Wednesday, June 24, 2020


Karma (car-ma) is a word meaning
the result of a person's actions as well as the actions themselves. It is a term about the cycle of cause and effect. According to the theory of Karma, what happens to a person, happens because they caused it with their actions.

So does Karma really exist?

On the one hand if bad things only happen to people who do bad things, then how come some good people experience bad things in their lives? On the other hand it seems to be a source of comfort to believe that evil isn’t rewarded but rather punished. And how evil is evil, is it merely a fleeting thought caused by anger or hurt, is it an accidental hurt you do to someone else, or is it a calculated and hurtful act without remorse?

In 1981 Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote When Bad Things Happen to Good People; the book was touted as “a source of solace and hope”. The good Rabbi helped to dispel the idea that people were being punished and had no control over the heartbreaking events that might happen to them. He spoke of religion and the reality that G-d was not omnipotent — indeed He made mankind to have free will, but He was not vengeful.

Whatever your personal belief is about Karma and living “The Golden Rule” it can be both comforting and frightening to think that every action you take will either come back to pat you on the back or to kick you in the arse! Certainly when someone seems to go out of their way to do you harm it is a comfort to think of that individual getting their so-called just desserts.

Personally I believe that I have seen Karma come into play many times. If I have been unfortunate enough to bear the brunt of someone’s harmful actions, I have honestly felt, and in my opinion actually seen, the individual receive payback. I truly don’t wish for anyone to suffer harm (okay, brief moments of anger… maybe), but one of my thoughts about everyone doing good or bad is “May you receive three times what you put into this world”. It may not happen instantly, but I’ve often felt the satisfaction (and belief) of seeing it happen.

As an author I get personal satisfaction when I write about a villain “getting his/hers”. In my novel Bartlett’sRule the villain dies in an ACCIDENT where the hero is involved, while he does try (unsuccessfully) to save the villain the hero feels no true remorse over the man’s death. A few readers questioned my tactics. The villain really was a terrible person who had caused irreparable harm to someone that the hero loved. It was suggested that maybe I should have just sent the villain to prison and then, much to my surprise, they spoke of the atrocities the villain might suffer in prison as payback! (My gosh some of the things…)

In Judaism (the faith I practice) every year on Yom Kippur we ask for forgiveness from those who we’ve wronged and we forgive those who have wronged us… ideally you should actually be repentant and gracious and you should try not to repeat your misdeeds. Whether it is because of your religious belief or just a case of good conscience, I kind of like a world where we own what we do and try to be better.

And you never know, maybe Karma is a real thing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

High Anxiety

Having extreme fears, or phobias, can be life-stopping. Some phobias may seem foolish to others, but they are not foolish or funny to the person who is suffering.

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is a fear of long words, wow, that’s a really long word to describe that fear — it’s almost scary to even try to pronounce it; by the way it’s “hippo-poto-monstro-sis-cupid-ali-o-phobia”. Why would someone have such a fear? Understanding the possible reason(s) might make others feel a bit more indulgent and could help ease someone’s phobia. No matter how ironic the description is, the fear is real to the person who is suffering.

Phobias can affect a person physically, mentally and emotionally. Symptoms like rapid heartbeats, nausea, sweating, anxiety, feeling terrified, crying, avoidance and embarrassment can suddenly take hold of an individual who is scared and triggered by his fear. No one is born with a phobia, it can be caused by an unpleasant incident, pain or loss. The child who sees their house on fire may easily develop a fear of fire (Pyrophobia). If a person has been injured in a crowd, they might develop Enochlophobia, and avoid possible crowded situations; this may be similar to Agoraphobia which is a fear of being trapped in a dangerous and uncontrollable situation. Agnosiophobia is a fear of not knowing what’s going to happen and can be paralyzing as the victim subconsciously wants to avoid an previous unpleasant occurrence.

