If you have been following my blogs for some time, you’re aware that I have been developing and writing a book since May of 2019. I’m happy to report that I have completed approximately 2000 words or eight typed pages. But like any other life landmark, it’s not easy and will probably continue to be formidable until it’s published.
Here’s where my readers and the rest of my world can provide assistance. Most importantly, please have the faith, either privately or out loud, that I will complete this book that is so important to me. It is a work of fiction and takes place during the Holocaust of World War II. Those who know me know that I have dedicated a good portion of the last ten years to researching and understanding this immeasurable tragedy, making it certain that to write about it is an important component of my learning process.
Joking with my very special, cherished niece, I reported that I had written approximately ½ of 1% of the book but was plugging along. She immediately responded that what I had accomplished was more than zero – a statement of confidence and encouragement that means a great deal to me.
When I told my students that I was working on a new book and had published two others, they always wanted to know if I was a famous author and did I write any of the books in their classroom. Without any trace of sadness, I advised that I was not a famous author but that my books were written not for fame but for the message they convey. And this truth is for any and all who inquire, that I don’t seek fame but to convey the hope and lessons derived from my studies.
If you encounter someone who is on the same path as the one that I travel, it makes a difference to add your encouragement. Please remain with me on my journey and I pledge to add updates as they occur. Yesterday, in fact, I enjoyed the warmth of our New Mexico spring and wrote 300 words while sitting in the sun.
Being part of a support team will be gratifying for all concerned. If you’re not writing a book but have an idea, now is the time. If that’s not your area of expertise, do what makes you feel gratified and grateful. Shalom.
Most of us who have been subject to the recent quarantine have spent considerable time watching the news, both local and national. One reality that keeps appearing to me is the whining of so many Americans who are agonizing over the quarantine. While none of us like to be restricted to our homes except for grocery shopping, it’s really not necessary to complain about it.
On the upside, I am convinced that a huge team of people are working on vaccines and effective virus treatments. If we were in a variety of other countries, that conviction would not be nearly as strong. We are all struggling with a plethora of unknowns, but that is simply the way that the world looks right now.
Is it really so important that you get your regular haircut or manicure? One of my neighbors recently asked if someone in this community does manicures from home. Groan. Is it life and death to get a haircut before your hair covers your ears? Probably not. It has become quite clear that social distancing is making a difference.
And as far as restaurants, we are making it a point to support a number of our local food joints with carryout meals. Not only does it exempt me from cooking every meal; but also, I’m hoping that it will help keep them in business.
We need to pull together as a country. If you feel that your health is in danger because your employer isn’t providing sufficient PPE, I get that. But be grateful that you have employment when many millions of us have been deprived of that opportunity. And be very grateful for the many thousands of public servants and healthcare workers who face danger every minute of every hour to perform their jobs.
The situation we face as a country and a world will eventually be resolved. In the interim, I will continue to check with people nearby (at six feet distance, of course) to see if they need groceries and I will continue to deliver a cinnamon bread to a kind neighbor. It doesn’t take much to change the world. Shalom.
We are as islands, with separation from places and people
And no rescue on the horizon.
Our choices are as infinite as the waves
That surround us and are reminders of reality.
We must rely only on ourselves.
Pleas for rescue will be unheard and in vain,
Making state of mind the only election to remain.
The vision of land off in the horizon is
Seen only by those whose visions are unclouded
By negativity and pessimism.
As God observes, we can be confident that
Our destinies are entirely within his plans
And our faith is the reminder of perspective.
We plan for resolution of this temporary isolation,
Warming ourselves with the sunshine of love,
Allowing us to prepare to prevail.
Having just learned that my school district will be closed for the rest of the school year, I am allowing myself to feel a bit nostalgic about the past year and years of teaching. No, I have no intention of quitting, probably explaining why I feel sad that my kids are lost to me until August.
One of the things that I will miss the most is the honesty that I encounter on a daily basis. Younger kids are much better at it than fourth or fifth graders. Kindergarteners will say they love me by midday or at the end of the day. When they ask my age and I reply, “115,” they always laugh and report that I’m probably no older than 40. Older students are a bit more careful due to peer pressure and the learned behavior of restraint.
Young ones are also forthcoming about any and all information that they have. This will include details about Mom, Dad, Grandma, Uncle Izzy and everyone in between. Sometimes, that information is uncomfortable or excessive but I never suppress them. At the most, I will suggest that Uncle Izzy probably doesn’t want us to talk about that.
The phenomenon that I love most is honesty associated with what they seek to become when they grow up. Very often, I will hear that children want to be police officers, firefighters, teachers, join the army or study to become astronauts. Most of the time, the kids who want to join the army have parents or grandparents who served. Likewise, those aspiring to be police officers have those public servants in the family.
