Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

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.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

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.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

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.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

To be a hero

Following up on the tribute to RBG, it occurred to me, both as a writer and an educator, to imagine what is required to be a hero. What I know about RBG is that she did not set out to be one but achieved that status nonetheless. Her biography tells us that she was committed to working for others, being honest to herself and the rest of the world, and doing what was right.

Let’s assume that you decide at an early age that you want to commit your life to doing good deeds for your world. In order to get there from here, you must first learn as much as you can. Sources of knowledge are family members, religious leaders, educators, and endless books of all types.

We make a mistake when we narrow research to a very small field. No matter the discipline, learn as much as you can about as many subjects as possible. My experience suggests that truly learned people have studied fields ranging from astronomy to zoology.

Defining the scope of your heroism is the next step. If you want to be a national or international icon, you will probably need to distinguish yourself in politics, scientific research, or global humanitarian achievements. If your definition of heroism is more local than global, you may want to focus your time and energy on matters within your immediate space. That may be your block, community, town, religious group, city, or state.

There are numerous ways to make yourself known for good works. Teaching is one choice. If you don’t have the credentials to teach, schools of all sorts always need volunteers. And if education isn’t in your heart, there are as many volunteer organizations as there are diseases, causes, or political inclinations.

And if you choose to be a hero to your child, grandchild, niece, or nephew, that’s a major responsibility in itself. Carefully choose the words you utter. Do everything possible not to insult those around you. The kids are listening and inclined to imitate what you say and do. When you are unpleasant, unpredictable, and unkind; these are the phrases and behaviors they receive.

Most likely, few people wake up and declare, “I am going to be a hero.” RBG certainly did not. That doesn’t mean that we can be reckless or accidental about the messages we transmit. You may never know when a man or woman will one day think of you as a hero. Shalom.

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Goodbye, RBG

Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.  Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The world has just lost a giant, someone who changed the world forever and who will leave a legacy for all those who take the time to consider who she was and what she did. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has just died, a victim of pancreatic cancer who fought that disease with all of her might and endurance.

This quotation is as much a character statement as any I’ve seen about RBG, my personal hero. She fought prejudice, sexism and social injustice but did it in a way that encouraged others to join her.

Fighting as a sole patriot or trailblazer is clearly less effective than being a changemaker and one who encourages others to participate. Good managers realize that they can be most successful in leading others when they participate in processes. Autocrats and dictators generally don’t succeed, either in the corporate environment or anywhere else. We have notable exceptions throughout history, including Hitler, Stalin, and at least one of our current political figures.

But if we look at those figures in history who were most admired and followed, they were those who involved as much of the constituency as possible. JFK comes to mind, as do Mahatma Gandhi, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and others. All of these leaders have been venerated throughout history and my guess is that RBG will be as well.

If you’re not a fan of religious equality or elimination of sexism in the workplace, the legacy of RBG won’t be as significant to you as it is to the rest of us. But in addition to leading a life of discipline, foresight, responsibility, and wisdom, she will be remembered as a pioneer in both of those areas.

For my part, I can’t think of too many women who have distinguished themselves as she has. We need leaders of both sexes, those who have paved the way for little girls and boys who seek excellence and integrity. RBG, you will be missed but because of your efforts, those who follow will have clearer paths as well as a brilliant role model. Shalom.

Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

What we waste

One of the frequent conversations in our household is the imperative to finish everything that is on your plate. From my standpoint, one should eat until hunger has been satisfied and the state of satisfaction has been reached. The other approach is that you are obligated to finish everything on your plate.

Is there one correct answer to this debate? The reasoning behind everything that is on your plate is that it is a crime to waste anything, be it food on your plate or leftovers in the refrigerator. My position is that the world isn’t negatively impacted by leaving some food when I have eaten as much as I want or need.

