Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Old and new

Those of us who spent much of our lives without benefit of current technology often observe the before and after realities of those lives. For one, I remember coming home from work to see if the answering machine light was flashing an indication that I had a message. And I remember waiting until Sunday to call home from college because the rates were lower.

By no means do I suggest all of this as a wish for days gone by. The majority of our life changes are positive ones, especially as they include reduced charges, additional convenience and a lack of waiting for the right dial tone to secure internet access.

But yesterday, I had a revelation concerning my new tablet and the lovely addition of a smart pencil (who ever dreamed that pencils could be smart?). The revelation was that I could use the pencil to write the notes that I have recorded for many years on a piece of paper that was more or less inconvenient or capable of being lost or damaged.

This may not sound like much but it’s huge. Life now requires me to have ongoing access to wifi of one flavor or another and the tablet (a sensational early birthday gift) is the latest addition to that access. The big event is that I can use this tasty device to do writing, email, current events, social media or anything else that one does with a tablet. And in addition to all of that, I can use it to hand-write notes, ideas for blogs, additions to my book or anything else! It is unquestionably the combination of latest technology with old-fashioned hard work that takes the form of handwriting.

Because I am not an artist of any type for visual arts, I won’t access my magic pencils talents at creating drawings or sketches. It’s simply not that magical. However, I am going to use it diligently for notes, reminders, lists or anything else that includes the English language. This is very exciting stuff. I can also take pictures with it and I can check the stock market. More important than all of that, I can preserve my old-time habits with new-time devices. What a deal.

What is the moral or lesson in all this? Use discretion about accepting or discarding any particular change in your life and surroundings. Somehow, it is always possible to maintain the good and bad at the same time. Shalom.

 

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Editors

One of my greatest amusements or frustrations is seeing how many typographical or grammatical mistakes prevail in the world. As an editor and writer, I confess to being more aware and potentially more sensitive. But almost daily, I see areas where the general public should employ the services of an editor and do not, for reasons I will never understand.

A very good one had to do with two celebrities who have been extremely public about their relationship. The article described them as being, “…attacked at the hip.” While that conjures some interesting images, it is clear that they were attached, not attacked.

One of the local TV news stations has come up with some interesting mistakes. They described a nearby community as “Bernallilo” instead of the correct “Bernalillo” and I am certain that the locals of that community were not happy.

And in another case, I saw some news coverage of a local movement that described a “Buisness” instead of “Business” that was open. Do any of these have lasting significance? Probably not. But every time I see one, I think of my dad’s favorite statement, “Any job worth doing is worth doing right.” Another local one that I just saw was the blatantly incorrect use of the objective case when the subjective case was needed: “To whomever was shooting off fireworks.”

If you are one of those who are shy or tentative or disinterested enough to enlist the services of a competent editor, I wish you all the best. I don’t know about you, but I have no interest in releasing something that says I was not careful or thorough or concerned. My services are always available to you, as are thousands of other editors who have become readily available, thanks to online access.

Another worthwhile expression crosses my mind: You only have one opportunity to make a first impression. If you take the extra minute and dollars to see that your work is accurate, you will make a first impression that is editorially correct. That must be worth something. Shalom.

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Logic

For fear of sounding like one of the litany of whiners and complainers around us, I have a number of observations to record. It seems that logic is a practice that has left many of us as the Covid-19 pandemic has hit.

One of our “leaders” has recently and repeatedly observed that if we did less testing for the virus, we would have fewer diagnosed cases. That strikes me the same as saying, “When I don’t cut my hair, it gets longer.” This person has also suggested that 99% of the Covid-19 cases are harmless. What? Most of the second and third graders I teach would see the flaws in these leader-issued pronouncements.

And then there is the eye-opener that if we loosen the quarantine and its implicit restrictions, the number of diagnosed cases spikes. Really? I guess that if fewer people keep social distance and wear masks, the virus can attack anyone and everyone. Wow.