But the best honesty is the non-verbal kind. Tell a child that she is a whizbang or superstar at math and she will never leave your side or fail to finish first. Advise a child that you appreciate his being a helper in class and he will always be there to distribute papers, organize a project or deliver a hug.
We’ve all encountered enough dishonesty in our lives to appreciate this respite from deceit or trickery. As of now, I’m counting the weeks until we’re back in session and have a child tell me that he wants to help in any way he can. Shalom.
One of the words that I use most often with students is “focus.” It appears that many of us have lost our focus in terms of what we should be doing, saying and demonstrating.
Looking around me, I see evidence that some of us have and some have not remained focused on what true priorities must be. If you’re inclined to whine about using toilet paper other than your favorite, by no means should you expect me to be sympathetic. You’re lucky to have any at all.
The same is true of liquor stores. Some are open and some are not. But if you’re going on and on about how they are essential, maybe you should take another look at what you need to survive. Alcohol may numb or desensitize you but it does absolutely nothing beyond that.
Someone’s terrific idea of opening stores an hour or two early for seniors is remarkable. If you’re there and more agile than some of your senior cohorts, why not offer to lift their bags or return carts in order to save them a few steps? Yes, of course, the hand sanitizer must be incorporated.
Let’s spend more time appreciating those who are working tirelessly on our behalf. Someone was recently shown giving cookies or some other token of appreciation to the trash collectors. What a great idea! If you see a firefighter, police officer or health care professional, take the ten or fifteen seconds to thank that person for their dedication and sacrifices.
This is not the time to be lazy, angry, stubborn or anything else that would interfere with protecting you, your family or the remainder of the world. While we may be confined to our homes, we have immense powers to help others through our words and acts of kindness.
Because we have individual relationships with God, I would never be so presumptuous as to recommend expressing gratitude to that God. But you may discover that doing so is gratifying and satisfying. It may also provide the best feeling of reassurance that you can imagine. Shalom.
A great and priceless thing is a new interest! How it takes possession of a man! How it clings to him, how it rides him! Mark Twain
Any time that my life is sufficiently without stimuli to create important writing, I am always confident that Mr. Twain will provide assistance. This is the quote that I secured from him, one that seems particularly timely.
As many of us are quarantined or self-sequestered, it’s easy to become stale or grumpy. Restaurants here don’t allow sit-down dining; shopping is an inconvenience rather than anything resembling pleasure and most of us are waiting for something good to happen that will improve our status.
What an excellent time to develop a new interest! At the top of my list is the possibility of writing in a context you have never previously attempted. Write some poetry, for yourself or a loved one. Investigate a new genre such as non-fiction, fiction or essay. If you conduct some research, you will find a contest or a site seeking new contributions.
If that doesn’t ring your bell, take up a new craft. As recently as this morning, I’ve begun researching sewing surgical masks. There are many patterns out there and whether or not they can be used in a healthcare setting, they must be of value to some. That may not be your style. Buy a canvas and some acrylics or watercolors. Get some charcoal and just begin drawing.
And one of the best alternatives is to make reading one of your life priorities. The number and variety of e-books out there is staggering. And it’s a great opportunity to investigate a new subject – there are too many to name. As I tell my students, reading a book is a gift for your brain. If e-books are unavailable for whatever reason, you can order books almost as easily in hardbound or paperback formats.
Call someone whom you haven’t recently reached. Write a letter to a distant friend or relative. Whatever it may be, get out of your head and do something that simply feels good or productive. There are always opportunities to contribute something to our world. Shalom.
One of the most gratifying aspects of teaching is the process of identifying what strategies work best. Much of it is trial and error, but the majority is simple classroom common sense.
The most obvious indications of success are the responses I receive from my kids. Many of them, especially the youngest, will directly and descriptively say what they like or don’t like.
I like your nails. I like your hair. I like that you bring us candy. I like talking to you. I like listening to you. I think you’re smart.
It goes on from there. What they cannot articulate is that I feel it is imperative to speak to them as if they are intelligent human beings. They are. And the best proof of their understanding my respect for them is the enchanted child.
Virtually every day that I teach, I experience a magical child. This is usually a boy but now and then the magical child is a girl. It continues to amaze me that almost every class has one.
This child will tug on my sleeve or tap me on the arm. Next, he or she will ask a question or make an observation or volunteer information. In each case, the enchanted child will deliver a silent hug, the first of three or seven or twelve throughout the day. Child will express love or advise that I am the best substitute or best teacher in the world.
Somehow, it’s never occurred to me to ask why the student feels this way. During childhood years, the process of articulating many emotions is underdeveloped or completely absent. More importantly, I never want a student to feel pressured to justify feelings.
The most wonderful part is that I never know who the mystery pupil will be nor do I know what will cause him or her to materialize. By this time, I’m convinced that this is one student who transforms each morning from yesterday’s class to today’s.
