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.

 

 

From one day to the next

To illustrate the variations and mutations of substitute teaching, the differences between Thursday’s kindergarteners and Friday’s fifth graders are huge. One might reasonably expect that the kindergarteners would be tamer than the students who are within weeks of entering middle school. That’s absolutely incorrect.

Thursday’s kids were generally compliant. Two of them, however, required most of my attention for the majority of the day. While their behavior couldn’t be described as criminal or worthy of juvenile hall, they were stubborn, disrespectful, and unpredictable. By the end of the day I was exhausted and almost out of patience.

By comparison, the fifth graders were more fun than I’ve had lately. They were helpful, funny, kind, and absolutely enjoyable. We had no discipline issues and I didn’t have to deliver one syllable of reprimand.

There really is no simple explanation. It’s not about demographics. In the case of the kinder class, these were kids who appeared to come from comfortable, new, and nice homes. The neighborhood for the fifth graders is much more heterogeneous, suggesting that they are potentially less privileged.

The mistake that I obviously made was that of having expectations. By no means would I have predicted that fifth grade would be so rewarding and entertaining. Once their teacher arrived, she was as serious and rigid an educator as I have lately experienced. This may have some connection to their laughter and freestyle that I witnessed.

Ultimately, it’s a lesson for life. You really don’t know what you’re going to get until you get there. I’m just grateful that I have the flexibility and understanding to have handled both situations. Shalom.

A revelation

Driving home recently, I came to the realization that there is no accident about the fact that most of us frequently encounter one type of annoyance or another when we drive, shop, eat at a restaurant, or generally interact with the public. To be sure, we are all recipients of positive actions or energies. But whether it is the geography where I live or being quite attentive to the world around me, I am aware of both types of influences.

With all that preface, I have decided that there is a United States Annoyer Organization, the USAO. Each day, a certain number of Annoyers are appointed to initiate various types of annoyances to impact fellow citizens. The first type is the tailgater Annoyers. They don’t just tailgate me. They tailgate every car they encounter on the road, whether the other drivers are paying attention to them or not.

The second type of Annoyer is the weaver Annoyer. This is the drive who weaves in and out, with or without turn signals. They are not in a hurry or in need of being somewhere that necessitates weaving. They simply do what they do in order to complete their Annoyer mission.

Thirdly, we have the speeder/racer Annoyers. They can be found anywhere, including the main street nearest to our home. The speed limit is clearly marked as 40 miles per hour but on a daily basis, I see speeder Annoyers doing 50, 60, or more on this street. The racer Annoyers are more often found on the highways. Virtually every time I am on one of our highways, I see drivers traveling at 80, 90, or 100 miles per hour. It’s not personal. They are doing their appointed jobs as Annoyers.

We have other Annoyers who have their jobs to do. These are the grocery Annoyers who park their carts in order to block everyone else and spend five minutes to buy elbow macaroni, regardless of requests or throat-clearings. Once again, the grocery Annoyers are just doing what they are required to do. Tomorrow, they will either have different assignments or have days of leisure.

Happily, we have the Kindness Givers, Thoughtful Givers, and Generosity Givers. These are the ones who are ahead of you at a Starbuck’s and pay for your coffee. They also include those who offer to carry something, lift something, or generally make your life better. Somehow, they make it seem much less significant that the USAO is still in operation. Shalom.

Making things happen

You’ve decided that you are going to be a writer. Or you want to be an architect, a painter, a musician, or a sculptor. If you were asked what is the first thing you need to begin, what would you say?

It’s not the canvas, musical instrument, or word processing software – it’s the resolution that you will do your best and celebrate the outcome, whatever it is. I can’t count the number of people who have told me that they would love to write books as I have done. In each case, I have refrained from asking what has prevented him or her from doing so. Instead, I have chosen to say, “I’m sure that you can do it if you have something you want to say and you want it badly enough.” And that is the key component.

While you don’t necessarily need heart to complete some types of endeavors, you do need it for works of creativity. In other words, half-hearted attempts will likely result in a work that is not representative of you or that could be improved with more time and greater dedication.

These thoughts are not designed to be a test or lecture or training event. But it’s always a good idea to devise a scope of work and create a plan to execute. If you don’t know where you are going, it’s likely that you will never arrive at any destination at all.

You’re the only one who can prevent you from succeeding at any creative endeavor. Silence the small voices in your head that say, “You’re not good enough,” or “You’re not talented enough,” or you simply don’t have what it takes to create. It’s probably a good bet that you can easily talk yourself out of anything else that you hope to accomplish. And it’s just as good a bet that the naysayers and skeptics believe that they are incapable of doing something special and want that to be true of others. Shalom.

SEO

Anyone who makes a practice of writing for the public knows that in these days, the key to having your work seen by the greatest number of people is SEO or search engine optimization. It’s a given that if you include such words as Trump, Pelosi, Jihad, terrorist, bomber, or pandemic, your viewing population will increase exponentially.

It makes sense. People want to see work that is current or provocative. They want to share it with family members or co-workers. Or they want to appear current in the latest and occasionally best news.

