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For old times

As we look around us, we can easily identify many of our social conventions that are vanishing or completely gone. It’s been quite some time since I saw milk delivered. Rail traffic for humans has diminished considerably. And as I’ve previously lamented, much of our learning is on a screen rather than a printed page.

The good news is that the neighborhood watering hole (bar and grill, bar, saloon – pick one) is still alive and well in New Mexico. Its existence came as a total surprise. We read reviews for this venue before visiting for dinner but what we found far exceeded expectations.

Our welcoming moments were warm and genuine. The server was both kind and efficient. Beyond all of that, sitting in the bar vicinity afforded a glimpse of seven good ole boys who were loud, gregarious and seemed to be the type of regulars who were known by everyone in the establishment. We could catch pieces of their conversation but the only one that was loud and clear was the reference to a “certified lesbian.” Hmmmm.

One brave woman attempted to join them at the far end of the bar. She spoke briefly to the man adjacent to her but the encounter was short-lived. He was wearing the obligatory Kobe Bryant jersey but didn’t have a baseball cap that was sported by five other guys. Don’t know why that conversation ended but it didn’t seem to matter.

Since my growing up and college days in Chicago where such venues are plentiful, I haven’t experienced a neighborhood joint such as this. Most likely, it’s my tendencies toward nostalgia that caused me to appreciate it. The food was great, the beer was cold and I was treated as if I had been there every night for the last twenty years – God forbid.

If the regulars and the food weren’t sufficient, our server’s final remarks were the coup de grace. She said, “I’m so glad that you were here. Assuming I’ll see you soon, yes?” My answer was a resounding yes and I’m grateful for the chance to perpetuate what I deem an American institution. Here’s looking at ya! Shalom.

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Coffee

Stop whatever it is you’re doing. Put down your pen, pencil, stylus or mouse and simply pause. You’re now ready for the coffee date. It’s not breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack. This event/celebration/reunion/engagement/rendezvous is absolutely unique because of the persons involved and the reason for meeting.

One of the prerequisites is the expressed desire to meet with another person who shares your reverence for the distinguished taste of coffee. What’s most beautiful about this coffee date is that it can occur spontaneously, with a small amount of planning or (rarely) created far in advance.

If you are fortunate to have one or two or maybe three people in your life with whom you can have a coffee date, you are a truly exalted person. Once you and the other participant meet, you secure the requisite coffee beverage and select a table or booth that is mutually acceptable. Magically, you pick up from your last conversation as if no time had elapsed.

And then, it’s one or two or three hours later. The coffee is long gone, the conversation hasn’t lagged at all and it’s time for one or both parties to say goodbye for now. Most likely, neither party wants to end the engagement or thinks about making arrangements for the next meeting. But every moment has been a treasure, every subject has been engaging and every farewell is tragic.

If you are as fortunate as I am, you have experienced the magic of the coffee date. If not, identify the person who would enjoy the protocol and the outcomes as much as you will and make it happen for the two of you. From my new geography, the opportunities for me to initiate and enjoy my coffee dates are temporarily limited. But I am certain that they will happen again, either with new cohorts or established ones. No matter what or when, I have happy memories to cherish.

It really doesn’t matter what you drink or where – it’s all about the unique serendipity and comfort of the event. Shalom.

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A wealth of goodness

If you’re anything like me, you’ve wondered for a least a short moment how it would feel to be disgustingly wealthy. Please don’t confuse this with envy or jealousy. At the moment, I have enough resources to purchase whatever I need or want without going hungry. But I can’t help but wonder, especially in the strangest of circumstances, how my life would change if I had millions stashed somewhere.

Let’s imagine the most routine domestic issues. If you have zillions, do you use a bar of soap and then toss it? Or do you do what most of us do and use it until it’s microscopic? When you have more food on your plate than you can consume, do you take home leftovers? This presumes that you have your own chef and you can feast on whatever you want, whenever you want it. How many rooms do you need in your home if you can only live in one room at a time? This question always conjures the picture of Warren Buffett who lives in the same house he’s always had in Omaha.

This analysis leads me to a question of what truly defines wealth. We all know who the fabulously wealthy people are – they are the geniuses such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and other business giants. Then there are the sports figures and actors who are handsomely paid and are pretty obvious about their lush lifestyles.

Because I’ll never have too much money to count or manage, my personal definition of wealth has very little to do with dollars. The wealthy in my estimation are those who work in soup kitchens, volunteer in hospitals on Christmas so that others can have the day off and those who anonymously pay all off the layaway items at a Walmart store.

