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.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

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.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

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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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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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.

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Patience

During one of my recent sojourns of solitude, I had the time and motivation to think about life now and in the future. It’s true that I have multiple memories in which to immerse myself but at this point, I am more concerned about those events to come than those that have already come to pass.

A word that recurred in my thoughts was patience. This is an attribute to which I always and continuously aspire, personally and professionally. The danger, it seems, is to confuse patience with postponement. As it concerns the publication of my book, I must remain conscientious about being patient rather than inactive.

And so it occurred to me to wonder if I have the right to ask others close to me to have patience, both in their dealings with me and with others. The best example of this is my recent observation that when you marry for the second (or third) time, having been married before gives you no expertise whatsoever in being married to the current spouse. And so, if I was married for x number of years to someone else, that has nothing whatsoever to do with my current marriage during which I continuously seek patience.

At no time have I wondered about the virtue or lack of virtue in the practice of patience. My best guess is that it’s a given, in the same realm as kindness, loyalty, fidelity and generosity, among others. And so, I continue to practice at being patient, very often with myself. When you have sent query letters to literary agents or publishers as I have, the warning that you may not hear anything for three or four months makes patience mandatory.

Try as I may, I can’t think of any way to become more patient than to practice it by being silent when I am feeling impatient with someone else. And when it has to do with me, I remind myself that good things rarely happen quickly or spontaneously. The good news is that if we don’t work on patience and other goals, we have no ways to benefit ourselves or those whom we influence. Shalom.

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The bright side

Within the next day or two, I will have the experience of completing one of the most powerful and compelling books I’ve ever read. While. Look forward to seeing how the book ends, I will be sorry that the entire reading process will be over.

One of the memorable scenes in the book takes place in Kabul. To make it briefer than the moment deserves, it depicts a young woman who has endured extreme hardships and endless physical attacks from her husband. She is returning to Kabul and observes that she loves everything about the city – the smells, sights, sounds and overall ambience of the city. As one who has lived in one city or another for my entire life, I was struck by the power of loving everything around you, regardless of the details.

It subsequently occurred to me that life would be powerfully changed if we could emulate this behavior in our ongoing, routine lives. For instance, it would be a process of never issuing negativity or displeasure with anything, regardless of the context. That doesn’t mean that we suddenly live in la-la land, where everything is cotton candy and fairy tales. It means simply that we don’t express any negativity that we see, smell or feel.

The idea is tantalizing. Any time that we spend moments with others, we are frequently subjected to such statements as, “I hate this,” or “I can’t stand that” or “That person makes me sick.” While I am not naïve enough to believe that I can make this a universal practice, I can change my own patterns of speech and observe the outcomes.

Yes, I realize that it won’t be easy. But if I am diligent about removing all negative commentary about anyone, anywhere or anything, I can well imagine that those around me will be improved, if only slightly. And practice makes perfect sense. Just as I don’t enjoy hearing about someone else’s prejudice or distaste for something, it follows that people don’t need or want to hear about mine. The most difficult component will be when someone expressing their dislike for someone or something is expecting corroboration which will not be forthcoming from me.

And I will see how it works. My expectation is that the results will all be positive, for me and others. But it is a totally realistic idea that we can improve the world, if only slightly, by withholding negative observations. If I don’t succeed at first, it will be a good thing to try and try again. Shalom.

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Sister Semicolon and Uncle Underscore

For the sake of clarification, the title is derived from an activity I did some time ago. It involved advice to the grammatically challenged and my title was similar to this one.

One of the sites I recently visited talked about reaching out to the “poeple.” Without a lot of work, it’s easily assumed that the person doing this copywriting was trying to say “people.” Either they haven’t established a reliable editor or it’s a country for whom English isn’t a first language. It doesn’t matter. I continue to be surprised at the junk I see published.

Yes, I know that I’ve been on this bandwagon before and that some get tired of hearing about the importance of being right. But if you don’t remember or need a refresher, it is crucial that we pay attention. It’s not a surprise that our language has evolved or devolved since the first people landed at Plymouth Rock. Why do we need to help the process?

As an educator, I am quite particular about the language that my kids use in their essays or paragraphs. That is not age or grade specific. If you are going to write for others to see, it should have the correct punctuation, spelling and grammar. I hear you asking why. If we want to continue communicating with each other, we need to have prototypes and standards. Otherwise, we can choose our own spelling. Words, sentences, paragraphs and entire documents will not be understood.

For instance, if you saw “poeple” or “taht” or “beleiv” in the middle of other non-words, would you have a clue as to what they meant? Maybe. We see all sorts of junk on social media that suggests we are geniuses if we can read a series of gibberish words and know what they mean. Why needs more proof than that of the genius status?

The English language is worth preserving. If you object to my editing, proofreading or correcting, that’s entirely up to you. But words are the most viable tools we have for communicating across distances short and long. If I commit errors, they are not by intention and you may assume that I am always hoping for correctness. Shalom.