Here is the question that I offer to you. What truly constitutes waste? Is it leaving food on a plate or cooking enough for 45 when there are only two or three who are eating? What is the consequence of cooking too much? We deplete food sources and supplies but is this really harmful? My response is that it’s only harmful when others will not have the food they need as a direct result of our gluttony.

If we extrapolate a bit, how can we reduce waste of many of the resources to which we have access. For one, it seems to be a waste of gasoline to drive to a nearby location when walking is easily accomplished. From there, it seems to be a waste of resources when we use too many plastic bags and fail to recycle them. Likewise, paper bags can also be recycled if we spent the time and a small amount of effort.

Better yet, use the heavy duty bags that are available in large chains and grocery groups, eliminating the brown and skimpy plastic bags. In other words, it’s clear that a large component of waste is pure laziness or lack of concern for protecting and preserving our world. Somehow, it all amounts to doing the right thing for our planet and the smaller parts of it in which we reside. I’ll stick with my belief that the world isn’t harmed when I don’t finish what’s on my plate unless I have purchased and prepared too much food to help those who don’t have enough. Shalom.

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Reprisal

Dictionary.com’s definition of reprisal is the following: (in warfare) retaliation against an enemy for injuries received, by the infliction of equal or greater injuries. It goes on to define, the forcible seizure of property or subjects in retaliation.

The research I have uncovered most recently in preparation for my next book has furnished the word reprisal. While the US is in disputes with various countries, we are not in the midst of a declared war. As a result, we don’t see or hear this word very often.

During World War II, one of the many reasons why Jews and other captives generally did not attempt escape or brutality toward captors was the fear of reprisal. When one captive hurt or killed a soldier, killing in retaliation would take place. One of the authors I’m reading (Martin Gilbert) estimates 1200 deaths of reprisal to one escapee or injured Nazi.

All of this causes me to wonder about what we do to others out of reprisal. Cutting someone off on the road who has tailgated you or done something similar surely constitutes reprisal. Refraining from writing to someone who hasn’t written or emailed you in some time is reprisal. Putting your child on timeout simply because you had a rough day and can’t handle his behavior is reprisal.

Someone hurting you doesn’t give you license to hurt anyone else. Yes, it’s pretty obvious that it is never acceptable to do intentional damage to someone. But the point is to examine our motives in terms of our actions toward others.

One of the countless truths I’ve learned from my husband is the wisdom of giving others the benefit of the doubt. If he hasn’t heard from someone, he speculates that the other person has been busy or ill. In all of our years together, I have never seen him get angry while driving, much less committing acts of reprisal. The example is an excellent one for all of us to follow.

These days, we have few occasions to worry about reprisal in terms of acts of war or violence. But retaliation and reprisal are probably more common than we realize. Once we consider the examples and symbols of reprisal throughout history, it becomes clear that injuring someone because someone injured you is simply unacceptable. Shalom.

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Changes

Maybe because it’s been too long since I’ve been in the classroom, I have substantial time to dedicate to thinking. One of the observations that I have made as recently as today is that I have spent too much of my life avoiding changes large and small. When you avoid change simply for the sake of not making changes, it may be to your disadvantage.

Just because you’ve been doing something in a particular way for a certain number of years, it’s going to be an excellent idea to change it up. Yesterday I saw an article about a woman who has been feeding pigeons on her front lawn for the past many years, much to the chagrin of her neighbors who object to the noise and refuse. Maybe she ought to think about feeding hummingbirds (provided that they exist in her area) and do the world another type of contribution.

Imagine that you’ve been doing your grocery shopping at the same store for a long time. They know you there (maybe) and you know that you can usually get the items that you need without worrying about quantity or quality. But there’s a neighborhood co-op down the street that features products from local growers. Stop in there and you may be very pleasantly surprised at what they have to offer. In addition to that, you will be benefiting the local farmers who have had a rough summer due to the restaurant and school closures.

For my part, I’ve changed a few small things and was pleased about two conclusions. One is that the world as we know it continued to function without any disruption whatsoever. The second is that I felt some satisfaction about knowing that I wasn’t inappropriately fastened to a habit that had no merit whatsoever.

