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.

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.

Wealth and poverty

The other morning we received news that someone replaced someone else as the second wealthiest person on the planet. My first thought is to wonder who cares other than numbers one, two, and three. My life is neither enhanced nor improved by knowing who the richest people are. But I had subsequent thoughts.

It’s a certainty that I will never rank among these people. Too many of my years are in the past. No matter what I imagine, I can’t think of anything that I could possibly accomplish at this point to put me in the ranks of the wealthiest. But as I pondered this reality (not sadly), I also wonder if these top three people are happier than the rest of us.

Very few of the extremely affluent make news about their charitable acts. Bill and Melinda Gates are often recognized for their contributions and while I can’t name other gestures of generosity off the top of my head, I know that these two do a great deal for society. Whenever I imagine being in their income category, I am certain that I would dedicate a portion of my wealth to those less fortunate as I do now.

But are they happier, more well-adjusted, or “better people” because of their affluence?  The possibilities of my asking Mr. Bezos, Mr. Gates, Mr. Zuckerberg, or Mr. Buffett about their happiness are extremely slim. Regardless, the reality is that money buys things but not happiness. And I can’t help but wonder if they are seeing the same news stories that I see – endless lines of people who are desperate for enough food to survive.

And so, I continue to believe that having millions or billions would not make me smile more or improve my state of being. I couldn’t ask for a better home life, children, and grandchildren. Money would make it possible for me to make my gifts to them more lavish but not necessarily more important. And it makes me happy to think that my gifts to those less fortunate reduces hunger in one or two or ten families.

If you are entertained, motivated, or anything else in learning about the richest people on earth, have at it. My fervent hope is that they are happy while rich and that they are industrious about sharing that happiness with those who need it most. Shalom.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The number of travelers for this Thanksgiving holiday indicates that many Americans refuse to observe the COVID-19 guidelines recommending that we all stay home. Those of us who will stay home will not change our minds or plans. But what we can do is think of the many Thanksgiving memories that we have already accumulated, savoring them instead of feeling sorry for ourselves that we won’t create new ones this year.

For me it’s easy to remember huge family gatherings with parents, brothers, aunts, uncles, and copious cousins. The tone was celebratory, the decibel level was huge and we felt happy and secure in a traditional holiday setting. Food that was available was generally twice what that large conglomerate could consume. Consequently, no-one watched how much we ate, how many servings we inhaled, and what foods we chose not to consume. It’s also sumptuous meals with my wonderful daughter and son, grandchildren, and extended family.

I cannot help but treasure those memories. All of my aunts and uncles (and several of my cousins) are gone, my parents and brothers have passed and there is virtually nothing left of that and other family events. But because I can remember so much so clearly, I suggest that those who are feeling sadness about separation from family members also participate in memory-savoring.

No-one asked for this virus, no-one wants to have internet gatherings rather than real ones, and many of us simply cannot rejoin those people who meant so much to us. If you have escaped the clutches of this horrible virus, celebrate that. If you have family members whom you will join for future holidays, treasure that. While looking backward is frequently not my recommendation, this is an exception.

Be happy for what you have today and plan to have tomorrow. Perhaps the separation that you suffer for this year will make all the rest of your Thanksgiving holidays that much sweeter. Happy Thanksgiving! Shalom.

A fairy tale

Once upon a time, there was a charming little village in the beautiful state of New Mexico. Within that village there were many retail establishments of all types. Some were coffee shops and eateries; others sold clothing, pottery, antiques, t-shirts, and all those products that one would ordinarily find in a village.

Within this village is another type of store. It is a combination jewelry-art-pottery-memorabilia store that is owned and operated by a charming couple whom we will call Gabriel and Louisa. They have been in this venue for many years and have distinguished themselves as the definitive location for extraordinary treasures.

Some time ago, it was my good fortune to have wandered into this shop and I was immediately aware of what made this a very special location. What they were providing was far beyond the products within their walls. They graciously and readily offered kindness, gracious hospitality, and a type of salesmanship that defies any quick categorization.

Throughout the last several years, we have had reason to return to this shop, not only for purchases but also for the reception that we encounter as soon as we enter the premises. Both Gabriel and Louisa are accommodating and understanding, knowing which items will be appealing to me and those that I would not choose. If something is broken or in need of adjustment, those tasks are done quickly and efficiently, with never an objection or a charge.

