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One bald eagle

No matter how often serendipity strikes and I am able to identify a bald eagle, the experience always enriches and enlivens me. You get that much pleasure from a bird, you ask?

Absolute, positively yes. This remarkable creature is much more than a representative of the aviary community. He is beautiful, graceful and fiercely solitary in his majestic glide.

More importantly, he is the symbol of this great country, the United States of America. He represents our freedom, national pride, history and future. While we have numerous unique eagles that occupy our planet, this is the one who carries the tradition of our democracy.

Admittedly, part of my fascination and rapture is due to the fact that I hadn’t seen this magnificent bird until the last ten years of my life. He may not have been important to me, the areas in which I lived did not include this bird’s habitat or I simply never knew he was there.

And so, one might correctly guess that the bald eagle is symbolic of my personal growth and sophistication as an American and a patriot. Maybe the sight of this bird is amplified in its importance because he appeared to me after so many years of absence.

No matter the reason, I share my joy with all those who will see this bird and celebrate him and the person without whom I would never have looked to the sky. Shalom.

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Back to school

Today was my re-entry to the diverse and complicated world of education. Although it’s only been a short hiatus, the return to expectant faces, conflicting attitudes and underlying confusion was quite familiar.

We had the usual quiet and respectful as well as the loud and belligerent students. Everyone else fell somewhere in between those profiles. But with few exceptions, they were welcoming and genuine.

As always, I find myself evaluating what I did right and what I could have done better. Ultimately, it’s all about presentation. The most effective approach is as simple as a smile and a personal appeal to the student leaving for a moment. “Please hurry back. I’ll miss you.”

Maybe there is a lesson for those of who have no leaders or traditional teachers. Lead with a smile and sincere expression of concern or connection. Recently I made the unplanned decision to smile at everyone I encountered during a shopping trip. Almost everyone responded and I had to wonder if I may have improved at least one person’s disposition for a minute or so.

The children will continue to educate and inspire me as I earnestly seek to do the same for them. What a straightforward way to ensure a next generation of love and respect! Right now and at all other times, they need all the positive examples that are available. Shalom.

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Pursuing perfection

To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.

Abraham Lincoln

Wherever you may be in life, professionally or personally, most would agree with Mr. Lincoln that a constant pursuit of self-improvement is critically important. We want to complete positive action for the world in which we live, provide for our families and generally improve the amount of good that we generate.

The goal is inherently positive except when we err in believing that we can and should achieve perfection. We’ve all met the folks who are convinced that they have reached that state – their egos enter the room five minutes before they do.

Arriving at the state of perfection is immediately defeated by our status of being human. Alas, there are no 1-800-PERFECT or www.amIperfectyet.com locations to check on our progress toward the flawless state. If that seems regrettable, count how many people you have encountered who have no imperfections. After you reach zero, consider the fact that the state of being beyond correction is as arbitrary as being tall enough, smart enough or beautiful enough.

With that realization, my recommendation is not giving up on erasing those aspects that you would like to improve. In the event that you seek Abe’s level of self-actualization, choose areas for getting better that are realistic and measurable. You are the only agency capable of determining how well you’re progressing. Somehow, that’s always enough. Shalom.

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Take a chance

Many of us who listen to an extraordinary, melodic voice or view a spectacular work of art tell ourselves that we are painfully lacking in talent. Isn’t it a shame that we could never create such sounds or visual banquets? I’ve been told by someone with graphics/artistry know-how that my stick figures are awful.

Silence that voice that condemns you to a life without traditional specialties and find something that makes you feel fulfilled or gratified or creative. The copious adult coloring books that have suddenly appeared may be your niche. Buy a harmonica and teach yourself how to play it, whether anyone ever hears you or not. Invest in an indoor garden or become a crossword commandant.

Inside each one of us is the potential to do something in our own way, to our particular taste, for our personal entertainment. This is not to suggest that you’ll break records, win international awards or find a multi-million-dollar avocation. What I am saying is that all of us have something at which we can excel or that we can enjoy. The only missing component is effort.

There are countless frontiers to be explored. As one who began writing after many years of doing otherwise, I can verify that exercising sleeping skills has been indescribably satisfying. Take a chance, do something new and leave your limitations in the dust. You have abilities to do something and need only identify what it is. Shalom.

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Kids matter

Whenever I have an opportunity to speak with a student’s parent, it is inevitable that the mom or dad wants Billy or Sally to become a responsible adult, someone who makes good decisions. While my teaching methods fully support that goal, I often observe parents who behave as if their children will magically grow up to be responsible without having any idea about what that means. They are dragged along, told “no” to every request and prohibited from voicing preferences.

Very often my class will have a space in their schedules where they can select activities. Because I want them to have a voice in their days (and their lives), I suggest options such as computer math games, reading a book or drawing pictures. Conveniently, there is always an option for each taste or strength.

In the home, I also see opportunities to teach accountability and freedom of choice. Yelling at kids to clean their rooms is more a function of authority than decision-making. My position has always been – if you want to live in a messy room, that’s your choice. But I think that you’ll be happier and more comfortable if you put things away and create some order.

Kids can and should have voices in their lives. It’s a productive idea to let kids have an opinion in restaurants, vacation destinations and their clothes. Students who are especially proud of a shirt or backpack will always disclose that they selected each item. Voting is one of the many privileges of democracy. But it shouldn’t matter only to politics. Shalom.

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Hurry, hurry

On our way to the mountains yesterday, I couldn’t help but observe the number of people who appeared to be in a hurry, so much so that we were being passed by cars traveling at very high speeds. While I understand that people have schedules, appointments and other urgent matters, I had to wonder how much of it was simply the habit of traveling at high speeds.

