Uncategorized · Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

One of a kind

Many of us have spent considerable amounts of our time and energy in distinguishing ourselves from everyone else. For as many fields or activities as we can imagine, someone or several someones find ways to be different.

It’s not always about being better. In the case of art, for instance, taste is the criterion. Rembrandt’s art isn’t better than Van Gogh’s or Picasso’s. Their styles are entirely different and it becomes your preferences for one or the other. The same can be said for music, food, or any other time that the taste fairy appears.

What’s fascinating to me is when we outgrow the need to be like everyone else and we strive to be distinct. Take a class of second graders. Everyone wants to be the first in line. We all need to have the same type of backpack, lunch box, athletic shoes, and winter jackets.

All you need to do is be outside the norm and you’re subject to teasing, ostracism, harassment, or ridicule. While some young people don’t care about such treatment and defend their rights to be different, most won’t take that chance.

In middle and high school, situations begin to change. We begin to see daring hair styles and a cornucopia of footwear. Although electronics are ubiquitous, talents outside proficiency with this device or that one become visible. Is the change simply a matter of maturity or is it something else?

Watching young people learn, I think that there is quite a bit more pressure to conform than to be individuals. Math is finite and leaves little room for interpretation. But my kids have art and music, only once a week each. It’s not until third or fourth grade that compositions are introduced. And kids who find ways to amuse themselves in any setting are considered weird or strange.

My goal is to give students to create projects that they envision, with the tools that I provide. These can be feathers, stickers, ribbon, pom-poms, or crayons. But it only works toward the goal of creativity because there are no “bad” pieces of art. If we can begin as early as possible to emphasize what makes you special, we are doing our jobs. As far as I am concerned, let the math teachers do what they do best and leave it to others of us to foster individuality. Shalom.

Uncategorized · Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

What you need

The class consisted of special needs and learning-disabled students. This was not a new situation – much of my experience included interacting with students who had every imaginable need.

Normally, I find methods to encourage students to speak with me or otherwise engage. But this little boy would not. Nothing worked and I continued to implement new strategies.

At recess, he refused to come in with other students and continued to swing on the monkey bars. He decided when he wanted his snack, regardless of what the class was doing. Finally, when I spoke to him, he would deliver the evil eye or cover himself with his jacket to avoid me.

Responsible and caring educators simply don’t give up on a stubborn student. Several times, I walked up next to him and made a request for behavior modification (in terms that he would understand). Other times, I would avoid the eye contact that he was desperate to eliminate.

But it helps greatly to believe in miracles. My little friend spent some time with a social worker and came back a different person. More precisely, I remained the same person and he realized that I was an ally, not an adversary. He asked me to help him with his writing, complained that no-one would play with him at recess, and delivered copious high-fives after jumping off his swing to join the class at the end of recess. Later, I assisted him with at least two projects and played tic-tac-toe with him while my colleague worked to boot his Chromebook.

Is there a lesson or a moral to the story? There are several. One is a favorite expression of mine – trust your gut. If you know you’re doing what is right, positive outcomes will ensue. Beyond that, communicating your affection and concern for a child (or anyone else) will make extraordinary outcomes inevitable. And later, I realized that he wanted to exhibit good behavior all along but needed to validate his resources before doing so. I’m very glad that I was there for him. Shalom.

Travel · Uncategorized · Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

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.

Politics · Travel · Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

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.

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Smile

One of the most unfortunate consequences of the pandemic and the need to wear masks is the fact that we can’t see each other smile when we need smiles the most. Whether it’s in a grocery store, pharmacy, service station, medical facility, or any other public venue, we are seeing each other without others being able to see us smile.

We have options. Though it may look a bit silly, quickly pull down a mask, deliver a smile to someone who needs it, and return the mask to its proper position. When you are in a car where the mask isn’t compulsory, smile at drivers or walkers or bicyclists who look as if they could use a little brightness in their days.

The other alternative, one that doesn’t have the ability to transmit toxic vapors, is to smile through your actions. What does this mean? Say thank you to those who deliver good service, kindness, and courtesy. Ask those around you if they need assistance if they appear to be having difficulties of one type or another. Relinquish the right of way on the road to someone who can benefit from your kindness.

Yesterday, while leaving our cabin in the mountains to pick up dinner, we encountered a collection of deer who were peacefully grazing by the road. A young family – husband, wife, and two small children – were appreciating the deer and their ability to interact with them in close proximity. We approached slowly, making certain that the deer had crossed the road before we proceeded. The mother in the group was obviously touched by the ability to get this close to nature. She smiled broadly and I gave her a thumbs up, letting her know that I shared her enthusiasm.