It’s supernatural and fantasy and as pure fabrication as it sounds. But how else could multiple classrooms create so many princes and princesses? Shalom.
A prompt from my new book of writing suggestions that I find quite provocative invites me to write about the meanest thing anyone has ever said to me. It’s not a bit difficult to remember but what is more important is the fact that I can’t remember too many mean things in my past.
Years ago, I was one of those who thought they would find companionship or happiness or the love of my life by means of a dating site. This was one of those first meetings that took place in a French restaurant not far from downtown Denver. We had spoken several times and finally met.
The lunch was nondescript and my recollection (this was about twenty years ago) was that it ended quickly. As we walked out to our respective cars, this was the statement made by this entirely unimpressive gentleman: “I just want you to know that you misrepresented yourself. First of all, you’re not very attractive. Secondly, you said that you were slightly overweight when in fact you are seriously overweight.”
It’s easy to think of perfect responses, some of which don’t include obscenities. It’s pretty sad that I remember it as clearly as I do because the ultimate response would be to have forgotten what he said. As I remember, my answer was something along these lines: “It’s probably difficult to be as perfect as you think you are. Glad that we didn’t waste more time than a lunch.”
The prompt is quite a good one, primarily because it teaches us about words that hurt and the ability we have to deposit good into the universe rather than ugliness. From here, I’m of the opinion that he had a multitude of things that he could have said. “I don’t think that we are suited for each other. Thank you for your company – I don’t believe that I am the companion you are seeking.” There are probably twenty others.
When it’s possible, I believe that we all have the imperative to suppress meanness or reckless statements. This man neither considered nor cared about the effects his statement would have. Happily, I was successful at placing him in the past (except for his remarks) as quickly as his words deserved. Shalom.
Many of us who seek profound conclusions about our lives find truth in reading books of all flavors. One such book that I’ve recently encountered suggests among other ideas that instead of fearing death, we are much better off living our lives as if death will be tomorrow.
Initially, this sounds negative or morbid. But the underlying message is that we must live each day wisely and fully in the event that we do die tomorrow. My best estimate is that we take tomorrows for granted, facilitating the postponement of important tasks and making assumptions about the future.
Having spent some time considering this recommendation, it now makes sense to me. For one, I hesitate saying something abrupt or unkind in the event that those words are the last someone will hear from me. And I find myself putting my worldly possessions in order so as to eliminate that responsibility for others.
In this instance, preparing and planning are entirely different processes. Isn’t it obvious that if today is the only day we have that’s guaranteed, we will make it as full and wonderful as possible? While I’m not planning to die, I am intentional about putting everything in order for that occurrence.
This line of thinking is not easily achieved. Sometimes we say words that are disrespectful or unpleasant out of anger and impatience. As I concluded long ago, words once uttered can never be recovered. And while procrastination is no longer acceptable, planning to accomplish big goals or hopes is mandatory rather than optional. If you want to visit Florence or Philadelphia or the Philippines, start saving for it now instead of creating a bucket list with little chance of it being emptied.
A colleague reported her sadness about having lost a close a close friend who died in her sleep the night before. There was no warning and no serious health conditions. This is an excellent example of why it’s critical to live each day with intention. Clint Eastwood (and others) have stated, “Tomorrow is promised to no-one.” Instead of fearing death, embrace its inevitability and maximize life. Shalom.
It was 9:00 am and students began to drift into the classroom. Several groups formed to discuss the sad reality of having a substitute teacher for the day. One young man walked slowly and deliberately toward me.
“Hi,” he said. “I know that you’re our sub today. I just wanted you to know that I want you to have a very good day.” After regaining my grip on reality, I thanked and assured him I was certain that we would all have a totally great day.
Many times throughout the day, I looked up to find him standing next to me, for one reason or another. Some inquiries were legitimate requests for information. In other cases, I’m certain that all he was seeking was a smile or other form of acceptance.
Very often, I wish that I could see into my students’ heads to determine what they really need or want. Is it a vote of confidence? Is it information? Is it direction and guidance? Or is it simply the smile that says, “I value and treasure you as you are.” Maybe I should assume that it’s all of the above.
When it was time to go home, my student bravely approached and delivered a formidable hug and thank you. Returning the thanks, I notified him that he added substantially to my totally happy and rewarding day. It’s my standard procedure to use sophisticated language, regardless of age. If kids don’t understand a word, they will not hesitate to let me know.
Several other students came by to hug me and in each case, I thanked them for being part of a terrific class. It was clear that my young man defined and set the tone for our day. Maybe the lesson is to emulate his strategy. All I’ll need to do is notify my classes first thing in the morning that I’m going to do everything in my power to make today the best one they can experience. Happily, it’s true. Shalom.