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

Loving memory

Last month was the birthday of a very special woman who has been part of my family and my life for many years. On all previous years, I observed the tradition of sending her a birthday card, knowing that it would be received with gratitude and the love with which it was sent.

There was no birthday card sent, only because I know that she wouldn’t have recognized my name or the sentiment it represented. My cherished family member is a dementia resident of a nicely appointed and solicitous hospice center. Because she is many states away, I visited her last summer and know that she is oblivious to her surroundings and everything else.

Although I haven’t had to begin the mourning process, she is as lost to me as she could possibly be. My home is filled with reminders of her. She was famous for her photos, celebration of all holidays and thoughtful, sentimental gifts.

As we speak, every recollection of her except the last one is one of joy. Her current state reminds me of the fragility of life and how crucial it is to treasure every moment we share with loved ones. If it’s been too long since you reminded a loved one of your feelings, don’t wait another second to do so.

My fervent and unending hope is that my status will never duplicate hers and that those who love me will not need to endure my declining health and cognition. Most of us want to die quickly and without pain. While immediacy creates a shock and trauma to those left behind, they don’t need to watch the progression of death.

For the sake of not closing in sadness, I will forever treasure the memories of my family member as a healthy, thoughtful woman who put her family above all else. She will always be a lesson in kindness to me and those who knew her. If we can in any way emulate this form of compassion, we will all be of blessed memory. Shalom.

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Excuses

He that is good at making excuses is seldom good for anything else.      Benjamin Franklin

People I’ve known who are happiest and most fulfilled have never made excuses for success, happiness or achievement. Why is it, then, that we are full of excuses for all negative outcomes? It seems to me that the simplest and most reasonable explanation for a lack of victory or positive consequence is that I didn’t work hard enough. Or maybe I didn’t spend enough time in understanding what needed to be done.

This makes me wonder why it becomes so difficult to realize that we weren’t up to or prepared for a particular journey or task. If you didn’t finish a 5k race, was it really because the weather was too hot or humid? Many others finished, probably at a faster speed than you had. Saying that I didn’t train, didn’t focus or didn’t push hard enough is a much better explanation than climate.

Very often, we make excuses for not doing something. Why not call your mother instead of conjuring reasons not to do so? Why not save something out of every paycheck? And if you haven’t worn something for over a year, don’t keep it because you will someday – donate it to someone who can use it now.

We all have a huge amount to learn from special Olympians who finish races or compete in sports that are difficult for those who have all their physical and psychological capabilities. And how many of us have seen youngsters and older people survive and overcome illnesses that would have incapacitated most of us?

My lesson learned is to understand what is required and do everything necessary to approach whatever work or undertaking with all aspects prepared to succeed. Blaming everything outside of us for our inability to prevail provides the enticement to shirk any responsibility we choose. But nothing is learned, and growth is impossible.

Don’t make the mistake of removing yourself from every unfulfilled equation. Excuses are easily created and perpetuated but taking ownership and growing is much more difficult and infinitely more rewarding. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Never, forever and always

As we grow older and theoretically have fewer anxieties, the additional time provides occasion for various analyses. Such is the case with the words “never,” “forever” and “always,”  words that are so burdened with emotion.

We all use these words. Never lie to your parents. Always pay your taxes. This road goes on forever. Most of that is non-toxic and unemotional. But I’m thinking that in relationships of any significance, using these words must be done with greater care and consideration. Here’s how that looks:

You never listen to me.

You always leave your room a mess.

We never talk about anything important.

We are always doing those things that you want, never what I want.

Can it be that the person whom we accuse of never listening is truly guilty of never listening? Most likely, it’s a case of filtering out certain data and sticking with that which is deemed to be important. Maybe it’s hearing loss.

And when we tell our kids that their rooms are always a mess, we’re ignoring clean moments, serious intent and the desire to please mom and dad. When you put yourself in that child’s place, you can see the toxicity of casually delivered accusations.

