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Memories

One of the worst realities of aging is what that process does to your memory. Somewhere I remember reading that there’s a part of the brain that is affected by age, resulting in memory loss. My experience suggests that this condition is irregular, unpredictable and beyond frustrating.

It’s not a lightning bolt realization that I am getting older.  As I point out to people who incessantly complain about aging, it’s much preferable to the alternative of not aging. Here’s the problem. While it’s difficult wanting to recall something, important or otherwise, what makes it worse is when those around us exacerbate the problem by prefacing the process with, “Don’t you remember?”.

If I could remember something, I definitely would. Part of what consoles and replenishes us is the ability to recall and celebrate the bright spots in our pasts. Usually, the births, graduations, weddings, anniversaries and other festivities are more easily recovered than the less significant events. Many of the rest of our recollections require a struggle. Sometimes we recall after a while but occasionally, it’s fruitless.

Of course, memory loss is not specific to the process of getting older. Some diseases result in multiple compromised processes, including memory. Having a loved one in advanced stages of dementia, I am certain that she will never know me again, a reality that is beyond tragic for me.

My recommendation is that you spend time with an older member of our society, it’s much more useful to say, “Do you remember?” than “Don’t you remember?”. It sounds minor but it’s much kinder. In addition to having trouble with memories, that person may also have the reminders of aching joints, a variety of ouches and discomforts and a general sense of inability to complete many tasks.

Love and kindness always work, with young or not so young. Baby Boomers are no longer the majority population, but we have many of them to thank for the many achievements for which they were and are responsible. Shalom.

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Come on in

It was about 6:30 am and we heard a persistent tap, tap, tap, tap on the bedroom window. No electronic devices could have issued that type of noise. The coffee wasn’t yet made, and the sun had just risen and was shining through one of our cabin windows.

We finally spotted a rather small bird with dark yellow feathers who was relentlessly trying to enter the cabin, discover food or simply make his presence known. What a remarkable and refreshing wake-up! If we hadn’t yet appreciated the joys of waking in a forest full of critters and birds of brilliant plumage, this alert was the best punctuation of all. Bird continued his concert, eventually leaving for another landing spot.

As I thought about what was truly important about our natural surroundings, I pondered how much time we spend in pursuit of less gratifying pursuits. Our social sophistication with its high speeds and gigabytes is ultimately less real, genuine and magnificent than the world that doesn’t include electricity.

Driving through the rural world that we encountered, we were amused and exhilarated by local venues dubbed Snappy Mart and Uncle Woody’s Flea Market. Ahead of us was the Dragonfly Trailhead, towns called Socorro and Deming and a world of history.

Thankfully, we are close to this non-technical, slow-paced civilization that has much to teach us about what matters. Every restaurant we visited had patrons greeted by, “How’re y’all doing?” and we were immediately persuaded that the locals regularly visited this diner or saloon. That didn’t matter to those of us who were visiting. We were greeted and warmly received by every server we encountered.

We can’t reverse the metropolitan clocks to the days of Monday night bingo and rummage sales. Visiting will have to suffice and at least one of me will be grateful for a life that is full of pecking birds instead of horn-honking rush hour commuters. Shalom.

 

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Good taste

It was breakfast at a familiar restaurant where we have enjoyed numerous meals. We were seated in a somewhat reserved area and prepared to enjoy a meal. Not long thereafter, a man was seated just behind me and he was joined by a younger man a few minutes later.

None of this was exceptional until the third young man arrived. This was the trigger for man number one to launch a diatribe that lasted throughout our meal.

He spoke in a loud voice (there was no other indication that he was hard of hearing) and went on an on and on pointing out everything that he could identify that was wrong with someone who apparently was one of his staff.

The recollection of a manager in my past undoubtedly occurred to me. But beyond that, this very unpleasant human was totally unrestricted in his castigation of the younger man. He (the employee) was accused of being an alcoholic, was told that he was sloppy in his appearance, was unsuccessful in hiring and training staff and had violated a confidence by discussing company business with an uninvolved third party.

Why did I hear all this? Unquestionably, I had no choice in the matter. Our conversation was nearly impossible due to the booming boor voice in the rear. Among other reactions, I felt very bad for the man who was listening to all of this criticism.

