Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Lose it

During the past several days I had occasion to see something that I have had around for some time, for no apparent reason. It may have been a tee shirt that I wore once after getting it at my high school reunion many years ago. There is no need to keep it because I will never wear it again, and I have decided to begin a major purge of all such things.

Pondering this, I suspect that we all keep numerous items that have no monetary value, are not used and simply take up space. When I die, the chances are good that the majority of these will be given to Goodwill or trashed. Why not do it now?

The benefits of this type of house cleaning are many. To begin, someone can use a shirt that I don’t want, particularly if they have no other shirts, it’s free or inexpensive. Next, it creates space that I may be able to use for something useful or important. And last of all, it’s really good for the brain. For my part, I am shedding baggage while contributing to the greater good.

From here, I’ll turn this into a project. Maybe I’ll seek out five or ten of these dead weights per week until I fill a big bag for Goodwill. Before I do so, I’ll set up strict criteria such as, “don’t wear,” “haven’t worn in a year or more” or “I have no idea why this is still in my possession.”

On that subject, I have tried and succeeded at losing those expressions that are cliché or otherwise objectionable. When I use the word “tons,” you can be confident that I am only referring to things measured in 2,000-pound quantities. And if I have ever “reached out” to someone, it was only to save them in a swimming pool or quagmire. If I want to talk with someone, I will call.

Losing bad habits, I suggest, is just as fulfilling as donating unused objects. I’m thinking that most of my bad practices are not word related. But whenever I am guilty of making assumptions, losing my patience or failing to meet a deadline, I continue to hold myself entirely responsible. I’m not trying to achieve perfection as I am certain that it is impossible to reach. But I will always work on being a better person, wife, mother, grandmother, business associate and friend. It’s just what I do. Shalom.

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In previous blogs, I’ve mentioned the value of a small investment in stickers or construction paper that has paid huge dividends. Because I will never buy a child a tablet or cell phone or laptop, the educational rewards for items that don’t need a charge are boundless.

The most recent example of this was the purchase of an inflatable beach ball and sprinkler device. Whether it was a good idea or not, I notified the grandkids that I had purchased said items for their fun.

After at least twenty reminders that they were ready to play with them, we rolled out the treasures. Had they been multi-story ferris wheels or high tech video games, they could not have been more enthusiastically received. Getting wet has always and will always be entertaining for little people. It allows them to run back and forth, scream and simply enjoy the outdoors.

No, I’m no hero. It just makes so much sense to invest a small amount of money in a low-tech, inflatable rubber and plastic toy than trendy or techy toys. If I had been able to predict that they would burn out in twenty minutes and have new fun with the bicycle pump I would still have purchased what I did. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Give kids simple toys and they will be just as satisfied as with complicated, cutting edge gadgets.

We grownups have volumes to learn from this exercise. While I’ve done my share of cruises and long, exotic journeys, a recent trip to a local cabin in the mountains was equally fulfilling. The occasional hamburger and fries can be just as satisfying as an umpteen course gourmet meal. And the present of a simple, funny cactus can be just as joyously received as a Rolex.

It appears that we may be approaching another quarantine/lockdown, a reality that I don’t fear. With enough food and drink, books to read and write and a vast world with which to remain in contact, we have nothing to cause us to be afraid. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

To sleep, perchance to dream

To die, to sleep – to sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come – Hamlet

 William Shakespeare

Most mornings, I don’t wake up feeling Shakespearean. When I do, I find it to be a good idea to determine why – both for the wisdom inherent to feeling that way and to find a way to share that wisdom. In this case, the quote refers to Hamlet considering suicide – a concept that has no relevance to me whatsoever. But it’s a good exercise in spending a few minutes of my day in reflecting on he who used language more fluently than anyone before or since.

None of my training as an educator or a writer has enabled me to do legitimate dream analysis. Because of that, I always attempt an amateur version of it. For the sake of simplicity, we can delete the dark, suicidal message of this quote and simply think of dreaming.