While I admit to having included some SEO in my blogs. Out of over 600 of them, it’s inevitable that I have alluded to politics and those situations that have recently made the biggest news splashes. But beneath all of that, while I admit to checking to see how many people read my blogs, it’s really not about that. If I needed to summarize why I write what I do, it’s simply about following my heart.

Here’s the proof. Today I had reason to make some cole slaw, a dish for which my wonderful mom had established a reputation as her “signature side dish.” She taught me how to make it and while I can’t possibly claim to make a cole slaw as wonderful as hers, the key is her secret ingredient. Obviously, I included that secret addition to the salad today and as is the case each time I make it, I can’t help but think about her and the sadness I feel each time I think about having lost her.

And so, if I were seeking fame, fortune, national publication, or some form of global recognition, I would be talking about subjects like Republicans, Democrats, and legalization of marijuana. But that’s not why I write. I would rather share the part of me that treasures a secret ingredient in cole slaw. Or I would rather write about a special student whom I was blessed to encounter in my classroom. Sometimes, it’s about a restaurant that served breakfast coffee in a beer stein.

There are many places to find SEO and if that is what you seek, I fully understand. If you would rather share some time with my memories and sentiments, you are in the right place. Shalom.

Collecting kindness

Friday I had an unusual opportunity to begin a new and very rewarding habit. This is what I call collecting kindness. The first example was when I parked in the parking lot of my local grocery store. A man whom I didn’t know called out to me and I turned around. He offered his cart, explaining that the store was out of them. He showed me his gloved hands as an assurance that I would not be infected by his touch.

A short time later, an extremely kind checker invited me to visit his aisle, in spite of his being on the way to lunch. It was quite considerate and thoroughly well-intentioned.

Since then, I have been doing everything possible to acknowledge and distribute kindness. Most of the examples are small but they all contribute to the conglomerate of creating and perpetuating good feelings. When I was asked by a kindergarten teacher if I could come to her class at the end of this month because her kids loved me, I was pleased and grateful. And I had another double kindness to add to my supply.

We have seen so much negative energy – in politics, in government, in the media, and in our streets. What could be wrong with collecting acts of kindness?

And so, I have embarked on a path of doing and observing small acts of generosity as often as possible. They may be at home or in the classroom. They may be on the road, allowing access to a busy street. They may be in a grocery store, helping someone with a heavy object or asking a person to check out ahead of us.

Wherever our travels may take us, it is inevitable that we can add to our personal collection of kind gestures. They don’t cost anything, they generally don’t require much time or effort, and they are undeniable contributions to the days of all involved. Check it out. You’ll be amazed at how much fun this is. Shalom.

Be kind to yourself

Friday night, as we contemplated ordering dinner at a local restaurant, I jumped into restriction mode without intending to do so. The dialogue with myself consisted of, “You can’t order this because it’s too many calories,” “This one is loaded with carbs,” and “I think that they are charging too much for this entrée.” The consequence of this type of language is that I usually order something other than what I truly want.

As I have previously stated, life is too short to drink cheap beer. Likewise, it’s too short to replay old reminders or warnings that cease to have any real meaning. Not only does this apply to restaurant items, but also it relates to shopping for clothes, cars, vacations, or any other commodities that we seek in our daily lives.

Because I hear other people saying similar reminders to themselves or their companions, I know that I am not the only one who limits my purchases based on historic agenda. Maybe it’s time to think about what we really want, rather than what we have always considered to be sufficient.

Here’s how that looks in the real world. You are sitting in a restaurant and it’s likely to be the only time you’ll have dinner in one this week. The salmon looks good but it’s about $3 or $5 more than the other entrees and you’re hesitant to spend the extra few dollars. There’s money in the bank, no-one is keeping track of how much you spend for dinner, and absolutely no harm is done by ordering what you love.

Move to another venue. You’re looking at two suits and you need to purchase one for an upcoming meeting or trip. One is $100 more than the other but it makes a statement of professionalism and character that you want to make. The other is adequate and besides, who is looking at your suit and when will you have need to wear it again?

If it makes you feel good and you are not taking that $100 from something else that you “need,” buy it. No harm is done. Someday, some time, you must do what makes you happy without attaching a guilt trip to the purchase. Shalom.

On any given day

When I saw the email inquiring about my availability to edit a short letter, I was pleased and surprised and responded immediately that I would be delighted to assist. A short time passed and she sent the letter. It was brief but extremely important as it pertained to her daughter and a prospective admission to college.

Because it was late in the day, I asked if tomorrow would be acceptable, to which she answered that she really wanted it immediately. As one who has always had trouble saying no, I quickly edited the letter and sent it to her.

As I think about it now, I realize that this person is from somewhere in my past that I cannot remember. Evidently, I did some work for her at some time, even though I can’t remember when or what the situation was. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter. No matter what we do, where we go, or whom we meet, we are all impacting more people than we realize.

With the number of people who read this blog on a daily basis, I never know who those people are, where they live, or what they do. The same is true of my books. I see book sales but unless the purchaser writes a review or contacts me, I have no idea who he or she may be.