Several things are wrong here. For one, lower your voice so that the entire room doesn’t need to listen to your insults. Another reality is that he had not one pleasant thing to say to the man next to him. I believe in you; you’re going to be successful; you have great potential; let’s see what we can do to focus on your many strengths and the difficulties you’re having will vanish.

While I’m not involved in any of this except by proximity, I was required to listen to it. It occurred to me thereafter that had my dad been present, he might well have said, “Hey look, creep. Why not take your nastiness someplace where I don’t have to listen to it.” Dad was pretty direct.

Of course, I didn’t say anything at all. But we all have something to learn about not airing grievances where anyone and everyone can hear. The recipient of his abuse certainly deserved some privacy. And I can watch R movies if I want to listen to endless swear words. Give us all a break. Shalom.

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Rabbit, rabbit

Although few people in my life, past or present, are aware of the habit of saying “Rabbit” or “Rabbit, rabbit” as the first words on the first day of a month, I find it a peculiarly satisfying tradition. Maybe I should call it the Rabbit Habit.

If you’re not familiar with the superstition, a check on the Internet will provide numerous references and examples. One of the sites I visited suggested that the trend has become popular with young people and the “Rabbit, rabbit” message appears frequently on social media. My wonderful son and I have used the habit as a friendly competition, and I’m positive that he beats me to issuing the “Rabbit, rabbit” message one the first of every month.

Here’s the data behind the process. It appears that during World War II, British pilots were issuing the words, “Rabbit, rabbit” or “Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” in order to wish themselves and their cohorts the best possible outcomes on the day’s flight or bombing missions. Other sources trace the habit to early 20th century Britain, where children were accustomed to issuing the phrase or word as the first word of a new month, also to ensure good luck. There are also indications that the superstition traces much farther back.

If you’re asking yourself, “Why rabbits?” instead of toads or emus, the fact that bunnies reproduce prolifically is cited as the primary reason. And of course, people have been known to carry a rabbit’s foot for luck instead of the appendage of any other creature.

The idea of wishing yourself and those around you a day or month or year of good luck is indisputably a good one. One source indicated that issuing these words should be teamed with walking backward down the stairs – strictly out of concern for safety, I’m not recommending that addition to the custom.

My suggestion is to embrace the usage, wish good luck for as many people as you reach and perpetuate something intrinsically positive. Maybe it will ultimately displace road rage if we issue the words, “Rabbit, rabbit” to dumb drivers instead of our usual expletives. Shalom.

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Giving

Being in a new city after living elsewhere for thirty years has its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, it’s fun to find new restaurants, hiking trails and local shopping meccas. But on the minus part of the equation, it’s a bit strange to be somewhere where it’s extremely unlikely to encounter someone familiar.

That will change over time, I suppose. In the interim, I joined a local choral ensemble and was elated and surprised to discover that the process of becoming part of a venture was unusually satisfying. Seeking a common outcome and working toward that reality became enjoyable, both in the belonging and the active participation.

Last week, I experienced a similar gratification as I joined the local school system. Retirement is enjoyable and relaxing, but it was missing something that I wasn’t quite able to identify until last week. When I belong to an organization in which I believe, I am able to do what I call depositing positive energy into the universe.

Reading the news or watching it on television, we all become aware of the volunteers who champion one cause or another and dedicate hours, dollars and heart to that cause. Thanks to my recent commitments, I fully understand that being part of something honorable makes for a sense of community that is incomparable.

Some of the unhappiest people I’ve known were entirely self-absorbed and disassociated with everything. If I were a (full-time) counselor, my first recommendation to this profile is to get out and do something for someone or something else.

While I am compensated for my educating, that sum is entirely disproportionate to my passion. In my past, I committed the same enthusiasm on a purely volunteer basis. But as I grow into my new community, I hope to find valuable, lasting methods by which I can grow that environment.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, a great theologian and philosopher, once stated, “Knowledge – like the sky – is never private property. No teacher has a right to withhold it from anyone who asks for it. Teaching is the art of sharing.”

As we share with others, in the food bank, the shelter or the classroom, we give much more to ourselves. Shalom.

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People priorities

As a non-federal employee who is observing the consequences of the federal shutdown, I am outraged by the obvious inability to see the tragedies of those impacted. While I understand the political positions on both sides of the dispute, it becomes clear that those who are suffering from a lack of income are always those who have everything to lose and nothing to gain in the arguments that apply.

