Wednesday, June 9, 2021

SERVING YOUR COUNTRY AND COMMUNITY

Several years ago I was confronted by a (distant) relative who had very honorably served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.  Without taking any merit from him, in his position, he saw NO action. His complaint however was that his service was “REAL" when compared to the pride I took in several members of my family who were 1st Responders, both volunteer and career. I haven't spoken with him since.

Just this week I read a Facebook spat where two men were disputing local leadership decisions. One man backed up his claims with actual township ordinances, the other man's only claim to his opinion was “and where did you serve?”

I have enormous respect for all of the men and women who have served in our country's Armed Forces… both my Dad and my Father-in-law were wounded WW2 vets, and I take pride in multiple members of my family who are currently serving in different branches of our military. I know of many who did not give time in the military, some by personal choice and some that could not for various reasons such as health.

In addition to the appreciation I feel towards our military, I CANNOT refute the value, heroism and sacrifices made by our 1st Responders in protecting our homeland. How can you possibly discount the important contributions made by our firefighters, EMS, and police, both paid and volunteer, in incidents like 9/11, the Covid pandemic, and a slew of devastating natural disasters in recent years?

When my Dad built his after-military life, he joined NYC's Civilian Defense for Operation Alert during a time when Americans feared nuclear war.  Years later the Civilian Defense was taken over by the NYC Police Department and the organization was renamed the Auxiliary Police. My Dad continued volunteering and attained the rank of Auxiliary before his premature death in 1977. He was honored by the Jewish War Veterans of America in 1974 for both his military service and his continued commitment to his community. Even though he served in multiple wartime campaigns, he still felt he had the responsibility to help his community.

Our parents instilled a strong commitment to community in both my sister and me as well. My sister became a Candy-Striper at the local hospital. Even my disabled Mom joined a community watch group and later volunteered to type mailing labels for an animal shelter. I joined the Auxiliary Police and served in my Dad's unit. By the way,  that is where I met my husband; he has also dedicated much of his life to community service from the Auxiliary Police, to EMS, to disaster medical response wherever needed. And we raised our offspring to give of themselves. Today they and their spouses are career members of multiple 1st response agencies; they have saved lives, property, and have protected our communities and nation.

So while I am damn proud of my family and friends who have served in the military, I also have great respect and gratitude for everyone who serves to protect, strengthen and better our communities and country from within.

  




Wednesday, June 2, 2021

War Stories

With Memorial Day just behind us, I couldn't help but remember sitting and listening to both my Dad and my Father-in-law telling AND RETELLING their favorite WW2 war stories. Although they certainly avoided some of the gorier and distressing points, they were always excited to brag about their heroics and laugh about exploits they shared with their comrades-in-arms.

 

It's not just soldiers who boast about their adventures and take pride in their experiences.  I am very proud to be a part of a first response family… heck, I spent nearly three decades as an EMT myself. While my husband and I  are now the “old, retired folk", our four kids (two born in and two joined by love) are all in various forms of first response.

 

Being seated around us in a restaurant or such must be surrealistic as invariably one of us starts off a story with “remember that time when…”. And of course we can't completely contain our laughter when we recall some of the funnier incidents. Of course we are all still bound by privacy laws so no personal information ever gets out there.

 

Of course it's not just military or emergency responders who do a  bit of bragging, lol. Within our family we've been regaled with stories of courtroom drama that could rival the best episodes of “Bull". We've also been treated to the literal ups and downs of elevator repair and so much more. Tales of our exploits, the people we've encountered, and the things we have done make us who we are.

 

Everybody wants the opportunity to know that something they have done has made a positive difference in someone's life. Boasting may not be considered a virtue, but it is just being human to pat yourself on the back a bit and want to share with those around you.

 

So the next time you hear someone's stories of their exploits, take a moment to listen.




Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Highs and Lows

 

Many times in life we can have both moments of happiness and moments that bring us tears. It isn't an easy choice which moment to focus on, but if you find yourself always ignoring your joys and dwelling on your sorrows then you never experience happiness.

 

Everybody has disappointments, losses and worries in their life — but also we find reasons to smile and feel content. Never forget the happiness you’ve shared with someone even on the day that they are no longer be with you, embrace your memories to find strength and hope. In Judaism it is common to offer condolences with the words “May his/her memory forever be a blessing”; these words are meant to help the survivors live their lives remembering not only the happiness they shared, but also encouraging them to live the kind of life the lost loved one would want “you” to have. By focusing on the good times and appreciating the principles taught, you find strength to go on and make your life worth so much.

