powers. Can we teach your dinosaur to clean your room? Or can we have her help Mom with the dishes? What color(s) should the dinosaur be? What kind of skin? Because it’s your own special creation, you have no boundaries at all.

It doesn’t need to be dinosaurs. It can be a plant, a platypus, or a playground that we use to generate and amplify curiosity. Without it, we’re all destined to be carbon copies of each other. The curiosity we foster creates new inventions, the best of literature, music, and art. But what’s more important than that, is that our kids need to realize that they have no limits – that their minds are as vast as the universe that they seek to understand. Shalom.

What’s the difference?

Without working very hard, I can think of at least ten things that I’ve considered recently that make no difference whatsoever, to the course of my life or to the rest of the world. Here are a few examples. A few minutes ago, our Amazon Alexa blessed us with a song by Elton John that we hear almost every day that we hear from Alexa. I don’t have anything plus or minus about Elton John but  I don’t like hearing songs over and over.

Another one is this. It perturbs me to see writing, either as captions or in posts I see on social media, that confuses your and you’re. You’re is the contraction of you and are, not something that belongs to you. The same can be said about their and there, too and two, and saying “her and I” instead of “she and I.” Issues about grammar and spelling belong to me, both personally and professionally. But that doesn’t mean that they have any importance to those around me.

My dad often remarked, “What difference does it make?” when we discussed any number of subjects. And at this point in my life, I’m beginning to believe that those items that I thought made a difference really don’t. Our lives are in no way impacted by the way that my husband pronounces the word “Jemez.” Along that path, if it annoys me, I need to fix it.

And so I suggest that most of us are bothered by those things that make no difference whatsoever. Family matters. Respect matters. Education matters. Memories matter. And treating each other with kindness matters, even when it’s extremely difficult to do so.

As always, this forum is my way of expressing feelings and preferences. This blog is no different from any others that described similar concepts. If you agree with me, that’s fine. If you don’t, that’s up to you. In the long and short perspective, it really doesn’t make any difference. Shalom.

A matter of perspective

For a variety of reasons, I decided several days ago to make a zucchini bread. Zucchini is in season and although I’m not growing any in our garden, it seemed like the thing to do. Not surprisingly, I had a quick bread in my collection of recipes and I jumped in and created it. It surprised me to find that the recipe suggested a bake time of only 35 minutes. In spite of my gut feeling that this wasn’t long enough, I did as indicated.

If you guessed that the bread was a failure, you’re absolutely right. I watched the center of it sink to the equator and tossed it in exasperation. Why hadn’t I trusted my gut?

Not to be deterred, I found a new recipe online, went to the store for ingredients, and created a perfect zucchini bread. Is there a moral or a lesson to be had? Absolutely yes. Had I not used the first recipe, I never would have found the perfect bread, one that I will be eager to reproduce when next I have the baking urge.

And so it goes with life. If we only see our disappointments as failures, we are making a huge mistake. In this case, I see the first recipe as a gift, an opportunity, and a lesson. The other “mistakes” that we experience in our lives are probably also invitations to do something else, something better, and something more valuable. If we learn from what we do, good and bad outcomes, we continue to grow and improve.

If you’re thinking that there’s a reference to God’s presence, you’re right. My concept of God is not a force that guides my actions to take one path or another. My preference is to think of God affording me the wisdom to understand the directions I select, making it possible to create any and all positive results. Shalom.

Finding the good

The sink doesn’t drain properly. Our neighbor leaves the garage door open all day. Bananas look as if they have been in the store for weeks. If they don’t hurry up and check in this passenger, I could miss my flight. These are some examples of what I call finding fault in the world around me.

As I think more and more about my observations of the world, I find increasing evidence that I am prone to pointing out flaws in many of the circumstances that surround me. In all fairness, there is a subtle difference between noticing something and finding fault. With respect to the drain, for instance, I could probably make the case for taking the information to motel management in order to effect a correction. Or maybe I was just finding something that I just didn’t like about the room.