Inevitably, those who are wealthy with kindness, charity and humility may or may not have equivalent accumulations of assets. Because I aspire to that status, I can confirm that my desire to deposit immeasurable good into the universe will have nothing to do with my financial status. On this eve of a meaningful holiday to so many, let us celebrate those who are truly blessed with the spirit of selfless giving. Shalom.

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Happy Birthday, USA!

You may want to call me a purist or a patriot. The second title is certainly true, explaining why I become disrupted at some of the lunacy on social media. Today is our incredible, wonderful country’s birthday and is a day of absolute celebration. Instead of that commemoration, I can see primarily political bantering and grandstanding.

The best answer is to stay away from social media, today and otherwise. But if you are a proud American, you can’t help but find some of today’s bluster quite offensive. So far, I’ve seen people calling Melania Trump names, opinions on the next justice for the SCOTUS, critical commentary on school shootings and a variety of other garbage.

To me, this is a day of gratitude for our many freedoms and accomplishments. It is a day to be proud of our many thousands of veterans, alive and deceased, who have dedicated their lives to make certain that our liberty is preserved. And if you live in Colorado as I do, it is a day of hope for the over fifteen fires blazing in our state that are requiring the work and commitment of thousands of firefighters who have no time for politics or unessential drivel.

For my part, I continue to be grateful for all of these realities and will never stop appreciating all of the advantages that I enjoy as a proud American. If you can’t observe our laws, our traditions and our protocols, go somewhere else. If you join me in realizing that this is the best place in the world to be, dedicate yourself to building instead of destroying our home.

Happy birthday, USA! Shalom.

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Taking the time

The areas in and around Yellowstone National Park provide countless lessons in good taste and civility in addition to breathtaking scenery. My faith in the future of our people is always reinforced in locations such as these.

Most of that encouragement is based on observations of how people treat each other and their surroundings. While we see the occasional rushing vehicle that’s impatient with wildlife viewing, most drivers observe speed limits and take the time to appreciate the magnificent world around them. The majority of people are respectful, courteous and as grateful for the lushness of the park as I am. Park grounds are immaculate, not only due to the diligence of park staff but also because visitors are conscientious about cleanliness.

We visitors to their national home are generally unobtrusive. Sometimes we pull out of the road to snap pictures or inhale the fragrance of lush wilderness. But occasionally we have a less judicious traveler flipping off an adjacent visitor who didn’t feel like waiting for bison traffic to pass. Maybe this genius will grow up and discover that what’s truly important isn’t immediacy.

Animals establish the tone for laid-back, contemplative observation. The bison methodically wander the hills, stopping to sample a tasty spot of land. Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep are equally unrattled, ambling and chewing at will. Bears and moose are more elusive, making their appearance extremely joyous.

Many animal sightings occur thanks to gatherings of others who point out nearby critters. It’s as if we share a love for outdoors, wildlife and the grandeur of vast snow-covered hills. Perhaps it’s the realization, conscious or otherwise, that there are truths and magnificent beauty far greater than any one of us.

The hikers, bikers, photographers and amateur viewers all defer to our surroundings. Somehow, we all know that we are ephemeral and grateful for living in this timeless space. Shalom.

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Competition

Yesterday I watched the finals for 2018 women’s figure skating championships and couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty, precision and grace of the competitors. If you are at all like me, you visualize yourself on ice, completing some or all of the magnificent moves that these skaters do.

As one whose skating consisted of several attempts at an outdoor pond that was frozen over in some hand-me-down skates, I can vaguely understand the hours, months and years necessary to reach these levels of accomplishment. It doesn’t take very long for me to conclude that this activity is best left to those much younger and more agile.

With a small amount of creativity, it’s fun to imagine bringing these types of competition to arenas with which I am familiar. What if I were able to compete for a gold, silver or bronze medal in downhill punctuation? How about cross-country grammar? And then there’s competitive figures of speech.

Yes, of course, my field of writing has its awards and distinctions, not only from a skill level but also in terms of sales. Stephen King has nothing to fear from my entering his horror/excitement genre – the scariest thing that I can think of in my experience was finding a mouse trapped and wriggling within the trap that I had set.

The accomplishments that I witnessed on ice yesterday were quite enjoyable and I found myself cheering for one competitor or another based on personality, humility and true passion for the endeavor. While I have no expectations that I will be celebrated for thousands of business letters, ongoing blog content and two (maybe three) books, I can imagine standing on the podium with any of the skating competitors just to see how it feels.

