Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Words we use

Sometimes we get to be a bit sloppy about the words we use to express ourselves. As a writer, I believe that I have a more pressing imperative to be precise about my language. But I don’t think that I am exempt from using language that could easily be improved.

What got me thinking about this was a television series in which a man referred to his mother as “Ma.” While it’s been many years since I was able to speak with my own mother, I’m sure that I never called her “Ma.” It conjures an old country, perhaps eastern European image that simply doesn’t fit into my world. But the other piece is that I don’t think that I have been called by that name, primarily because I’ve been Mom, Mommy, Mama or Mother Figure, depending on the decade.

The other concern I’ve had recently about the words we use is the decision to call the Coronavirus the “Chinese” virus. This has resulted in a rash of serious hateful acts toward Chinese citizens whom others have held responsible for this pandemic. To say that this is gratuitous and self-serving is an understatement. If you really want to blame someone or something for the virus, the newest data suggests that 5g is responsible. For real?

This is a time like no other that our world has ever experienced. Blaming it on a culture or a technology is seriously ridiculous (why can’t something be serious and ridiculous at the same time?) and serves no purpose whatsoever. Does yelling insults at a Chinese citizen make you any less quarantined? While the Coronavirus might have originated in China (and I’m not absolutely certain of that), a man trying to run over a Chinese Albuquerque lady in retaliation should concern all of us.

We have enough stress going on right now. Let’s be thoughtful about our words and actions. If your dear mother likes to be called “Ma,” so be it. My preference will always be “Mommy” or “Mama” or actually, anything that my offspring would like to use. It’s really about loving one another, isn’t it? Shalom.

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Enough

Most of the people whom I’ve seen or with whom I’ve corresponded report that they are seriously tired of quarantine. If you’re at all like me, you’ve seen all the toilet paper cartoons and photos that you can stand and the puns associated with Corona and Covid are plentiful. Make no mistake – I’m not about to join the ranks of the complainers.

Why not take a different approach altogether? Complaining doesn’t do anyone any good and it simply exacerbates our frustration. We’re not going to be finished with this quarantine any time soon, it appears, so we need to live with it. My preference is to look at all of the good that has come from our global pandemic.

Walking through the neighborhood yesterday, I spied an assortment of goods left on the sidewalk for anyone who needs books, Frosted Flakes, toilet paper and paper towels. What a terrific act of generosity! Our neighborhood also includes several people who are dedicating themselves to creating hundreds of face masks.

Similar stories around the United States abound and are easily discovered. One young man petitioned an unlikely source for face masks, gloves and gowns and was generously awarded for his creativity. The number of healthcare professionals who have come out of retirement or have simply made the journey to New York to assist is staggering. And my town is full of restaurant owners who are delivering sandwiches, pizzas and non-perishable foods to those who need them.

It’s a time to celebrate heroes, not whine about not being able to hit our local brewery. By the way, the copious New Mexico breweries are also contributing to the public good through curbside pickups, deliveries and charitable activities.

I salute those who continue to do whatever possible to ease the strain and frustration of our times. For my part, I’ll wear my gloves and face mask, restrict my activities to those that are essential and do whatever my country finds necessary to end our crisis. My suggestion is that if we all did at least what was asked of us we would be well on our way to a solution that benefits everyone. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Help

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.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

That’s just the way it is

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.

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Prepare to prevail

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.

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Pure honesty

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.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Focus

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.

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Rights and responsibilities

Our times of global uncertainty and crisis require what I believe is a careful distinction between our rights and responsibilities. What triggered this was a social media participant who ranted and raved about social distancing. She moaned about the fact that the closure of so many entities and the requirement to self-monitor violated her civil rights. It’s a shame that she has nothing better to do.

Here’s a simple example of the difference between right and responsibility: Let’s say for this example that I have tested positive for COVID-19 although I am not demonstrating any symptoms. Inadvertently, I have run out of milk (although I have plenty of toilet paper). Do I have the right to visit my local supermarket to get my milk, taking the chance of infecting who knows how many people?

Obviously, I don’t. But my civil rights to visit any store I choose at any time is not the subject at hand. While I do have this right, I do have the responsibility not to be in proximity of those who could contract my virus. And what if I don’t have the virus and don’t show any symptoms? That only barely impacts the answers.

While I still need the milk in this case, I also don’t know with certainty whether or not I have the capacity to infect someone else. The answer is that I will visit my supermarket, wash my hands before and after my visit, sneeze into a tissue or my shoulder and keep at least six feet between me and everyone else.

The situation in which we find ourselves changes all definitions of rights and responsibilities. By all means, I have the right to preserve my civil rights in most cases. But my responsibility to protect the people around me (generally six feet away from me) prevails.

No-one wants the situation in which we find ourselves. Being good-natured, rational and socially conscious is the answer. When all of this settles, the irate female can go where and when she chooses, with my sincere blessings. Shalom.

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To be brave

On previous occasions, I have referenced a powerful and brilliant book that I have just finished. This is The Librarian of Auschwitz, and it has taught me more than I can possibly summarize in a short blog.

One of the most provocative and inspirational concepts I have derived concerns bravery, a strength that many of us seek to acquire during these challenging and frightening times. The idea, paraphrased, is that those people who are truly brave are the ones who are most afraid. For clarification, if we are not afraid of our various outcomes, the decisions we make are unimportant because any one of them is acceptable. This is tantamount to apathy, a disease worse than the one we fight.

Today, for the sake of those closest to us and ourselves, we must have sufficient fear of contagion to take all of the right steps to prevent it. If washing our hands two or three times a day is a good idea, five or six is a better one. On a recent trip to the supermarket, I saw an older lady wearing both surgical gloves and a mask. Given her increased risks due to age, I’m thinking that it was an intelligent decision.

We all have occasions to convert our healthy dose of fear into responsible action. When six feet is the required distancing space, it must delete hair styling, manicures and other activities that include close proximity. An excellent alternative to protect that professional’s income is to purchase a gift card or certificate.

More can be done with regard to the employment crises that surround us. A significant number of local restaurants are offering curbside or delivery service of selections from their menus. In addition to paying that restaurant’s bills, many have chosen to pay their servers with some of the proceeds, taking some of the sting out of their lost gratuities. If you are at all like me, cooking every meal is tedious and by electing to go meals, we are doing good for everyone involved.

And some of my favorite news stories are those of small groups of residents joining together to provide meals or groceries to those within that group who are in need of support. Today, I surveyed my neighborhood to see if any around me needed groceries that I could collect for them on my trip. The next time I leave to shop, I will make it a point to see if others have needs.

It’s easy to convert fear into action. From my standpoint, not to act is to invite a horrible disease to appear and end life – a conclusion that is absolutely undesirable. Shalom.

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A new interest

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.