It’s easy to smile without those smiles being seen. Your eyes will communicate for you, almost as much as the kindness that you deliver when you are able to do so. And realistically, smiling feels quite a bit better than the alternative. Shalom.

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Making days good

This morning I was awakened to a series of happy occurrences. For one, a check that I normally get on the second Wednesday of the month arrived a day early. That coincides nicely with a planned trip to a nearby village that is a Mecca for holiday shopping.

In addition, I received another 5-star rating for my book, Two papas, a tale of impossible Holocaust survival. Admittedly, ratings increase sales of the book. More importantly, it verifies that my book has reached the people for whom it was intended and it was well-received.

A few moments ago, I discovered an item of clothing that I had purchased as a gift but have accidentally been wearing. Now I can return it to the person for whom it was intended.

Admittedly, all of these events are small in scale and residual importance. But it makes sense to me that if we are diligent about finding those small realizations, we have immense power to make our lives happy. Does all this make our pains any less intense? Maybe. Do we do anything to achieve world peace and tranquility? Maybe, one small step at a time.

My recommendation is to identify and celebrate as many happenings as are available to you. We have the ability, if not the imperative, to make as much around us as positive as possible. Celebrate the sunshine after a day of huge winds and gloom. Celebrate the gifts of family, stability, and peace of mind. If we address ourselves to finding what is good, we simply have no time for negativity and depression. Shalom.

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Beauty in darkness

It’s approximately 52 degrees, not a cold front but not the balmy weather we have recently enjoyed. The winds are howling, probably in excess of 50 miles per hour. And if I look carefully, I can see tiny spots of blue that are quickly obscured by the dark clouds.

We are accustomed to equating beautiful weather with sunshine, blue skies, and gentle breezes. This is especially true when on vacation, as we are now. But the more I think about it,the more it becomes my challenge and responsibility to find the beauty in otherwise gloomy conditions.

Ultimately, we make have the ability to identify our own definitions of beauty in our surroundings. For one, the wind and rain that I am seeing today will make the sunshine and brightness to follow that much more brilliant. Beyond that, we must derive happiness and security from the world we’re living, rather than the temperatures and wind we are experiencing.

I’m beginning to believe that it’s senseless and a waste of time to complain about the weather. We can’t fix it, we can’t order only good conditions, and the contrast is a good thing. My life is a gift that I am able to continue enjoying. Among my blessings are a pair of unbelievably kind and thoughtful offspring, a marriage that is secure and happy, grandchildren who are bright and inquisitive, and a world that is (now) one of democracy and freedom.

With all of that considered, what can be the problem with some clouds and wind? It will go away when it is time to do so. In the meantime, it feels so much better to celebrate life’s gifts than to whine about the weather. Maybe it’s more beautiful than we thought. Shalom.

Travel · Uncategorized · Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

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.

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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.

Uncategorized · Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

Head and heart

A book that I finished yesterday included a phrase that has remained with me and will continue to do so. It appears in various forms throughout the internet but the gist of it is that the heart remembers those details and experiences that the brain forgets. This is a powerful statement, especially if you have experienced a tragedy that you cannot remember in detail.

What types of experiences or memories does the brain delete? My guess is that these are events that include pain, loss, tragedy, or any type of situation that is equated with sadness or trauma. After an accident many years ago where I was tossed from a horse, I asked my physician why I was unable to remember many of the details. At that time, I was told that it’s common for the brain to block those events or circumstances that we find tragic or painful.

When asked why I am so dedicated to researching and documents of the Shoah (Holocaust), I often reply that the world must never forget the atrocities of Nazi Germany. Many of the details that I have acquired about the Shoah have been filed away somewhere in my brain for when they are needed; but my heart will never stop hurting for the unspeakable events that took place.

And so it goes for those loved ones whom we have lost. We may remember days or moments spent with that person but our hearts have competently captured enduring feelings. It is probably a good thing that we are unable to remember specifics about those events or crises that were important to our lives. At the same time, I am grateful for the memories of good times, evidence of shared love, and an aura of comfort associated with that person or people.

Trust your heart to remember what you brain does not. Some of what remains in our hearts is soothing and provides solace. May your memories be sources of blessings and comfort. Shalom.