The word “forever” is similarly loaded. You are forever talking about past relationships. Your debt goes on forever. We are forever fighting about junk. It’s a nice idea to think about forever love and forever faith but most of the time, we’re not so careful about invoking forever.

With regard to our most important relationships, suggesting that no important conversation ever takes place is a poor commentary on the priorities of both parties. It’s quite possible that a discussion about something truly important had taken place the day, week or month before this allegation. Suggesting that “we never talk about anything important” deletes or minimizes that conversation.

For my part, using these words must be done selectively and discriminately. Because I rarely got angry at either of my kids, I don’t think that I liberally accused them of never doing this and always doing that. If I did, I sincerely apologize for the thoughtlessness. As for the present, for as much as I can stay on top of it, I will choose a higher path than telling my loved ones that they are never, forever or always guilty of something. Shalom.

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No-one knows

Parked at a stoplight, I determined that I was at the long end of the cycle allowing me to make my left turn. It’s probably germane to mention that I was in no particular hurry. For some reason, I looked around and persuaded myself that there were no police cars in the vicinity; I briefly considered making an illegal left turn. In retrospect, I don’t know why I thought about it. But magically, I had a left turn arrow that was entirely out of cycle and proceeded (lawfully) through the intersection.

Throughout our lives, we have enticements and opportunities to be a little wrong, a trifle illegal or a bit off center. It’s similar to fudging on our income taxes or parking in a handicapped space to run in “for a minute.” Without getting into whether God is watching or not, we are the same as the actions we take. Having had a handicapped plaque for a while following surgeries, I can assure you that an extra ten, twenty or thirty feet represents serious inconvenience.

Somehow, I can’t do the wrong things that may or may not be detected. The risks of doing so are far beyond the IRS audits or moving violations. If we commit those infractions, what else can we justify? In the process of saving a few minutes or a few dollars, don’t we sacrifice our integrity? Teaching our children and grandchildren and students about honesty, those lessons must be accompanied by actions and statements that are genuine.

It may be that my thoughts at the stoplight were a test – just to make certain that my moral compass was still working properly. My guess is that it would have been more difficult to break the law than to sit through as many traffic light signals as it would have taken. And the lesson – it’s never necessary to analyze or justify the right decisions that we make. While I probably wouldn’t have had any trouble sleeping if I had run the red light, I don’t know that it’s the type of thing that a role model would do. Shalom.

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What we see

When I was a tiny baby, my right arm produced a tumor and my parents elected to treat it with radiation. As a child, this disfiguration was difficult for me, causing me to explain its origin and take innumerable measures to conceal it. For many years, I worried about my potential for marriage, believing that an ugly arm would rule me out from any consideration. And if someone did want to marry me, it would require my cloaking myself in layers.

Many years later, I find myself being grateful that the radiation deleted the tumor, leaving me with the ability to use the arm as needed. More importantly, I received a lesson that most of our imperfections are invisible and unimportant to those who truly love us.

Now and then I see couples with partners who are handicapped, severely obese or disfigured in some way. But to observe them, they are oblivious to any of their partners’ conditions that render them less than perfect by any definition. By no means do I want to invoke the expression, “Love is blind,” because none of these lovers are blind to the appearance of their mates.

In some cases, companions retitle those conditions. One of my dear friends complained about having gained weight. Her husband, obvious in his devotion to her, dismissed the complaint, suggesting that, “There is more of her to love.” Yes, it appears to be true that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

As an educator, the appearance of any particular child is of no concern to me. In fact, those kids who are slower, disfigured, challenged or inhibited in some way are often more thoroughly beautiful than those who are active and typical. Happily, these special kids generally don’t limit or label themselves and I am a conspirator in making them feel that they are vital parts of the classroom community.

We have a powerful responsibility to delete any negativity from being different. Instead, this difference can be a distinction or designation of excellence as it removes the special person from mediocrity. Ultimately, I wore the wedding dress that I wanted and have never seen another adult repelled by my unusual arm. Finding opportunities to deal with the character and soul on the inside must be the best alternative. Shalom.