 

It isn’t only death where we need to focus on GOOD THINGS, it’s every morning you rise to enjoy the sunlight on your face, every evening you find the softness of a pillow to comfort you as you sleep; appreciate every meal as if it were a banquet while it assuages any hunger pains; don’t envy your neighbor for their shiny new car in the driveway when you can sleep in and maybe work from home instead of navigating a traffic jam on your way to work; and enjoy the cuddles of a pussycat instead of bemoaning your temporary loneliness. I learned painstakingly to never say “this is the worst it could be” instead of focusing on the things I did have, don’t make that mistake.

 

It is alright to wish for more, but don’t ignore the things you do have already. Never turn your back on the good things that come your way, don’t be envious of what someone else has and instead acknowledge all the things you do have. And here’s a little thing I’ll let you in on, there is always somebody out there who is envious of the things YOU have. Unfortunately, it seems to be human nature to not only be VERY aware of the negative things around us, but to dwell on them as well. Shiny and ritzy are not necessarily signs of success, money has never guaranteed happiness. Look around you and chances are that you will see good things, things to make you smile, things to comfort, and things that bring you satisfaction and happiness.

 

While you are appreciating your own “good things”, try taking the time to give a stranger a smile, to let a service worker know you appreciate their efforts, to hug your loved ones, and even cuddle with your fur-babies… you just might make someone else’s day. Spread the joy. There’s a reason the word SMILE has a “mile” in it, it goes a long way.

 


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

MAKING LIFE EASY on YOURSELF


Whether you want to call it “empowerment” or simply just liking and accepting yourself for the way you are, having confidence in WHO you really are and knowing your strengths and abilities can help you live a more satisfying and less-stressful existence.

 

Understand that…

Number-one, YOU can’t do it all, sometimes you need a bit of help.

And number-two, YOU don’t know EVERYTHING.

Taking charge of yourself and being responsible for living the life you want to live does NOT mean that you become that proverbial island that needs no one else. It does mean that YOU are the “Expert of You”, you are capable of making your own decisions, enjoying your own personal likes, and CAN take care of yourself to the best of your ability; yes, sometimes you are allowed to accept a helping hand. Sometimes it is even okay to allow yourself to be pampered a bit and enjoy having someone do something for you.

 

Start your journey towards self-empowerment by examining you: What are your skills and knowledge? What can you do to learn who to do things you want or need done? And who do you have around that can help guide you through new experiences? Make a list of REASONABLE goals for yourself — and by setting a goal, make a plan, set a schedule, and don’t be afraid to revise your list of goals every few months or so.

 

Being reasonable also means that you are honest in assessing your own abilities. Not everyone has the necessary physical strength to move furniture, or is tall enough to reach that top shelf without a step-stool, and not everyone can drive a car (just a few things…). Maybe you do have a “disability”, but most disabilities should not make you totally dependent on others to do simple tasks. What kinds of workarounds can you come up with to level the playing field? Again, what are things you CAN learn to do? You would be surprised how many wives and husbands have no idea how to even balance a checkbook or be able to contact their financial institution for necessary paperwork.

 

If you are in a relationship, you probably find that you like doing things for each other. My late parents used to tell everyone that my mom treated my dad “like a king”, but also my dad treated my mom “like a queen”. Sharing life and doing things for each other out of love, enjoyment and comfort is pretty darn terrific. BUT, never become so dependent that you turn your partner into a “servant” and you forget how to do things for yourself. Relationships should be reciprocal but never a crutch.

 

Positivity is a major factor in self-empowerment. Be positive about you, acknowledge your strengths and don’t dwell on your limits. Avoid negativity, both your own and the people around you. Voice YOUR thoughts, you don’t need permission to speak up about something you like or want. Don’t be afraid to speak up, throw in choices, make decisions and more. Let go of mistakes and disappointments of the past and find things to look forward to in the near future. Don’t worry about what others think, you are the one who lives with you. Recognize all the things you have to be happy about or at least content. Be assertive. Trust your close relationships.


When you feel good about yourself life really can become easier to deal with.



 

 

 

 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Tearing Others Down

Remember all those movies where the “popular girls” ostracized the one they considered to be an “oddball” — maybe the ostracized girl had the audacity to show up in hand-me down clothes or spoke out in defense of another cast-out student. Sometimes these weren’t just movie themes, sometimes they were painful realities that we may have had happen to ourselves, or sadly, maybe we were the ones who feared being ostracized and went along with the crowd even though we knew it hurt.

 

In many ways this is how today’s “Cancel Culture” works. People, ideologies, books, movies and companies are cast out based on an OPINION and often not actually tried and convicted. In a July 2020 article in Psychology Today, Cancel Culture is explained, “Canceling begins with a real or perceived transgression by the canceled entity that the canceler observes or is made aware of and deems to be serious. The transgression can be about anything such as the violation of a strongly held political value or a social justice value that the canceler deems to be significant... Social canceling is not based on a balanced assessment of the transgression or any absolute criterion of wrongdoing. Because it's a visceral response and relies on one particular shared understanding of the transgression, one side of the story so to speak, every canceling campaign is necessarily grounded in bias.”