For as long as I am able to travel to this village and visit this unusual shop, it will be my pleasure and privilege to do so. My hosts are examples of the way that all businesses should be conducted – with integrity, professionalism, and most importantly – a concern for the complete satisfaction of the client. As one such client, I can only be grateful that this level of human courtesy and kindness remains within a retail establishment. Thankfully, I am one of those who will live happily ever after. Shalom.

Simplicity

Some of my most treasured moments occur on the drives through New Mexico that we often complete. Many people would look at the endless acres of cacti, bushes, and bare ground as boring or unattractive. To me, it’s beauty to be treasured in simplicity.

Yes, the magnificent old buildings of Europe are memorable, as are the Rocky Mountains, Pacific coast, and New England. But there is something to be said for the untouched, undeveloped landscapes that we can find whenever we look for them.

For example, we often visit Illinois, place of my birth and the location of Chicago, the most wonderful city anywhere. Before reaching Chicago, however, we are privileged to see acres and acres of cornfields and soybeans that are trademarks of the state. Beauty to be found in cornfields? Yes, without a doubt. This country’s history is based on the hard work and diligence of our agriculture. There is no better place to see that history in the fields of whatever the crop found throughout our country.

Cities can be as beautiful as the pristine fields of corn, wheat, soybeans, or anything else. The lakeshore of Chicago is a breathtaking sight, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. Some of the scenes I’ve observed of New York that were taken from the air confirm that it is a magnificent, vibrant place. And I have loved Rome, Madrid, Florence, and Monte Carlo, each with its particular version of timeless beauty.

But my point remains that there is unmistakable splendor in that which is free of buildings, roads, and historical attractions. Too often, we drive through states without taking the time to observe those areas that are untouched or unmarred by civilization.

Maybe this is ultimately a comment about people and those to whom I best relate. If our philosophies consist of integrity, treating others with kindness, and giving more than we receive – that’s really all that makes life worth living. We still appreciate our philosophers, life coaches, and historians. But to me, simple is good. You never have to apologize for doing the right thing. Shalom.

Just imagine

What do you see when you look in the mirror? Are you complimentary or critical? Do you like or dislike the image? Do you decide that you are too old, too thin, too fat, too wrinkled, too plain, or too something else? Having conducted similar analyses, I’ve reached an entirely new conclusion.

Ultimately, what you appear to be in your mirror is simply a fragment of who you are and what you mean to others. In the past few days and weeks, I have come to realize that there are quite a few people whom I know or have known who have definitive opinions about me or what I have represented to them. The chances are that I will never know exactly whom I have touched, in the workplace or in the classroom.

That is why I challenge you to improve your conclusions about who you are, what you have achieved, and what you can still accomplish. It’s always a joy to report that data to my students. It doesn’t matter what your mama and papa do or have done. That doesn’t define you. You are the only one who can do that and the only ceiling on your head is the one that you place there.

My guess is that those who have been responsible for the greatest of this planet’s accomplishments never looked in the mirror and decided that they were too much or too little of anything. It’s also likely that they never began to count how many people they knew or on whom they were able to have an influence.

It makes me happy to believe that I have contributed something positive to this world, regardless of the fact that I will never know exactly what the impact has been and on how many people. For as long as I am fortunate enough to remain on this planet, I will continue to make as many contributions as I can to it. And I suggest that we never limit ourselves to our physical images because what’s inside of our spirits is what truly matters. Shalom.

Climbing mountains

Having never been a mountain climber, I have had no idea how it might feel to stand at the bottom of a major peak and plan to climb it. As is the case with so many actions, I suppose that it depends on the person approaching the mountain. If you are experienced, it’s probably just another landmark. If it’s the first time, the thoughts are likely to be entirely different.

Today I am on the brink of an action that I can compare to these acts of courage, bravery, and adventure. The identity of it will remain with me, but I feel it is worthwhile to examine and share the mental processes. There are no physical challenges. But what I must begin today will necessarily take longer than a journey up Mount Everest.

Something that I captured from my most recent reading describes how a collection of people can view the same event and derive entirely different details. This rang a bell with me in my current situation. My hope is that months or years from now, I will look back on what I am undertaking without remembering the intricacies, but simply recollecting the event itself. At the same time, I suspect that those who will be present will remember small parts of it differently than I will.