There is so much more to be gained by taking the time to look around, inhale the mountains with their blooming green tree tapestries, and exercise the imagination. Seeing a parade of three Jeeps from Saskatchewan, we imagined that they were a collection of Canadian spies who were plotting secession from their country. Likewise, seeing a “falling rock” sign, we were motivated to look at the rocks in our vicinity and imagine which one was plotting its journey down the incline.

If that isn’t sufficiently entertaining, looking for signs can often be a terrific pastime. Just think of the stories generating places such as Witches’ Brew Bridge, Old Drunkard’s Drive, Ugly Uncle’s Underpass and Magic Melody Meadow. Yes, I concocted these locations but if you are paying attention, you can find road signs that are equally exotic.

If you are one of those who is so preoccupied with your destination as to miss the process of getting there, you are wasting travel time that may well be fulfilling. Take a moment to imagine the process that pioneers took to cross the territory occupied by your interstate. You don’t need to be a best-selling novelist to do it; it merely requires a short (slow) mental journey. Shalom.

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Trust

Believing everyone is dangerous, but believing nobody is more dangerous. Abraham Lincoln

When did you stop believing someone, everyone or everything? My guess is that if you stated, “All of the above,” you’ve stopped believing in yourself. Let’s think of an example.

It’s quite common to do what I call installing a ceiling on your head. This is an invisible barrier, one that prohibits you from being or doing whatever your heart tells you to do. On a daily basis, I tell children that the only ceiling they have is the one that they put there.

Stop believing in yourself and the next step is to stop believing others. When I tell you that you can achieve everything in your dreams, the lack of belief in yourself enables you to delete my conviction. Pretty soon everyone loses credibility and you can disregard everything.

On the far end of that spectrum is believing everyone. Fast money schemes, no liability promises and encouragement to stretch the rules all fall under that dubious category. Somewhere in the middle we all find the ability to trust those who are worth trusting and disbelieving the rest.

One of my favorite statements is, “trust your gut.” Believe that you will make the right choice and you will. This type of determination will enable you to trust the right people and watch them live up to your expectations. As usual, Honest Abe has the right idea. Extremes don’t work but good judgment does. Shalom.

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Doing what’s right

“Laws control the lesser man… Right conduct controls the greater one.” Mark Twain

Parents, teachers and other adult leaders find ourselves needing to make endless distinctions between right and wrong for the children we influence. Dissension within government, the media and public opinion is at an alarming level, making these discussions difficult if not argumentative.

Here’s an example: Today we discovered that the law prohibiting the carrying of switchblade knives has been overturned. Some folks have never pondered the need or desire to carry such a knife. But now that it’s legal, does it mean that we should have one or simply that we can?

Mr. Twain breaks it down nicely. Do what’s right. Something tells me that those who wanted to carry switchblades before today were doing so. Were they doing the wrong thing? Only so far as it was against the law.

As a society, we need to do what is necessary to protect ourselves and our families. From my standpoint, the knife issue is irrelevant except with respect to doing the right thing. Always protect your family. But keep in mind that our children are observing. If we want them to understand making the right decisions, operate within the guidelines of the law.

Most of us will never have the occasion or motivation to interpret laws. If we’re doing the right thing with our children, they should never get to wondering if something is appropriate. Our kids will be greater for knowing the difference. Shalom.

 

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Magic

Today a close family member advised by text message that her messages to me several days ago contained punctuation and capitalization errors. She expressed surprise that I didn’t respond in any way to her mistakes.

It never occurred to me that my appreciation for correct grammar, punctuation and usage entitled me to correct any and all people around me. She’s read my books and other work and because she knows that my craft is creating written handiwork, she expected me to wave my magic writer wand over her.

The statement was quite an eye-opener. Are some of my friends and family members reluctant to communicate with me, anticipating that I am observing their adherence (or lack thereof) to rules of grammar, etc.? Somehow, I believe that many simply do not care. But it suddenly made me wonder if others expect me to make corrections, if only in my mind.

Allow me to go on record that I am not anyone’s English teacher (except when I am in the classroom). Yes, I will continue to notice misspelled words, incorrect punctuation or subject/verb disagreements. But it’s not a contest or evaluation. Clients rely on me to be consistent and I can’t imagine turning my awareness on and off, depending on the communicator or context.

What you say is always more important than how you say it. Be certain that I care much more about content than presentation unless I am wearing my editor hat. You may also be confident that I am always grateful for your verbal visits. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Procrastination

The other day I remembered a habit from childhood that consisted of saving a dress or shoes for “a special event.” If I look at my wardrobe with an honest analysis, I see that I have continued that habit to this day, leaving some clothes for those events that are extraordinary. Judging from the volume of clothing in this category, my world should become more celebratory.

Unfortunately, this is a habit that pervades our lives until many times, it’s simply too late. We often read about people who have been saving all their lives for a trip, only to die just before departure of an unexpected ailment.

After realizing recently that I have more of my life behind me than in front of me, I decided that I don’t want to wait any more for those situations that I’ve been anticipating. It’s not merely about party dresses. More importantly, it’s about journeys, challenges or other adventures.

If you have always wanted to write a book about your life or dreams, write it. If you have always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon, New York City or the Grand Ole Opry, don’t wait for the perfect time to go. That time will never arrive. Likewise, if you’ve always wanted to tutor a child or volunteer for the American Cancer Society do it now. Your habit of putting things off for another time will never go away on its own – you need to make it disappear.

My hope is to complete those projects that I’ve dedicated myself to finishing while I am able to do so. Regrets are exactly the same as broken promises. They undermine your spirit and deplete your energy. If you’re diligent, promises kept to yourself and others will enhance your life and inspire others to emulate you. We need to get busy. Shalom.