My most recent and important analysis concerned a dream about meeting with a publishing committee about the book that has been my focus and priority for over a year. This was the essence of the dream – the committee said they liked the plot but I need to work on other components and they would publish.

What does all of this mean, you ask? For one, I’m thinking that whatever occupies my daytime hours will appear when I sleep. That is not a message to stop thinking about my book. Most likely, that won’t happen until it’s published. But in some way, it tells me that I am on the right track, maybe to worry less about its reality.

In no way am I suggesting that we do our own dream interpretation. We have a responsibility to think positive as often as possible. It may be awake or asleep. And that inspires us to plan for success as one of the best choices available.

The objective for the book has always been to educate and inspire. Whether that will affect one person or many is really out of my control. When I am ready to authorize publication, I will be certain that I have written, edited and dreamed enough for it to be everything I want it to be. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Seize the day

It took only three or four minutes to write and send the email and I found myself wondering why it had taken me so long to dedicate that small sliver of time. Thankfully, I sent my most recent blog to my rabbi, the man who had more influence on my life than anyone before or since, other than my parents.

Not surprisingly, he responded within several hours and by doing so, made me happier than I can remember feeling about any email. In his honor, I will receive his return correspondence strictly as a learning event, rather than feeling guilt or regret that I waited so long.

You never need an excuse or justification to re-establish contact with someone you value. The opportunity to make a huge positive impact on someone is staggering. If you have doubts, think about someone with whom you haven’t recently engaged and imagine how glad you would be to hear from him or her. Return that feeling by making the first step toward communicating.

Once you have identified the recipient of your letter, email or text, don’t load that with reminders of how long it has been since the two of you have spoken. Taking responsibility for that hiatus will feel much better than handing it off to another. And I recommend that you make the message positive rather than negative. Your frustration with the quarantine is universal and boring. It’s old news and probably not worth sharing. A new hobby, family event or simple celebration of life will be much more joyous to receive (and to send).

As you’ve heard many times from many sources, today is the only certainty and tomorrow is guaranteed to no-one. If you have a person in your past or present who would be enhanced in any way by hearing from you, make it happen today.

From this desk, I will send more emails to my rabbi and others whom I treasure. I’m hoping to be able to do so tomorrow but I have no way to be certain that it will be a reality. It is time to seize the only day that is truly mine.  Shalom.

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Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you.  Rashi

 These are the words of Rashi, a medieval French scholar who lived from 1040 to 1105 CE. His real name was Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzhak and he is still studied for his profound and detailed analyses of the Bible and its commentaries. Because he was renowned and revered for his meticulous attention to detail in his studies, his work has had profound significance for me.

This quote has been often repeated and analyzed. My interpretation is that Rashi entreats us to uncomplicate our life events by understanding information within all formats exactly as it appears. Ironically, Rashi’s most brilliant process in writing commentaries was to explain religious texts phrase by phrase, rather than paraphrasing or omitting part of the text. It seems that his specificity is in adherence to simplicity.

In other words, accept words and actions exactly as they are transmitted and avoid secondary interpretations or hidden meanings. Here is an example of how that works:

You tell me that I should write a book. Receiving this with simplicity means completely and exclusively that you think I should write a book. The reasons why you have this belief may or may not be germane to one or both of us. But here is what it doesn’t mean:

Give up writing poetry.

Stop doing client work.

You’re wasting your time with blogs or other short works.

Many people will (or will not) read your book.

You may want to ask someone to help.

See how wonderful this is?

You suggest that I visit Portugal, try Korean cooking or look into yoga classes, entirely because you think that I would enjoy or benefit from those adventures. Secondary meanings are entirely gone.

The process can be extrapolated throughout our lives. Rather than passing judgment on events in your past or someone else’s, simply accept that they took place. And if, God forbid, you are to suffer from a horrible disease, accept that with the same simplicity. Wondering why you were the one to be stricken with this disease is unnecessary – simply take action to defeat it and survive. Shalom.