The human mind reacts to everything its owner has lived through. The anxiety that fear causes is not something that will respond to logic, lecturing, and definitely not scolding. A phobia is a disorder that affects a person’s ability to cope with certain situations, it is more than just a fear like screaming on a roller coaster. Anxiety caused by a phobia can often feel like impending doom and it is not easily controlled or can be forced to be ignored. People with phobias often know that their fear is irrational, but it is real to them.

If you are with a person experiencing a panic attack from a phobia, let them know they can talk with you about it and don’t be angry if they choose not to. Don’t try to badger them with “common sense” or tell them they have no reason to be so scared, don’t try to bully them into being “normal”. Don’t bring up their phobia just because you want to talk about it, that can actually trigger their anxiety; however it is okay to let them know you are there (in person or by phone) to talk anytime they need to. If that person suddenly gets irritable during a panic attack, be quick to forgive them. Find things to do as friends with the individual who suffers, but don’t try to push them into a triggering event.

Phobias and anxiety can take time to cure or even get control of, don’t expect that they will suddenly get over it. Often the best option for someone paralyzed by their fears is to talk with a professional therapist — be supportive of their efforts. Be aware that someone’s anxiety could have a negative effect on you and if it does a therapist or support group may be able to help you cope with your friend or loved one’s emotions. Anxiety is treatable and someone you care about is certainly worth the time. Be a friend.


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

It’s My Life

As I wrote in my post “Heritage” I’ve been researching my genealogy. I feel so blessed to have made connections that I never had any idea about before. I’ve met cousins (often 3rd through…) and we’ve shared stories which are amazing!

One of the most astonishing things I’ve found are so many similarities, so often I find we think alike and even share favorite expressions — even though we’ve never met before, and often the generation before us had no interaction either. Our mutual likes, dislikes, and even political views really makes me believe in genetic memory!

Now I admit I am not the first one of my relatives to have pursued building a family tree. Many years ago, about a decade, a cousin on my mom’s paternal side tracked down and recorded EIGHT generations! It was a monumental task. Ironically the family tree showed a connection to a person I had known for a few years… talk about a small world.

But there are more trees that intertwine to make me who I am and I have started researching more on my mom’s maternal side. To be perfectly honest my mother was raised in the same small town where many of these people once resided and so many of them remembered her as a child (unfortunately she passed away several years before this cousin reached out to my sister and me). But I’ve formed precious friendships (several through the convenience of the internet).

My dad’s side was quite a bit more challenging as he grew up in a broken home (and again, he passed away rather early as well) so it hasn’t been easy to find out much. Unfortunately the few generations before me have thinned and not a lot of information has been available. I recently found out that my paternal grandfather had a sister but aside from having the name of the man she married I couldn’t find out anything else about her.

Surprisingly, the one grandparent I had little hope of tracking, my dad’s mother, has recently been the newest “tree” in my history. Thanks to that DNA test I took (23andme) I connected with a lovely cousin. We are close in age and grandchildren of sisters. She and I have shared several wonderful conversations about ourselves, our (current) families and so many of the family names that have repeated themselves in both of our lines. This cousin has been involved in a rather extensive family tree which, to my surprise, actually included my parents although neither my sister nor I were known about.

I never could figure out how one figures out anything beyond first cousins – so whether any of these lovely folks I am connected to are related two generations, or longer, ago, we have just all chosen to drop the numerical value of “cousin”. Trying to figure out the number of “great(s)” that comes before a mutual grandparent AND figuring out if you are of the same generation or not gives me a headache. I just prefer to call each relative COUSIN.

Aside from having this yearning to find out more of my roots, I am hoping o compile a bit of a book which I can pass down to my own children, nieces and nephews to help keep the family story very much alive. I know I have a lot of work to do but I am looking forward to this task because, well, THIS IS MY LIFE!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Land of the Free and Brave???

In many ways I grew up a bit sheltered — not sheltered from some of the ugliness in the world, but sheltered in that my folks told me that mankind was ultimately good and that things in this country were improving.