While some may say that it’s probably a bit late in my life to make wholesale changes in my attitude, my response is that it’s never too late for improvement. One of my closest friends is someone I had to leave behind when we moved out of Denver. But he is always matter-of-fact about anything negative. He will either not acknowledge it or treat it in the context of a world that is much too rich with advantages to lend the problem any significance.

As I think about this approach, I like it very much. What is accomplished by stating that the garage door is left open all day? Does it improve me or my life? Am I enhanced by not leaving our garage door open? Of course not.

My parents often said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This is truly sage advice. How much richer could my world have been if I had never complained about a job, a boss, a boyfriend, an apartment, a car, or any of life’s other realities. Chances are, no-one ever really wanted to hear about my complaints. And none of them made me any smarter, happier, comfortable, or more secure. So what was the point?

It’s all a matter of thinking before we speak, something I try to do but have not yet mastered. Finding the good in the world is a much better path than finding what’s wrong with it. I’m just sad that it took me this long to come to that realization. Shalom.

What kids need

Sometimes I wonder how many books have written about education. They are written for parents, teachers, administrators, and of course, children. By no means do I mean to discount the value of these books to society and the audiences for which they are intended. But when I think of the thousands of children and young adults I have faced in the past almost twenty years, I come to only one reality about what is needed in the classroom. Books have nothing to do with it.

Children of all ages want us to listen to them and pay attention to what they’re saying. For the course of a day, they are one of a row, a group, a team, or a community of some sort. It becomes much too easy and expedient to lose identity and more significantly, importance.

Our children always have something to say. To them, it is the most critical part of now. Conversation may be about home, family, church, neighborhood, or any other community. They want us to know about their siblings. Very often, they want us to know about their pets. Sometimes, they want to talk about travel, either in the past or the future. And most of all, they want to share their feelings about anything and everything.

The best way to win a child’s attention is to pay attention. Create a space where you and he or she can share some time in earnest communication. Be mindful of listening to every word, phrase, and sentence.

Because the opinions of children rarely change the world or any immediate situation, we tend to postpone them or in some ways, indicate that what they are saying is of little value. We will say, “I know you want to talk to me, but I have to make dinner.” Or we can say, “Let’s talk about this after I do the gardening.” Maybe it’s a better idea to postpone the dinner or gardening.

While I am not suggesting that you change your priorities, I am saying that focusing on what children have to say will mean more to them than any toy or game. We only get one opportunity to be parents, grandparents, or educators to our kids. The best way to let them know how important they are is to take the time to hear what they have to say. Shalom.

In pursuit of normal

Every now and then, I think about what might constitute a state of being normal. It’s pretty clear that most of us have sought a status of normalcy, in one realm or another. We want normal body temperatures. We want our weather to be normal because the alternative is generally unpleasant.

Beyond that, exactly what is a definition of normal? What I’m thinking is that aspiring to normalcy is exactly the same as aspiring to mediocrity or being average. Think of it this way. If someone described you as normal, how would that feel? Yawn? Hmmm? A suggestion that you are totally lacking in excitement?

I’m suggesting that most of us have spent too much time seeking a normal life. It feels like we consider ourselves okay or acceptable if we don’t do anything out of the ordinary that may take normal from our characteristics.

As with many of the attributes that we have been taught to achieve, I submit that this one is totally not worth pursuing. No, I don’t want to be considered abnormal, paranormal, subnormal, or anything similar. But I seek to take chances, try things that I hadn’t previously tried, and work toward those goals that may seem unattainable or not consistent with my age or background.

Let me provide an example. It was not until I had completed a rewarding career in healthcare and financial services that I attempted an identity as a writer and author. Maybe it was because I hadn’t thought of it. Or maybe it was because I had previously believed that being a writer or author was something outside my comfort area or abilities. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Thirteen years later, I have published three books and I am working on a fourth and fifth.

And so, as a parent, grandparent, and educator, it is most unlikely that I will ever suggest to a child to be normal. From here, that seems like guiding toward average. The only goals that are worth attaining are those outside the average or mid-range. Think big, think great, think extraordinary. Leave the concept of normal to 98.6 degrees. Shalom.