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.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Simplify

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

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.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

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.

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

Original

Is there a difference between emulating, copying and imitating? We all do one form or another of this. Every time I hear “a ton” of something in a written or television piece, I cringe. This is an example of someone or many imitating a word usage that is far beyond cliché, all the way into trite.

But what happens if you wear something I like and I want some item of clothing that is similar? It seems to me that if I buy an article that is exactly the same, I am copying you. If I buy an item that is similar, I am emulating. And with the possibility that I am poking fun or criticizing (not necessarily your taste in clothing), I am imitating.

This is fun because I am so specific about the words I use. To many others, the words may be interchangeable. And sometimes, the differences between them get blurry, depending on the age and sophistication of people involved.

Very often, I hear “don’t copy me” in the classroom. It rarely means, don’t write what I just wrote as compared to don’t do what I just did. Kids often decide that they are saying or doing something special and unique. Anyone who attempts a similar action or speech pattern is committing the infraction of copying.

If we make the comparison larger in scope, civil disobedience is copied or imitated behavior, but not emulated. But let’s not forget that imitation is reputedly the highest form of flattery. Does that mean that if you riot in your city, I am flattering you by rioting in mine? I think not.

The proverbial bottom line is that the behavior is copied if I don’t like it (or it’s illegal in the form of plagiarism). If it’s flattering, you are emulating me. You may be complimenting my style or methods or something I cannot identify. If you are imitating me, my best guess is that it’s a form of compliment, as long as it’s not verbatim imitation, another word for theft.

Most likely, I’ll probably engage in more word dissections as time continues. In the interim, feel free to ask for assistance rather than copying (appropriating) what I do. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Fear

What is it about fear that makes it easy to describe when we’re young and less so as we become older? It may be the fact that children have no reluctance about saying whatever is on their minds. Adults learn to develop filters that prevent them from saying many things, especially those that represent any appearance of weakness.

The best way I can describe this is by using myself as an example. On the most basic level, I am seriously afraid of rodents. While I’m not entirely sure why this is true, mice and rats have always seemed to be sneaky, evil creatures to be avoided.

Beyond that, I am much more private about my fears and I think that the same is true of most adults. Some of us fear death while others see it as another, perhaps peaceful life chapter. In the same sense, some of us fear dependence upon others while some have confidence that either they will not arrive at dependency or that those closest to them will provide support in a manner that preserves dignity and respect.

Much of our willingness or unwillingness to discuss our fears depends on the person listening. We’re not going to tell our neighbors about our most private and sensitive thoughts as much as we do our spouses, children and best friends.

I believe that it benefits us and those closest to us to ponder both our fears and our most sincere hopes. For instance, I hope to return to Europe for a visit to some specific locations, especially in Italy. But I don’t spend my energy on being afraid that I won’t get there. Along the same lines, I fervently hope that my recently completed book will be published and then purchased by those who can best benefit from it. But I refuse to be afraid that its publication will not come to pass.

As I feel is the case with many negative expenditures of time, fear of anything doesn’t work toward anything positive or desirable. In the classroom, I comfort children who are afraid because consolation is what they need most. Adults with fears – redirect that effort to predicting positive occurrences. The more you plan for them, the less you need to fear that they won’t come to pass. Shalom.

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Pets

Those who enjoy the ownership of pets often comment that they are as much a part of the family as children. In fact, if you ask many of them, they will refer to cats, dogs and other pets as their babies.

Because I’m not an expert on the presence or absence of souls, I cannot attest to whether or not pets have souls. The only reason I mention this is because we know for certain that pets have feelings and are capable of showing remorse, sympathy or affection.

My daughter recently disclosed the comments of her local vet who is treating her mini donkey for some sort of disease. Apparently, the disease is serious enough to warrant a specialist, in addition to other veterinary care. But when my daughter expressed concern for the donkey, her vet responded, “He’s only a donkey.” Wow.

For those who want to suggest that donkeys have no particular purpose or justification, I would respond, “What household tasks does your Siamese, toucan or lizard perform?” This little guy whom we’ll call JJ, is a treasured member of the family and is treated accordingly.