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One day

In approximately six weeks, I will be celebrating a landmark birthday. At this point, I can think of eight to ten people whom I have told that I am having a difficult time with this birthday although I didn’t have similar dread with other landmarks. Try as I may, I can’t understand what has changed.

More importantly, it occurred to me that I am forever cautioning my students not to do exactly what I am doing. My warning is that believing that you can’t succeed at something guarantees that you will be right. And so it goes with a birthday. Predicting that it will be hard makes certain that it will be.

Happily or unhappily, I am the only one who can fix this. For as many times as I anguish over a number of years on earth, I will make it a problem. It is significant that my brother and I have lived longer than either of our parents or our brother, by at least ten years in his case and seven in mine. Whether that has importance or not depends on the interpretation. It also depends on how we define longevity.

As soon as I realized that I have been making this into a crisis that shouldn’t be one, I began to change my perspective. Right now, at this moment, I am in very good health, walk a minimum of 4,000 steps per day and work out daily on my stationary bicycle. Of greater value than that, I am finishing my third book, write blogs two or three times per week and have the privilege of doing writing tasks for a number of clients.

No-one can minimize the difficulty of this landmark birthday but I. Having reached this point, I hereby determine that it will be simply another day. But I am grateful to the people who make my life happy, comfortable and full of joy. Let this be a lesson to those agonizing over any life event. Making it insurmountable ensures that it will be. And making it a cause for jubilation is easier and much more useful. Shalom.

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The older I become, the more I realize how much a waste of time it becomes to find substitutes for those people or things that we cherish or have cherished for some time. Today was a day when that became altogether clear to me, on a subject I will address later.

We often tell ourselves that something we have easily and completely replaces something that we truly love. On a very mundane level, no hamburger that I have encountered can take the place of a White Castle slider. My best guess is that my recollection is colored by the family events associated with those burgers in a time long past.

The same phenomenon occurs with other locations or businesses. No deli that I experienced before or since can replace the one at which I received my traditional pumpernickel bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon (lox). Never will I ever have ice cream as that which I shared with my sweet sister-in-law, now a prisoner of the dementia disease. And finally, no shopping adventure will ever emulate the experience of going to downtown Chicago with mom, riding on the Illinois Central and having lunch at Marshall Field’s.

With all that in mind, I wonder why I should bother with the process of trying to improve upon or duplicate treasured memories for the sake of fully experiencing a food, location or event. Today, as I visit the optical shop for new eyeglasses, I know that no-one will ever be able to go with me and contribute the kind of input and love as my daughter did in the past or would if she were here. And as many times and I shop in as many venues as I have frequented, none will ever emulate the beautiful trips that I loved.

The point of all this is to recommend that you savor and cherish the events or tastes or companionship that you value as they occur. We will never be able to reverse the clock and relive those occurrences that are defined by time. And so, as we move ahead, we can create new memories with their own values to our existences. We can also treasure what we have already lived, smelling the smell of a particular burger or remembering the hat, gloves and purse that were part of shopping adventures with Mommy. Shalom.

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Social media

Regardless of what millennials or others under the age of thirty might think, most of us had full and happy lives prior to the introduction of social media. Please do not interpret this as a categorical criticism or dismissal of all social media platforms. But I do frequently find myself wondering people are thinking when they post what they do.

The majority of what we see if pretty innocuous. It includes pictures of single people, couples, groups, babies, kids and landscapes. Unfortunately, some of what is put out on social media is volatile. We have Trump haters, Trump lovers (very few in number), those espousing violence or pacifism; and a huge number who aren’t saying anything that is at all worth reading.

Some of it is for the sake of sharing sad news or happy events with those we can’t or don’t reach otherwise. In fact, I have recently established contact with several relatives whom I haven’t seen in many years. But the junk is plentiful.

For example, 98% of adults can’t find a number three in a field of 144 number sixes. So what? Pick the method by which you make X’s and it says what kind of person you are. For real? Are we so lacking in formidable entertainment that we must resort to this?

