Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

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.

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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.

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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

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House on fire

Reorganizing my bookshelves today, I rediscovered a treasured book that offers hundreds of suggestions on subjects for writing efforts. It’s my blessing that I seldom have trouble identifying subjects that are worthy of pursuing in this blog but the book is provocative and extremely interesting.

The one that I seized for this moment has to do with a fire starting in your home and the need to select one item that you could take with you. Thankfully, I have never had to survive a fire so I cannot speak from experience on this subject. And while I would like to believe that I would have an opportunity to grab more than one thing as I left a burning house, that would defeat the purpose of this exercise.

It’s not an easy endeavor. My first thoughts were the pictures of my family. More than anything else in the home, these pictures can never be duplicated. Second was my purse. It has my wallet and critical pieces of identification. The cash isn’t a consideration – while I never have much cash, the banks and other companies would ultimately provide access to whatever finances I need or would need after leaving the house.

My next thought was my jewelry box. It contains treasures that I could never replace, either legacies or gifts. The bedroom (and jewelry box) are closer to the front door but the unknown becomes, where is the fire most serious and requiring the greatest amount of avoidance? The advantage of taking one item from the bedroom is that there is a door to the back yard, seldom used but certainly available in a fire.

After I examined these three choices, the last is the most obvious to anyone who has known me for more than ten minutes. That which has the greatest and most incalculable value is my laptop. My published book and its successor are there, as well as another book in progress to which I have probably dedicated several hundred hours.

We can hope that I will never need to make such a decision and that a house fire is nowhere in my future. But as I submit the idea to you, it’s an inquiry that I believe is absolutely worthwhile. What do you need to preserve more than anything else. Needless to say, spouses and children are excluded from the exercise because their safety is paramount.

But after that, what do you want to save? What can’t you replace? It becomes a commentary on that which is part of your bank account versus part of your heart. Shalom.

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The right thing

One of the expressions that I use constantly, both inside the classroom and in the rest of the world, is that you never need to apologize for doing the right thing. I have dedicated quite a bit of my thoughts to this subject. Near as I can tell, I created it while many have issued variations of it throughout history.

Sometimes, doing the right thing is much more difficult than doing what’s easy or convenient or undetectable. This may be taking responsibility for an action that wasn’t necessarily committed by you, for the sake of leaving another party blameless. If, for instance, you are in a parking lot and see someone accidentally drop some trash, you pick up said trash and dispose of it. Or a child leaves the classroom door open and you suggest that maybe it was your omission.

This doesn’t mean that you need to continue exempting others from the actions that they completed; it’s simply taking the blame for some liabilities that may have a negative impact on the one involved.

In other cases, while it may seem unusual to refrain from apologizing for doing the right thing, sometimes our beliefs drive those decisions. You contribute to the political party of your choice when those closest to you support the other party. Or you vote for the candidate of your choice while others hold that candidate in low esteem. Being true to your principles is the process of doing the right thing.

All of this is the same as not apologizing to any one at any time for being who you are. It doesn’t matter how you got there, how many feel otherwise or what you excluded to be in the position that you occupy. Doing the right thing is as personal a choice as there is, not subject to justification or rationalization. Always do what you feel is the best choice and most likely, it will be the morally and philosophically correct path to take. Shalom.

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Promises

As an observer of the world around me and the people in it, I am frequently intrigued by the seriousness of the word “promise.” My students are taught from an early age that promising is never to be done casually or without complete intent to fulfill that promise.

I haven’t identified the origins of the “pinkie promise,” but if you and someone else lock pinkies, you are both solemnly committed to completing your end of the commitment. Having been asked to participate in this type of oath, I am happy that we are successful at teaching our young people about the importance of keeping their words.

Are we Americans faithful about being true to our pledges? Marriage vows generally include statements about fidelity and respect, yet we see frequent spousal abuse, infidelity, and abandonment. Every time I see someone burning a US flag, I shudder. For all my life, I have promised and will continue to promise to defend that flag and have nothing but disdain for those who do harm to it.