Thinking about this is more gratifying than any other word I can select. It doesn’t empower me that I have touched more people than are immediately obvious to me. In the case of the lady who contacted me today, I am very pleased, not only that she selected me to do more work for her, but also that I could fulfill her very humble request in a short amount of time.

Being a writer has many forms of satisfaction that have to do with working with a number of people on an ongoing basis. More importantly, it intrigues and inspires me that I have had opportunities to do good things for those I don’t remember but who continue to remember me. Shalom.

Are you a teacher?

Last week a little girl in second grade asked me what I thought was an unusual question for that moment. She asked, “Are you a teacher?” Given the fact that her usual teacher introduced me as the guest teacher for the day, she seemed to have forgotten that I had been awarded the title of teacher.

After I assured her that I truly was a teacher, she asked me where I taught if I was a teacher. And then I realized that she believed that a teacher was only and exclusively someone who went to the same classroom every day and taught them as did her own treasured educator. When I explained that I was a special type of teacher who teaches wherever I am needed, she was satisfied with that definition and proceeded to draw a picture for me, designating me as the best teacher.

I spent some time thinking about her definition that was location based and I decided that those of us who do teach don’t always do it in the classroom. With the realization that many students, especially the younger ones, don’t consider a more global definition of teacher, it makes sense to me to use it as a life lesson.

We all have the ability, if not the imperative, to be teachers. When we show courtesy in a supermarket by assisting older people with carrying or anything else, we are teaching those around us what’s right. The same types of lessons can be delivered on the road, in a park, or at a medical office.

You don’t need an education degree to be a teacher. You can be a parent, religious leader, fast food server, waste collector, police officer, or fire fighter. Keep in mind that others, particularly small others, are watching you and the choices that you make. Yes, I am a teacher, inside or outside of the classroom. Sometimes I teach math and writing. Sometimes I teach with the words that I write. We can never have too much learning. Shalom.

The ant is fat

This week, I had an unforgettable opportunity to observe a dedicated and extremely compassionate educator working with a severely challenged student. My best guess is that the young man was 5 or 6, and he began the teaching session by claiming that he couldn’t read sentences.

Twenty minutes later, the boy proudly read, “The ant is fat.” The mask on his face prevented me from seeing him smile. But his posture and sparkling eyes transmitted the exuberance he felt at his accomplishment.

Because I never had any learning disabilities and neither did my children, I had no personal sessions with special education. But what I observed taught me volumes about what’s important to that discipline and students with special needs. It consisted of two words – kindness and patience.

This teacher was long on both qualities and I suspect that because he was, the boy didn’t get frustrated or impatient. Letter by letter, word by word, the teacher kept approving and complimenting the little boy until he succeeded.

The brief session was a lesson to all of us. Maybe I need to keep plodding when I encounter difficulties with any of my devices. And drivers prone to rage on the road when there is heavy traffic need to think more about taking a breath before weaving and screaming. We all have situations where the art of focus can be immeasurably useful.

As I found out later, “The ant is fat” was the first sentence that this first grader ever read. When the teacher applied his wisdom to emphasize that this was the beginning of the rest of his life, I couldn’t help but celebrate with both of them. Clearly, this was a student who would have challenges, victories, and celebrations for a very long time. I feel privileged to have been able to witness one of them. Shalom.

Do it now

For all the years that I can remember, I have used the expression, “I’ll do that someday.” The same type of process can be applied to having something, visiting somewhere, or trying a type of something. As I ponder that habit, I continue to believe that it’s a mistake.

Some time this year, I began taking decisive action toward attacking those ”some days.” A few of them are quite small – hanging something in my house, writing something I wanted to write, cooking a new type of food, etc. The entire process is liberating.

As I recently remarked, the fact that tomorrow is guaranteed to no-one mitigates toward doing the stuff that you have relegated to some time in the future. No, I’m not suggesting spending money that you don’t have. I’m also not suggesting that you try zip lining or parachute jumping, because you have always dreamed about doing either or both. My recommendations are somewhat more mundane and ultimately less dangerous.

Here are some examples. If you have always wanted a pair of red shoes, stop postponing them and make the purchase. You would have bought another color in the indefinite future, so why not have what you’ve always wanted. If you have the money and you’ve always wanted to visit the Rocky Mountains (Alps, Andes, Appalachians), make plans to see them. While they are not going away, you can find justification for seeing them in any season you choose.

Open the file marked “someday” and take everything out of it. While you may not be able to execute everything in that space right now, make plans to do them next month, next year, or within a definite space. The person closest to you may very well have the same goals and this would be a good time to identify them for both of you.

Under no circumstances do I want to die with unfulfilled wishes. Next time that I think, “I wonder when I’ll be able to do” something, I’ll stop and ask why I haven’t done it yet before correcting that status. As I remember saying many years ago, “Life is too short to drink cheap beer.”

For the record, this is my 600th blog on this site. If I have succeeded at my goal to educate, inspire, and inform, I am happy. Shalom.