Should I approach this as I have other mountains? Should I grit my teeth, predict the best possible of conclusions and make that reality by virtue of determination? Or should I remain entirely open-minded, receive all the requisite information and proceed, one decision at a time? All of these are viable options. I just hope that no matter what I pick, it will be the right choice and the process that I am beginning will run smoothly and without roadblocks.

Most importantly, I have the support of a number of people who believe that everything will work out. Just as I have no intention of disappointing them, I owe it to myself to put one foot in front of the other until I reach my destination. Shalom.

You are welcome

Having dinner at a local restaurant, we were attentively and politely served by a young lady who impressed us with her professional behavior. Because I’m in the habit of saying thank you for good service, I thanked her several times. Each time, her response was, “Of course.”

Admittedly, it’s my bad habit of listening to people, whether their speech is normally deemed important or not. The thought that I had to her “of courses” was to wonder what happened to “You’re welcome.” On other occasions, not necessarily at this restaurant, my thank yous have been answered with “No problem,” or “Not a problem,” other substitutes for “You’re welcome.”

Am I the only one who wonders why we don’t typically acknowledge a thanks with equal gratitude? While I don’t believe that this is symbolic of immediate and permanent collapse of our world as we know it, I do think about what we’re teaching our kids and why. This server must have been taught somewhere along the way that when someone says, “Thank you,” a totally excellent answer is, “You’re welcome.”

When we take this to another level, maybe “of course” and “no problem” are the same as saying that I am welcome to that service. The concern that I have are that this server or these servers feel that they are managing the dinner or lunch or breakfast venue and that the patrons are participants in their dramas. Yes, I know that this is probably over-analysis, or analysis paralysis. But I can’t be the only one who misses a cordial, “You are so welcome.”

Having had several issues recently with attendants who were so busy doing their jobs that they forgot being customer-service oriented, these feelings are close to the surface. Wednesday, I had to ask a car rental check-in person to lift my suitcase out of the trunk. He had completed his paperwork and was ready for the next customer. Likewise, a driver of the shuttle to the airport from car rental was happy to lift the suitcase onto the shuttle but handed it off to me to remove when the trip was complete, without attempting to move the suitcase to the sidewalk.

Common sense is sometimes not common. At the very least, I am extremely conscientious while in the classroom, letting my students know that being kind and thoughtful never goes out of style. Shalom.

Books and bytes

On a recent flight that took too long after a layover that was painfully longer, I noticed the people around me who were endlessly attached to their cell phones. Having turned my phone off in order to save the charge for my arrival, I couldn’t help but wonder what these folks would be doing if they didn’t have cell phones or similar devices. It caused me to think about days past, where we happily survived.

I remember coming home from work to see if there was a flashing light on my answering machine. I also remember typing what seemed to be endless term papers on a typewriter purchased for that purpose. And I remember writing and receiving letters, reading hardcover and paperback books, and spending time listening to albums on my stereo.

Because all or many of these habits are now nearly obsolete, does that make them inferior or bad? Does music coming from a laptop or cell or streamed to a television really sound better than it did before? Those who fully embrace technology would wholeheartedly say yes.

Let’s go into the classroom. Before I will give students free time on their Chromebooks, I will play Hangman or dodge ball. Not surprisingly, most kids love their iPads or Chromebooks or in some cases, their cell phones. But they also love making craft projects, coloring with crayons and dancing to any type of music, regardless of its source. You can be certain that I will always choose physical rather than screen-watching projects, whenever I have that option.

No, I’m not saying that electronic devices are bad or that I want to donate my own electronic toys. It is clear that I take full advantage of them when necessary. Had it not been for my GPS on a recent trip, I would have wandered around northern California for hours and hours. But I also read many books, paperback, hardcover or ebook. And I write letters and notes and send greeting cards. We have a tendency to throw away old methodologies in favor of new ones. That really doesn’t make sense.

If you enjoy receiving letters or cards or notes as I do, paper ones are usually better than those in an email. Physical presents are also better than gift cards, when there is time to send them. Am I an antique? Perhaps I am. But as one who staunchly supports teaching cursive to children (we used to call it handwriting), I will also continue to promote the writing of thank you notes. Teaching children to write is an intrinsic part of my job, one that I love more than the rest. But enabling them to imagine a world that had much less technology is also desirable. Shalom.