What would happen if we replaced this type of illogical logic with good sense? The only way to determine who has the virus and who doesn’t is by conducting the test or witnessing symptoms. While I recognize that many of the tests have been shown to be unreliable or inaccurate, many are not.

Some folks are ranting and raving about being forced to wear masks. It is manifestly true that you have a constitutional right to die. What the constitution doesn’t protect, however, is your right to infect me and others if you are carrying the virus and don’t wear the mask. We are not taking your guns away – just your right to kill by transmitting toxins.

And for those idiots who are saying that the virus is a hoax, tell that to the hundreds of thousands worldwide who have watched loved ones die or have lived through Covid-19. You are most likely the same fools who consider the Holocaust a carefully fabricated lie. Let me introduce you to someone who escaped Auschwitz. Better yet, meet me there and tell me about crematoria and mountains of seized shoes and eyeglasses. It is past the right time to think reasonably and intelligently. Shalom.

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Metaphor

Sitting in the sun recently, I spied a bird of a variety I couldn’t recognize sitting on the patio. He was very still and it was only by getting close that I could verify that he was alive. The beak was opening and closing and you could observe the rise and fall of a chest that indicated breathing. By virtue of the location and failure to move when I approached, I was certain that something was wrong.

Soon I realized that my response was exactly that of a parent or educator and this bird was a metaphor for my roles. For a very long time, the bird did not change position. I wanted to feed it, help it fly or somehow assist in its recovery. My best guess is that he flew into one of our windows (it happens frequently) and essentially knocked himself into a frenzy.

Those of my experience and background want to help in some way. Because I am not a trained bird doctor or expert, I had no idea what to do other than observe. But that did not prevent me from wanting to do something or anything.

As educators and parents, sometimes we are forced to watch our charges flounder, stumble and work on their own survival methods. That is exactly what this bird did. Eventually, he began to walk and do several flips before landing on his side. Educators want to provide information, coaching or encouragement in this type of situation but sometimes it’s usually better to do nothing until called on to help. Bird never did that, of course, but I wanted to help him in any way that I could.

We left the bird alone, in spite of my desire to do something or anything. Checking back on him later, we saw that he had stopped breathing. Thankfully, our children and students seldom reach this type of resolution to their frustration. But in both cases, our best wishes and intentions occasionally must be stifled. In the case of offspring and students, children will seek our attention when appropriate. When that does not take place, we must simply watch. Shalom.

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Lose it

During the past several days I had occasion to see something that I have had around for some time, for no apparent reason. It may have been a tee shirt that I wore once after getting it at my high school reunion many years ago. There is no need to keep it because I will never wear it again, and I have decided to begin a major purge of all such things.

Pondering this, I suspect that we all keep numerous items that have no monetary value, are not used and simply take up space. When I die, the chances are good that the majority of these will be given to Goodwill or trashed. Why not do it now?

The benefits of this type of house cleaning are many. To begin, someone can use a shirt that I don’t want, particularly if they have no other shirts, it’s free or inexpensive. Next, it creates space that I may be able to use for something useful or important. And last of all, it’s really good for the brain. For my part, I am shedding baggage while contributing to the greater good.

From here, I’ll turn this into a project. Maybe I’ll seek out five or ten of these dead weights per week until I fill a big bag for Goodwill. Before I do so, I’ll set up strict criteria such as, “don’t wear,” “haven’t worn in a year or more” or “I have no idea why this is still in my possession.”

On that subject, I have tried and succeeded at losing those expressions that are cliché or otherwise objectionable. When I use the word “tons,” you can be confident that I am only referring to things measured in 2,000-pound quantities. And if I have ever “reached out” to someone, it was only to save them in a swimming pool or quagmire. If I want to talk with someone, I will call.

Losing bad habits, I suggest, is just as fulfilling as donating unused objects. I’m thinking that most of my bad practices are not word related. But whenever I am guilty of making assumptions, losing my patience or failing to meet a deadline, I continue to hold myself entirely responsible. I’m not trying to achieve perfection as I am certain that it is impossible to reach. But I will always work on being a better person, wife, mother, grandmother, business associate and friend. It’s just what I do. Shalom.