 

 

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Feedback

When I began writing blogs about eighteen months and 269 blogs ago, I did so with the idea of educating and informing. In addition to that, it’s both enjoyable and cathartic to write. As thoughts and concerns occur, I find it somewhat therapeutic to distribute those ruminations through this medium.

If we begin there, it becomes obvious that like any other piece of creative work, the blogs are self-justifying and autonomous. Pondering reality, it is obvious that while I appreciate and solicit feedback, doing so is inherently unrealistic. If you consider the lack of response that most work receives from the public, why would I expect to receive it?

With that sobering thought, I am now further inspired to identify those subjects worth exploring and proceed with that path. Yes, I would love to have thousands of followers, an equal number of likes and copious comments. But as I recollect a departmental newsletter that I authored and sent for months without any responses or contributions, I recognize that most folks simply don’t take the time and energy.

Surprisingly, this is liberating. For those of you who do comment and like my blogs, thank you for that. If you choose not to communicate with me, I’ll assume that you’re interested, engaged, entertained or inspired – without hearing anything whatsoever. And that’s okay.

Several days ago, I heard the Symphony in A-minor by Mozart that he wrote when he was nine years old. While there were no video games, soccer or after-school programs to have provided a distraction to Mozart, it remains beyond remarkable that he was able to compose a symphony at that age. In this case, the composition was done for self-expression, musical insight or simply because it needed to be written. If that level of artistic autonomy was sufficient for WA Mozart, it’s more than enough for me. Shalom.

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Rabbit, rabbit

Although few people in my life, past or present, are aware of the habit of saying “Rabbit” or “Rabbit, rabbit” as the first words on the first day of a month, I find it a peculiarly satisfying tradition. Maybe I should call it the Rabbit Habit.

If you’re not familiar with the superstition, a check on the Internet will provide numerous references and examples. One of the sites I visited suggested that the trend has become popular with young people and the “Rabbit, rabbit” message appears frequently on social media. My wonderful son and I have used the habit as a friendly competition, and I’m positive that he beats me to issuing the “Rabbit, rabbit” message one the first of every month.

Here’s the data behind the process. It appears that during World War II, British pilots were issuing the words, “Rabbit, rabbit” or “Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” in order to wish themselves and their cohorts the best possible outcomes on the day’s flight or bombing missions. Other sources trace the habit to early 20th century Britain, where children were accustomed to issuing the phrase or word as the first word of a new month, also to ensure good luck. There are also indications that the superstition traces much farther back.

If you’re asking yourself, “Why rabbits?” instead of toads or emus, the fact that bunnies reproduce prolifically is cited as the primary reason. And of course, people have been known to carry a rabbit’s foot for luck instead of the appendage of any other creature.

The idea of wishing yourself and those around you a day or month or year of good luck is indisputably a good one. One source indicated that issuing these words should be teamed with walking backward down the stairs – strictly out of concern for safety, I’m not recommending that addition to the custom.

My suggestion is to embrace the usage, wish good luck for as many people as you reach and perpetuate something intrinsically positive. Maybe it will ultimately displace road rage if we issue the words, “Rabbit, rabbit” to dumb drivers instead of our usual expletives. Shalom.

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Secrets

Something that amuses and confuses me in the classroom is the age at which children begin telling secrets. Do we learn about secrets from other kids or from our parents and other adult authority figures? This is another one of those concepts to which I have addressed some thought, pondering why we tell secrets and why we keep them.

The dictionary I use most defines a secret as something that is concealed or hidden; the second definition posits secret as a mystery. What’s most interesting to me is that something labeled a secret automatically assumes the character of something that is or will be of value.

At no time do I ever ask students to reveal the secrets they tell each other. In addition to their being none of my concern, I feel very strongly about our need to keep secrets, sometimes to the general public and sometimes to those who are within our immediate spheres.

If that seems a surprise after my discourses on honesty, I don’t believe that keeping secrets is dishonest. In those cases where the information has to do with things or places or people in our pasts, my feeling is that keeping those entities as secrets represents an advantage to those who might have known about them. The other reality is that if you refrain from telling secrets, you don’t need to remember to whom you’ve told them and to whom that information remains unknown.