 

And therein lies the danger, it may be one person’s supposed act, an assumed intent, an otherwise innocent lapse of judgement that sparks the canceling or ostracizing. There is no judge and jury to decide, there is no chance of defense, and often there is no chance of redemption. And what might offend one or some really seems to have no effect on others.

 

We need to exercise sensitivity and respect towards others. We need to educate ourselves about the social mores of different groups and understand how some traditions may be purely innocent in their intent. We need to respect everyone’s right to an opinion and to a large extent their right to free speech — of course we also need to be aware that IF we find our actions are offensive then we need to change them. And if we are offended by someone’s unintentional offense, it is our obligation to say something in a non-combative way at which time we should be able to expect their consideration in the future.

 

There are certainly actions which are known to be wrong, which will hurt others and if we flagrantly ignore those hurts, then of course we are in the wrong. But if someone makes an otherwise innocent mistake, let’s not become the stereotyped “popular kids” and cast out others without regard for their feelings.

 


 

 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Bone Tired Weariness

 When the days just seem to run into one another and sleep eludes you at night, every action is just... so... tiring.


When I know I have so many things to do, it's hard to turn my mind off and enjoy that much needed sleep. The next day, everything just d r a g s. Getting anything really accomplished the next day seems almost, if not totally, impossible.


How do YOU deal with a sleepless night? Do you imagine lying on a beach with toes in the sand and the warm sun shining on your face? Or maybe you are one of those who will pretend to be riding in a slow, topless elevator and watching the top of the elevator shaft grow smaller and smaller. Maybe calming music will help you to drift off...


Or perhaps you check the clock after forcing yourself to lie still for most of the night only to find it's a mere eight minutes since you looked last.


As you go through the next day feeling so, so drained and you spy that young child who can just curl himself up and drift into slumber and you feel such incredible envy — and you can't avoid those feelings of guilt over that envy of an innocent child.


We need to find ways to turn off our minds so that we can be rested when sunlight comes again. Rested, productive, feeling accomplished, being positive... such lofty goals.


Instead of dwelling on all of the things you need to get done TOMORROW, think of what you accomplished today. Make a plan and then store it away so your body can have time to recharge. Whether you pray or simply "talk to yourself", express your gratitude for everything good in your life and congratulate yourself for making yesterday doable and productive.


Try spending a few quiet moments to meditate  before actually crawling under the bedtime blankets, think positive thoughts and remind yourself of the things you DID accomplish (and not just how much more you need to get done). Close your eyes and find a "Happy Place" where you can picture yourself stretching out and relaxing.


And when you wake in the morning and find that you aren't really dragging... well that is just one more accomplishment to think about when you turn off your mind.


Have a GREAT Day!







Wednesday, April 28, 2021

KARMA and LIFE

 

I try to make a habit of NEVER wishing harm on others, okay, I admit, sometimes that is hard, but…  Instead, I wish for everyone to get out of this world what they put into it — and yes, I guess that sometimes that means I am wishing them harm. I consider it KARMA, let G-d (or whatever higher power you may believe in) sort it out. Karma is associated with the idea of rebirth in many Indian religions, in our Western culture we generally refer to it as “Consequences”.

 

Karma means action, work, or deed. The term also refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect, often descriptively called the principle of karma, wherein intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect): good intent and good deeds contribute to good karma and happier rebirths, while bad intent and bad deeds contribute to bad karma and bad rebirths.” en.wikipedia.org

 

I swear that I have seen Karma at work, sometimes it takes a while, but it does come back. I have personally seen someone make unfounded accusations of a crime against someone else and then had to sit by as his own son got arrested for theft; then there was another who was threatened with arrest himself when he tried to cover up his son’s crimes. I’ve heard of folks who treated family members with callousness only to find themselves lost when they lose their relationships. It’s seems to be true, when you live a life filled with venom and malice, it really does come back to bite you.  

 

I’ve tried to live my life by the Golden Rule, something my parents taught me, treat others as you yourself want to be treated. Now living a good and kind life does not prevent tears and pain in your own life, but I do believe a good life will help you find peace and comfort as you shoulder your burdens, and that is certainly far better than living with guilt, fear, and darkness. Living by the Golden Rule can literally make you feel good about yourself. Yes, it is still frustrating when you come across someone who does you dirty, but really you should feel sorry for the way they live their lives.

 

I just attended a portion of the Nobel Prize Summit: Our Planet, Our Future and listened to a comment the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet made, (I am paraphrasing), “Stop thinking about Me, Me, Me… Instead think about HUMANITY. That’s the way to find true happiness.”

 

Think about others, be good to all — people (both family and strangers), nature, animals, and our earth. Share as you can and accept others whether or not they look like you or sound like you. Be better and be happier in your life. Help make this a better world.