It’s not difficult for me to imagine your responses to my almost tirade. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. It amuses some people. No harm is done. While I get all that, I will continue to hope for more worthwhile content.

We see posts itemizing acts of charity and kindness, but not often enough. And we see members of communities who go to remarkable extremes to help each other or those far away and in need. Yet we have to plow through advertising and the deep/profound meaning of a letter of the alphabet to get to the material I consider worthwhile.

Yes, opinions are like noses – almost everybody has one, and you have heard mine. As I admit to posting blogs and family events on social media, I’m quite confident that I don’t distribute stupidity. I’ll just continue to tiptoe through the trivial trash and enjoy humanitarian messages where and when I can find them. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

You can do it

What is it about telling a class of first, second or third graders that I am an author that always results in a big reaction? That is absolutely not why I tell them. In all cases, I choose to tell my students a little bit about me so that they know that I am a real person, not a mannequin dispatched to supervise them.

Ages of the students determine the imminent questions. For the younger students I get, “Are your books in our classroom? How many books have you written?”

Older students will ask the names of my books or if I am a famous author. After that, do I have a book on the bestseller list and am I fabulously wealthy? My usual reaction is that if I were John Grisham or someone similar, I probably wouldn’t be teaching school.

My best guess is that I become as close to a celebrity as have or can expect to experience. If we were in Los Angeles or New York, that might not be the case. But my kids don’t have much chance of meeting someone famous. If my title as author may somehow make me famous, it becomes a major opportunity to tell someone that they know someone who has done the extraordinary of publishing books.

There are other possible explanations. Maybe, having written books distinguishes me from other adults. Or it may be that I now have new credentials that entitle me to review, edit or evaluate their work.

One day, I will have the right occasion to ask a student or two why they are affected by my author title. In the past, I have been told that students want to read my work. And I also believe that one or two have wanted to make certain that I was telling the truth.

Very often, I will add more info, that I am also a writer and editor. They will inevitably ask me to explain and I always do.

Admittedly, I am also creating a teaching moment. Any of you can grow up to be an author and now you can say that you met someone who did. All you need is a subject, the time to dedicate to your work, a good editor and the belief that you can do it. This is the most critical part – you can do anything you want in life if you believe in yourself and your eventual success. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

One step above

During this time of protest, unrest and a world responding to a toxic virus, businesses have experienced some of the worst damages. My response as a consumer is to visit small, local and family-owned businesses. The large chains will make profits, with or without my purchases. The small ones need all of the help and revenues they can get.

If ever I had doubts about the merit to that commitment, my recent journeys to a small, family-owned jeweler confirmed my wisdom. For the sake of their privacy, I will omit the town and name of the company. But his thoughtfulness, courtesy and professionalism demonstrate why we need to do everything possible to keep these types of organizations around.

Walking into the store, the owner and his wife recognized us from our visit of nearly a year ago. We were warmly received (as always) and made a ring purchase, after debating at length between two possibilities. Although I did not know it until later, my husband asked our gentleman to save the other ring so that we could come back for it later in the week.

But it was a small, supremely kind gesture that will ensure my return visits to this shop. The last time we had visited, I pointed out that his offerings were entirely without a specific religious symbol. Without writing down my name or seeking compensation, the jeweler commissioned one of these specifically for me and produced it while we were purchasing the ring. The financial details are unimportant but he was determined to split the price of the item and I am certain that doing so was a tribute to my appreciation.

Returning for the second ring, the jeweler was absent but his wife noticed that the stone was loose and needed to be reset. She wanted the owner to reset it but he insisted that the artist who created the ring reset it, in order for it to be perfect. I am certain that most jewelry professionals would not have gone to all of the trouble.

Doing your best, providing the highest quality of service and making your client feel essential are all keys to remaining exceptional and all obvious to this gentleman’s actions. He will always have our business for important jewelry purchases. As that evolves, I am persuaded that everyone is enhanced in the process. Shalom.