And on it goes. We are going to build a wall. No we’re not. We are going to send money to those who are without income and resources to feed their families. No, we need a month’s recess. The adults who should be demonstrating the urgency of being true to their words are failing to do so.

When I tell my students that they will have the opportunities to do craft projects, I must make certain that those projects materialize. Likewise, if I promise a treat, that must also come to pass. Our actions must verify that our words are to be believed or nothing is ever going to be believable.

Someone named Rodd Thunderheart once said, “A man’s only as good as his word.” Sadly, I don’t know who Rodd Thunderheart is or what drove him to the observation. But a more reliable and familiar source also tell us, “A man is only as good as his word,” and this is Proverbs 20:6, Hebrews 13:8.

Beyond that, I prefer this quote from someone named Marie Forleo. She says, “To be responsible, keep your promises to others. To be successful, keep your promises to yourself.”  As I contemplate the subject of promises, I must agree that we begin by making and keeping promises to ourselves. Once we are adept at that, keeping promises to others is likely to be our standard practice. Shalom.

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Musings

These are my thoughts after publishing what I consider to be a milestone/landmark book. It’s unrealistic to expect that anyone can completely empathize. My feelings are a combination of relief, ecstasy, closure, sadness and satisfaction.

When I began my research into the Holocaust and World War II, I did not do so with the intention of writing this book or any other. In fact, I was learning as much as I could to help the gentleman whom I helped write a biography as a veteran and retired law enforcement officer. But as I continued to read, I soon recognized that while I had no ability to change the past, anything I could contribute would have the inevitable effect of making my statement to the future.

As I prepare for the next book, (part of a trilogy), I must reevaluate my motives and desired outcomes. Commercial success has never been and will never be one of my objectives. Achieving a level of knowledge on my subject, however, is intoxicating. Because I learned so much in writing Two papas – a tale of impossible Holocaust survival, how will I grow or be more fulfilled by the next phase of my authorial journey? From this vantage point, growth and gratification are inevitable.

Although some say that we spend too much time analyzing the Holocaust, I don’t believe that it is possible to know or say too much. And so I reach a few conclusions:

The process of researching, planning and creating the next book will represent a huge positive process for me. My hope is that many will appreciate the work and learn something important from it.

When I stop writing for whatever reason, I will feel confident that I have done everything possible to live up to my life’s philosophy – to inform and to educate. If you are entertained, enlightened or inspired along the way, I cannot possibly ask for more. Shalom.

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Growing forward

How old were you when people stopped asking what you wanted to be when you grew up? The question changes as you add years to your life but the older we become, the more prevalent the belief that we no longer need to wonder about our dreams.

Now I am thinking that we need to ask ourselves frequently, regardless of our ages, what we want from life that we don’t have. The reasons why our goals are unrealized can be simple or complex. But I suggest that aspiring to something (anything) is healthy, productive and quite rewarding.

Let’s back up a bit. When we entered college, many of us were quite focused about our career aspirations. In my case, I was determined to become a high school literature teacher. Some of that came to pass although I admit to having flirted with anthropology, journalism and law school.

While we may not need to make similar decisions later in life, not having to make a choice of careers doesn’t mean the same as mentally retiring. If your job doesn’t make you happy, what kind of activity would? Maybe you have always wanted to raise cocker spaniels. Maybe you wanted to grow orchids. Or maybe you’ve wanted to run a marathon.

All or any of those are aspects of growing forward (self-actualization, if you prefer). It often has nothing to do with money. In other words, you might not need a multi-acre estate to have a kennel. Most likely, you can do it on a smaller scale. Raising orchids would probably require less capital. And as far as running a marathon, it may be advisable to begin with a 5K or 10K before you tackle 26 miles.

What do you want to do or be when you grow up, whether it’s 20 years or 20 days from now? It is a better time to think of growing forward rather than growing up. This may be the best chance you will have to fill your life with puppies instead of regrets. Shalom.