Is it possible that those I like and love will think less of me when they know my secrets? While I suppose it’s possible, that’s really not my rationale. It’s mostly a question of need to know or the amount that any item of secret will improve or enhance the person(s) to whom I disclose it. Most of my secrets are trivial or inconsequential, again reinforcing my refusal to disclose them on the basis of need.

But if the secrets are more substantial, you’ll simply need to respect my need to maintain them as unrevealed. If that makes me mysterious, so be it. If it causes you to want to know me better, that’s okay too. Just know that some of it will always remain a secret. Shalom.

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What’s next

One of the subjects to which I have dedicated a substantial amount of time is that of aging. The fact that I am older than the age when both of my parents left this earth has some effect on my thoughts. But I firmly believe that there are some reasons to look at aging analytically rather than emotionally.

It’s quite true that I am grateful for every one of my days. As I have been known to reflect, every day that I can get out of bed and put both feet on the ground without assistance is a good one. After all of my years with senior care, perhaps this should be modified to be every day that I can open my eyes and partake of this world is a gift.

Although my days ahead are fewer than those lived that’s an excuse to live each day to the fullest. It occurred to me a day or so ago that youth is often spent in fear of living while advanced age is too frequently involved in fear of dying.

So what constitutes living each day to its maximum? For one, each ache or pain should not be considered a reason to contact the oncologist. As our faces become wrinkled, perhaps those wrinkles are lessons learned rather than hardships or struggles.

In lieu of rehashing old relationships, employers or distasteful events, time is better spent on planning vacations, relishing the sight of treasured grandkids and dedicating time to enhancing the world around us, professionally or voluntarily.

We can’t change that which has already taken place. But we can choose to accept it, ignore it, learn from it or prevent the negative occurrences from reoccurring. If you have a parent or grandparent who means more than you have expressed, please don’t waste any time in communicating that message. We are aware that life is fragile and have come to learn that all kind words and moments are valuable.

It’s true that I am forgetting some names, experiences and places. But as I see it, there’s only so much room in my brain and if something is forgotten, it may deserve to be so. There are many breathtaking sights yet to be seen, memorable folks to be met and treasured moments to be lived. If I am able to live many more years, I am committed to make all of them sacred. Shalom.

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Giving

Being in a new city after living elsewhere for thirty years has its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, it’s fun to find new restaurants, hiking trails and local shopping meccas. But on the minus part of the equation, it’s a bit strange to be somewhere where it’s extremely unlikely to encounter someone familiar.

That will change over time, I suppose. In the interim, I joined a local choral ensemble and was elated and surprised to discover that the process of becoming part of a venture was unusually satisfying. Seeking a common outcome and working toward that reality became enjoyable, both in the belonging and the active participation.

Last week, I experienced a similar gratification as I joined the local school system. Retirement is enjoyable and relaxing, but it was missing something that I wasn’t quite able to identify until last week. When I belong to an organization in which I believe, I am able to do what I call depositing positive energy into the universe.

Reading the news or watching it on television, we all become aware of the volunteers who champion one cause or another and dedicate hours, dollars and heart to that cause. Thanks to my recent commitments, I fully understand that being part of something honorable makes for a sense of community that is incomparable.

Some of the unhappiest people I’ve known were entirely self-absorbed and disassociated with everything. If I were a (full-time) counselor, my first recommendation to this profile is to get out and do something for someone or something else.

While I am compensated for my educating, that sum is entirely disproportionate to my passion. In my past, I committed the same enthusiasm on a purely volunteer basis. But as I grow into my new community, I hope to find valuable, lasting methods by which I can grow that environment.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, a great theologian and philosopher, once stated, “Knowledge – like the sky – is never private property. No teacher has a right to withhold it from anyone who asks for it. Teaching is the art of sharing.”

As we share with others, in the food bank, the shelter or the classroom, we give much more to ourselves. Shalom.