While I would never think that the prejudices I did experience in my formative and young adult years were as much as other minorities, I was always aware of the different ways we were treated because our dad was Puerto Rican (raised in PR and NYC) and our mom was a southern white girl who was transplanted to New York. By the way, we were also a Jewish family.

We frequently traveled to the south to visit mommy’s family and we’d laugh because my dad always had her drive through some of the southern states (now I realize it wasn’t so funny, he was genuinely scared of being stopped by a southern state trooper with his dark skin). I remember walking into a diner when I was young and noticing that none of the black families were seated in the same areas as the white families; I also know how heavy my mom laid on her thick southern drawl when the wait staff looked at my dad with questions. My parents agreed that things were improving, everyone was at least allowed to come in and have a meal. I was happy to hear my parents talk so positively. Then, I was just ten years old when a church in Mississippi was bombed and four young black girls were killed, one of them was only a year older than me.

When I was in Junior High School I met my first real boyfriend, Steve, he was blonde haired and blue eyed and oh so cute. We walked to a local bowling alley for our first date and on our way home again we saw his mom on the street. She frowned when she saw me and when my boyfriend proudly introduced me by name, she looked angry when she heard my last name, Cordero. That evening I got a phone call from him, he sounded upset when he told me that he couldn’t see me anymore. I didn’t know why and he wouldn’t tell me. A fellow classmate explained it to me a few days later, Steve wasn’t allowed to go out with a Hispanic (although that was not the term that was used).

As I grew into my teen years my parents were more open about prejudice, its ugliness and the injustices people suffered. And I had become more aware of the tensions in my school when students from other schools were bussed in all in the name of integration. There were a lot of people who weren’t happy and a lot of the new students kept to themselves. Meanwhile I was beginning to feel the way others viewed my ethnicity and who I was. As a (half) Hispanic, “white” Jewish teenage girl I found myself being ostracized my many of the other groups — I wasn’t Spanish enough, I was too white, I was too non-white, I was Jewish and the local parochial schools where teaching that the Jews killed Christ, and being a girl I was excluded from many sports activities at school.

In 1968 when so many cities were rioting, I visited my grandmother living in Miami, I enjoyed sun tanning on the beach. On the way back to NY we visited family in South Carolina. My cousin and I were walking down the street when suddenly there was a huge fuss. I couldn’t understand why I was being called ugly names, we hadn’t done anything. Cops were called and my cousin and I were forcefully separated. A black police officer pushed me into the street while I heard my cousin yelling (in her thick southern accent) “But she’s white!” Suddenly my cousin broke through and pulled on my T-shirt to expose the tan lines from the bathing suit straps.

The black police officer literally fell to his knees and apologized telling me over and over again he needed his job. (The Kennedy-era Civil Rights movement enabled the hiring of black officers, but this small southern town restricted them from laying hands on any white person.) I shrugged and told the cop I was okay and he actually thanked me. I was in shock, because of my darker skin, partially due to the sun tan, and my naturally curly, kinky hair I was mistaken as being black. I had an insight into the prejudice many blacks suffered… and that was only for a few minutes of my life. I thank the good Lord every day for giving me that experience.

I grew up and got married to a really super guy, his family came from northern Europe and a few folks snidely remarked that he was marrying a non-white. It didn’t bother him and I really never thought of myself as being “white” or not. Recently I’ve been delving into my family genealogy and found several documents including both my dad’s and my father-in-law’s WW2 military records; my fil is listed as White and my dad is listed as Non-White. I also submitted a DNA test; I am a mixture of northern European, Ashkenazi Jew, Spanish, African and Native American. I am damn proud of everything I am. I would imagine that most of us have quite an unexpected mix as well. In America there are too many people who don’t want to accept differences and I would find it amusing to know the DNA background of some of our bigots.

But I will never find it amusing that someone of color is looked down simply for their skin color. And I find it tremendously sad that black parents have to teach their children the seven words (yes sir, no sir, thank you sir) and pray that they will be able to come home every night. Prejudice has no place in “the land of the free”.

RIP George Floyd