If you are a vet inclined to suggest, “He’s only a donkey,” what animals justify your obvious elite status? And what good does JJ need to fulfill in this family other than being a sweet little critter who brings enjoyment to adults and kids in the family.

On my daughter’s behalf, I issue this objection to the cruelty imposed by the vet who dismisses JJ as well as the copious family members or acquaintances who might suggest that JJ is worthless because he doesn’t do any sort of job. Save your commentary. What do the rest of the animals tended by the vet contribute to the greater good?

We don’t know if JJ has a soul or not, just as we don’t know if he is able to sense an air of disregard delivered by the vet. So let’s treat our animals with kindness, regardless of size, species or social status. This is a sweet little guy who means quite a bit to a select few people who mean a great deal to me. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

If I didn’t write

What would I do if I didn’t write? The art or practice of writing assumes two things – one is that the writer has the skills and vocabulary to write. The second assumption is that someone or multiples of people want to read what is written.

And what if, for some or any reason, the writer can or will no longer write. One might reasonably ask about what happens to the thoughts, feelings, ideas and observations that were previously expressed by keyboard. In my case, I’ve been writing this or that for so long, I can’t imagine not doing it.

Maybe painters, potters, sculptors, composers, musicians, landscape artists and architects express all of those commodities within their proprietary art forms. As a non-participant in any of them, I can’t have a reliable opinion. And so, I continue to wonder.

Because I can’t draw, sculpt, landscape or create architecture, none of those are viable for me. There are many more people out there who don’t write than those who do, many of whom appear to lead normal or acceptable lives but that doesn’t provide me with an attractive alternative. At this point, I’m thinking that it’s a bit late in my life to pursue formal training in any of the arts (other than music, in which I am going to perform as long as my vocal cords will allow). That leaves me to find other forms of self-expression if I elect to discontinue writing.

What if I created a combination Lego/Scrabble game where I could attach words to puzzle pieces and create three-dimensional poetry? It sounds good but I would need to create hundreds of pieces or restrict myself to very few words. And I am still writing.

Then there is the option of a pseudonym. In this case, I write the work, create an author name and see how people respond to that person’s name and work. But there is a problem here as well. Whether the literature is loved, hated or ignored, I still retain ownership. And I am still writing.

And so, it seems likely that I’ll stick with what I know. That should include fans, non-fans and those who are absolutely indifferent. But I will have satisfied my muse and use the best outlet available to express what is in my mind and my soul. Shalom.

 

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Enough is enough

Finishing something as formidable as a book, the book that I have described as the defining work of my life, is a process leaving me extremely ambivalent. On the one hand, I am confident that the story is told, the critical points have been made and I have adequately covered the book’s central meaning. The expression that occurs to me is one that I heard frequently as a child, “Enough is enough.” From the competing perspective, how many areas could I expand or improve? It is a certainty that the book will undergo two or three or more edits before it is published and that should sufficient.

Enough is enough is an intriguing concept for me, especially right now. Arguably, there are entities or actions that can reach the state of enough. These would include learning, giving, teaching, traveled, observed and saved. At this moment, however, I could make a good case for the fact that we can have enough of very few things.

Is there such a thing as too much kindness? How about tolerance, generosity, contemplation, worship, gratitude, patience and love? Is it possible to love too much? In other words, I’m of the opinion that the quality of “enoughness” is  very rarely seen and desired less than it is observed.

Some might believe that I have taught enough for one lifetime. To that I say a hearty “no,” primarily because I love the entire process. Almost daily, I get an indescribable opportunity to encourage a child to reach for the moon and accomplish much more than anyone thinks he or she can. Does my health determine when I’ve taught enough? My answer is only when it prevents me from walking around a classroom. On a daily basis I miss being with my students.

Likewise, can we garden to the point of enough? Watching plants of all varieties grow is a joy that should have no limits, other than those dictated by space or budget. We cherish our family members but that process will never be more than enough. The same is true for feeling good, supporting the causes in which we believe and in my case, writing.

As I remember, the occasions for which I heard “enough is enough” probably had to do with spending money, staying up past bedtime or some other mundane context. And so I recommend, don’t let the idea of enough keep you from doing what you love and what makes you happy. There will never be enough tomorrows for you to run out of options. Shalom.