Our news networks are filled with stories about people who are standing in food lines or have to choose between insulin and eating. They have nothing to do with the border wall and whether it is established or not. But until all of our blustering politicians finish with the dialogue and diatribe, they will not be paid for their work.

Unfortunately, most of us have absolutely no ability to impact any of this. While I can contribute to a food bank or shelter, I can’t reach the lady in Maryland who is physically challenged and can’t pay for her meds. Do we have the power to effect change? It appears that we don’t and yet we are collectively disheartened to see all of the people who serve us and are compromised by the inability of a few to reach some form of compromise.

Is the world as black and white as this political debate would lead us to believe? The balance of life is rarely that distinct. Those who are dedicated to serving the greater good fail to do what is necessary to feed and shelter those who elected them.

My most sincere hope is that border wall or not, the federal employees are paid, working and free of the current political tension that immobilizes them. We support you, work to assist you and hope with all of our hearts that your economic hardships are soon remedied. Come on, politicians! Let’s take care of our citizens and work out our immigration issues without causing so many to go hungry. Shalom.

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When you take the time

If you’ve been in the customer service or sales business for any amount of time, you know that it can be gratifying, frustrating or a host of other adverbs. This has been the majority category of my career and I have always seen customer interaction as a method of delivering best care to benefit everyone involved.

Not so long ago, we received extraordinary care and service from a wait person. The young man who attended to us was kind, attentive, polite and interested in any and all methods of making us comfortable. At the end of the meal, I asked to speak to the manager so that I could compliment him on the hiring decision and extraordinary characteristics of our server.

The manager appeared grateful for the input and appeared to pass the compliments along to our young man who returned to express his thanks. Because this wasn’t the first or last time that I have elected to compliment management on a particular person, I find it surprising to hear how infrequently it happens.

Just as it is our responsibility to report problems with food or wait staff to management, isn’t it as much an imperative to deliver accolades? Chances are pretty good that this young man won’t experience a promotion or additional income because of my appreciation. But who’s to say how it will translate into improving his day, enhancing the care for future diners or generally benefit the atmosphere?

My suggestion is to take any opportunity to celebrate someone else. Leaving a tip is great but tell that person how much they contributed to your enjoyment of a meal. Tell your dental hygienist that he or she made your trip to the dentist much less stressful or painful. Advise your babysitter that her kindness to your kids cheers and improves you. Along the same lines, take a moment to help someone who appears to need that help. Several days ago, I paused to help a lady put her walker into her car and she was quite grateful for the small action.

The results of a few minutes of commendation or consideration are indescribable. Just as you want to hear that your life improves that of another in some way, people around you generally want to know the same. Shalom.

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New places and spaces

Numerous observations about the land and culture of New Mexico have become available to me in the two weeks since we arrived here. As close as this state is to Colorado, the people, climate and attitudes are remarkably different from the neighboring state. Those we meet and tell that we are from Colorado always express a love for Colorado but a desire to maintain their separation.

One of the most curious differences concerns the drivers here. On any road, at any time, we see drivers who are driving twenty or thirty miles per hour in excess of the speed limits. Yes, we had speeders in Colorado (and other places where I’ve lived) but not anywhere as many as seen here.

The population is surprisingly friendly and warm. In two days at our new home, we had three neighboring families stop by, introduce themselves and offer assistance with anything we might need. In the nine years at our last house, I never exchanged one syllable of conversation with any of our neighbors, primarily due to any expressions of interest or community.

Also along the lines of friendliness, the generous and extremely cordial people who own this bed-and-breakfast have offered assistance with solutions to our heating woes, their truck to assist in moving our possessions and two space heaters to warm our surroundings until the furnace is replaced. Clearly, this help extends far beyond the realm of lodging but our hosts have been extremely benevolent.

On numerous occasions, we have been told, “Welcome to New Mexico!” The food here is extraordinary, especially that which is labeled “New Mexican.” Geography that surrounds us is quite beautiful, especially Sandia Peak that is visible from our home.

My final observation is minor although curious and slightly amusing. Nowhere have I ever seen turn lanes as long as we have in the Albuquerque area. If you are interested in making either a right or left turn, you can commit to that turn almost a city block before it occurs. Maybe this makes up for the crazy speeders, but it’s really funny that the combination of long turn areas and a consistent prohibition on U-turns makes driving a brand-new experience. In the future, I’ll furnish other curiosities as they occur. Shalom.