Throw some change into your life and see what happens. Depending on what you modify, no-one or everyone will notice. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about it but you. Except for such issues as yielding the right of way or paying bills, most of the modifications that you are able to make will be for the greater or smaller good. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

The words we use

If you are at all like me, you have the occasion to visualize someone from your past for no particular reason. From there, you recollect one or more conversations with that person.

Sometimes you may be able to reconstruct those chats, completely or in part. Sometimes you simply can’t remember what was said by you or the other party. But what if somehow you had the ability to recover whatever part of whatever communication you wanted?

I’m not talking about some kind of voodoo or magic. But let’s imagine for just a quick second that you could go back to any time and place you choose. The reason for going back there is to remember precisely what was said.

The first step might be the venue. It could be a graduation or wedding ceremony an interview, a first date, or an accidental encounter. Maybe it was last week or maybe it was nineteen years ago.

Once that is established, the other party may or may not be a given. If I consider my college graduation, for instance, there were at least two or maybe three people there to celebrate the occasion. What I am seeking is the exchange of words between those present and me.

You may choose to delete a particular day or place and simply relive the experience of being with someone in particular. It may be an afternoon or an evening that you spent with someone who has since passed away.

The chances are pretty good that multiple have, do, and will think of you and the words you shared. We can’t control recollections of the past but we can certainly control remembrances of those conversations that we are having or are going to have.

My recommendation to students is never to say anything that they want to retract. While I hope that those who remember me recollect the good words I’ve uttered, I can’t guarantee it. All I know for certain is that since I’ve learned the importance of choosing speech carefully, I hope that I haven’t created an unpleasant recollection for anyone. Shalom.

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

If only

To my knowledge, I have never before wondered how it would feel to imagine how an inanimate object would feel if it were suddenly alive and capable of thought or emotion. It’s pretty ridiculous, after all, to wonder how your car feels when you get into it or how your shoes feel when you insert your feet. On the other hand (or foot), I have allowed myself the literary license to imagine what my new book would be experiencing if it had feelings.

There are good reasons for my wandering down this path. The book is the product of many years of the hardest work that I have ever done, other than teaching. It represents many hours of research, pages and pages of notes, and five edits once the book was completed. No, I haven’t lost track of reality. It’s my author frame of mind that causes me to wonder what the book would say if it were capable of speech other than its printed pages.

One message that has been delivered loudly from this item is, “I am your miracle.” It’s difficult to express how the word miracle became attached to this volume except that I worked on it for so long that at times, it was beyond comprehension that it would become reality. After that, the book is telling me to make it available to those who can benefit most from it. This is a long list and while I would love to have the identity of all those who fit into this category, I can only guess (and hope).

Although we are losing Holocaust survivors every day, some remain. Many who do are determined to tell their story, both to provide hope to those suffering in any way and to make certain that the tragedies of World War II are never repeated. Jews were not the only group of people who were targeted. Approximately two and a half million Russians were killed by the Nazis after Germany invaded the Soviet Union. And so, not only the Jews wish to derive hope from stories such as mine; but also, others share that goal.

If my book had the ability to speak, I suspect that it would also provide encouragement to those who seek to create a book or play or musical composition but do not have the determination or confidence to do so. Twenty years ago, I never would have imagined that I would be an author. Now I have two of my own books in print, one collaboration, and three more in progress. Never give up faith in yourself or your abilities. All you need to believe is to remind yourself that you have the initiative and the talent to proceed.

Finally, my book would be saying that I am entitled to feel the joy and gratification that I do each time I look at it. The majority of that joy is directly I attributed to the fact that I have succeeded in sending my message to those alive and remembered, that their memories are for a blessing. We shall never forget what they endured and for as long as God sees fit to continue my life on this planet, I will do everything I can to honor them. Shalom