We’re all good at something, with some of us receiving medals and others of us feeling good that we’ve helped or entertained others with words. Shalom.

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Veterans Day thanks

While I never had an opportunity to serve my country in one of our branches of service, I have immense respect for those who do and did. My fellow Americans join me today in expressing our appreciation for your sacrifices and dedication.

Thankfully, I was honored to carry the title of Navy wife for a number of years. During that time, I became aware of the complete commitment associated with faithfully serving our country.  All of the activities in which I participated or that I witnessed made a profound impact on my love of country.

In addition to your monumental acts of heroism on the battlefields, oceans and in the sky, you give much more. We understand the missed births and birthdays of your children, the wedding anniversaries and the daily events that your wives, husbands and children must survive or endure without you.

Thank you for all that you have done, all that you have given and all the sacrifices large and small that you gladly made. Your country celebrates your bravery, conviction and courage and we shall never forget all that you have done to ensure our freedom. Shalom.

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My favorite day

This was the subject of my class’s writing narrative. As usual, I feel privileged and somehow specially gifted with twenty-six smart, engaged, affectionate and sweet young personalities.

If I knew the secret of inheriting this type of group as compared to those who present problems all day, I would be grateful. Sometimes it’s their (usual) teacher, sometimes the school, other times the demographics. This time, I’m guessing that it’s part chemistry and part magic.

They communicate an awareness of how I feel about them. Beyond that, I’ve had the revelation that they are aware of their ability to approach me about any subject.

My heart is full of conviction that I am where I can create the greatest amount of good. They look me in the eyes and I can tell them how wonderful they are. They seek and receive acknowledgement or approval on all positive actions. And they tell me that I am the best teacher that they have ever had.

But I really do know why they behave as they do. Unlike many of the teachers I observe, I make it possible for them to see and interact with me as a real person. During the course of the day, I grin and wink and hide and giggle and call them gerbils. We talk about my family, we discuss what they want to be when they are older and we analyze the high and low points of the day.

Most importantly, I suppose, I accept and cherish them exactly as they are. They give me much more than I can express but as they leave for the day, they do so with the words from me that they are special and uniquely terrific. How grateful I am for the favorite days that they provide. Shalom.

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American beauty

Driving through the mountains and discovering the fall colors, I am humbled by nature’s spectacles. It occurred to me for the first time that nature’s gifts are as unique in their splendor as those who witness them.

It was captivating to give each tree, bush and leaf cluster an identity and a voice. Imagine the chorus of creatures, each singing “God Bless America.” And like those whose world they populate, they emerge, blossom and perish as time passes.

Every curve, county road and cliff was different, with all leafy inhabitants proudly displaying infinite shades of yellow, orange and red. It was as if they were working cooperatively for the most breathtaking vista that they could create.

What a powerful metaphor for our magnificent country! Beauty in diversity, nature’s best, standing resolutely as they leaned toward the sun.

The land of treedom provides refuge for many co-inhabitants of all sizes and varieties. While survival of the fittest prevails, keen observers can witness the travels of creatures throughout their living spaces.

If we fail to appreciate the vastness of nature’s gifts, no matter the season, we lose an opportunity to understand the many phenomena for which we should be grateful. Taking any part of American beauty for granted is never an option, no matter the inhabitants or landscape. With practice, we can become more adept at living respectfully with each other, in kindness and peace. Shalom.

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Forgiveness

Beginning at sundown tonight and continuing until sundown tomorrow, Jewish people throughout the world will observe the holiday of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. While I have a collection of transgressions for which I atone, this concept appeals to me on a non-religious and logical basis.

Most of the people we’ve wronged throughout the year will never know that we regret our actions. These are the drivers at whom we yell on the road and the golfers at whom we snarled when they rushed our putts. They are the shoppers who pushed their carts into our backs at checkout and the creditors who were late posting our payments. In one way or another, we have voiced our displeasure with these people who are all nameless and faceless.

It seems to me that the world would be happier and less fraught with retaliation if we spent more time as a society on atonement. If the people I have wronged in any way were aware of my apologies, maybe their lives would be somehow enhanced. Likewise, if we all spent less time offending and more time repairing, I suspect that we would all benefit.

We don’t need to wait for this holiday to apologize or seek to right the regrettable acts that we have committed. In my case, I am sorry to anyone whom I have hurt or offended in any way. My goal is to deposit good into the universe at all opportunities. If my work motivates and inspires you in any way, I achieve a goal that approaches forgiveness. Shalom.