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Simplify

In previous blogs, I’ve mentioned the value of a small investment in stickers or construction paper that has paid huge dividends. Because I will never buy a child a tablet or cell phone or laptop, the educational rewards for items that don’t need a charge are boundless.

The most recent example of this was the purchase of an inflatable beach ball and sprinkler device. Whether it was a good idea or not, I notified the grandkids that I had purchased said items for their fun.

After at least twenty reminders that they were ready to play with them, we rolled out the treasures. Had they been multi-story ferris wheels or high tech video games, they could not have been more enthusiastically received. Getting wet has always and will always be entertaining for little people. It allows them to run back and forth, scream and simply enjoy the outdoors.

No, I’m no hero. It just makes so much sense to invest a small amount of money in a low-tech, inflatable rubber and plastic toy than trendy or techy toys. If I had been able to predict that they would burn out in twenty minutes and have new fun with the bicycle pump I would still have purchased what I did. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Give kids simple toys and they will be just as satisfied as with complicated, cutting edge gadgets.

We grownups have volumes to learn from this exercise. While I’ve done my share of cruises and long, exotic journeys, a recent trip to a local cabin in the mountains was equally fulfilling. The occasional hamburger and fries can be just as satisfying as an umpteen course gourmet meal. And the present of a simple, funny cactus can be just as joyously received as a Rolex.

It appears that we may be approaching another quarantine/lockdown, a reality that I don’t fear. With enough food and drink, books to read and write and a vast world with which to remain in contact, we have nothing to cause us to be afraid. Shalom.

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To sleep, perchance to dream

To die, to sleep – to sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come – Hamlet

 William Shakespeare

Most mornings, I don’t wake up feeling Shakespearean. When I do, I find it to be a good idea to determine why – both for the wisdom inherent to feeling that way and to find a way to share that wisdom. In this case, the quote refers to Hamlet considering suicide – a concept that has no relevance to me whatsoever. But it’s a good exercise in spending a few minutes of my day in reflecting on he who used language more fluently than anyone before or since.

None of my training as an educator or a writer has enabled me to do legitimate dream analysis. Because of that, I always attempt an amateur version of it. For the sake of simplicity, we can delete the dark, suicidal message of this quote and simply think of dreaming.

My most recent and important analysis concerned a dream about meeting with a publishing committee about the book that has been my focus and priority for over a year. This was the essence of the dream – the committee said they liked the plot but I need to work on other components and they would publish.

What does all of this mean, you ask? For one, I’m thinking that whatever occupies my daytime hours will appear when I sleep. That is not a message to stop thinking about my book. Most likely, that won’t happen until it’s published. But in some way, it tells me that I am on the right track, maybe to worry less about its reality.

In no way am I suggesting that we do our own dream interpretation. We have a responsibility to think positive as often as possible. It may be awake or asleep. And that inspires us to plan for success as one of the best choices available.

The objective for the book has always been to educate and inspire. Whether that will affect one person or many is really out of my control. When I am ready to authorize publication, I will be certain that I have written, edited and dreamed enough for it to be everything I want it to be. Shalom.

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Seize the day

It took only three or four minutes to write and send the email and I found myself wondering why it had taken me so long to dedicate that small sliver of time. Thankfully, I sent my most recent blog to my rabbi, the man who had more influence on my life than anyone before or since, other than my parents.

Not surprisingly, he responded within several hours and by doing so, made me happier than I can remember feeling about any email. In his honor, I will receive his return correspondence strictly as a learning event, rather than feeling guilt or regret that I waited so long.

You never need an excuse or justification to re-establish contact with someone you value. The opportunity to make a huge positive impact on someone is staggering. If you have doubts, think about someone with whom you haven’t recently engaged and imagine how glad you would be to hear from him or her. Return that feeling by making the first step toward communicating.

Once you have identified the recipient of your letter, email or text, don’t load that with reminders of how long it has been since the two of you have spoken. Taking responsibility for that hiatus will feel much better than handing it off to another. And I recommend that you make the message positive rather than negative. Your frustration with the quarantine is universal and boring. It’s old news and probably not worth sharing. A new hobby, family event or simple celebration of life will be much more joyous to receive (and to send).

As you’ve heard many times from many sources, today is the only certainty and tomorrow is guaranteed to no-one. If you have a person in your past or present who would be enhanced in any way by hearing from you, make it happen today.

From this desk, I will send more emails to my rabbi and others whom I treasure. I’m hoping to be able to do so tomorrow but I have no way to be certain that it will be a reality. It is time to seize the only day that is truly mine.  Shalom.

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Simplicity

Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you.  Rashi

 These are the words of Rashi, a medieval French scholar who lived from 1040 to 1105 CE. His real name was Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzhak and he is still studied for his profound and detailed analyses of the Bible and its commentaries. Because he was renowned and revered for his meticulous attention to detail in his studies, his work has had profound significance for me.

This quote has been often repeated and analyzed. My interpretation is that Rashi entreats us to uncomplicate our life events by understanding information within all formats exactly as it appears. Ironically, Rashi’s most brilliant process in writing commentaries was to explain religious texts phrase by phrase, rather than paraphrasing or omitting part of the text. It seems that his specificity is in adherence to simplicity.

In other words, accept words and actions exactly as they are transmitted and avoid secondary interpretations or hidden meanings. Here is an example of how that works:

You tell me that I should write a book. Receiving this with simplicity means completely and exclusively that you think I should write a book. The reasons why you have this belief may or may not be germane to one or both of us. But here is what it doesn’t mean:

Give up writing poetry.

Stop doing client work.

You’re wasting your time with blogs or other short works.

Many people will (or will not) read your book.

You may want to ask someone to help.

See how wonderful this is?

You suggest that I visit Portugal, try Korean cooking or look into yoga classes, entirely because you think that I would enjoy or benefit from those adventures. Secondary meanings are entirely gone.

The process can be extrapolated throughout our lives. Rather than passing judgment on events in your past or someone else’s, simply accept that they took place. And if, God forbid, you are to suffer from a horrible disease, accept that with the same simplicity. Wondering why you were the one to be stricken with this disease is unnecessary – simply take action to defeat it and survive. Shalom.

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One day

In approximately six weeks, I will be celebrating a landmark birthday. At this point, I can think of eight to ten people whom I have told that I am having a difficult time with this birthday although I didn’t have similar dread with other landmarks. Try as I may, I can’t understand what has changed.

More importantly, it occurred to me that I am forever cautioning my students not to do exactly what I am doing. My warning is that believing that you can’t succeed at something guarantees that you will be right. And so it goes with a birthday. Predicting that it will be hard makes certain that it will be.

Happily or unhappily, I am the only one who can fix this. For as many times as I anguish over a number of years on earth, I will make it a problem. It is significant that my brother and I have lived longer than either of our parents or our brother, by at least ten years in his case and seven in mine. Whether that has importance or not depends on the interpretation. It also depends on how we define longevity.

As soon as I realized that I have been making this into a crisis that shouldn’t be one, I began to change my perspective. Right now, at this moment, I am in very good health, walk a minimum of 4,000 steps per day and work out daily on my stationary bicycle. Of greater value than that, I am finishing my third book, write blogs two or three times per week and have the privilege of doing writing tasks for a number of clients.

No-one can minimize the difficulty of this landmark birthday but I. Having reached this point, I hereby determine that it will be simply another day. But I am grateful to the people who make my life happy, comfortable and full of joy. Let this be a lesson to those agonizing over any life event. Making it insurmountable ensures that it will be. And making it a cause for jubilation is easier and much more useful. Shalom.