Wednesday, July 28, 2021

YELLOW JOURNALISM

 

I work as a part-time journalist as well as a romance author and am I aware that scintillating stories and descriptions allegedly sell books and papers… but I totally detest the concept of “Yellow Journalism”.

 

Yellow journalism and yellow press are American terms for journalism and associated newspapers that present little or no legitimate, well-researched news while instead using eye-catching headlines for increased sales.[  Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism.” (Wikipedia)

 

I want to read or watch the news for facts, details and not just to see people crying or in misery. The recent tragedy in Miami was used by media to attract viewers and readers. It is horrible and sad news about all the people who perished, but very little, if any, news was shared about the heroes who combed through the piles of what was once a building to rescue LIVING beings. Crews came from many places in our nation, they combed through the rubble for, in some cases, people they had never even heard of. Others provided food and shelter to those who lost their home.

 

We heard very little, if anything, about the efforts of rescuers, those who came to offer aid, and tales of families who were fortunate enough to be reunited. I scoured several articles and while I know I didn’t get to all of them, there wasn’t a single mention of the people who were actually saved by heroes. Yes, the tragic facts were that people died, it was unexpected and heartbreaking and by all means important. BUT people also survived and helped others to survive and that is news too.

 

How many times have TV reporters shown up, reported on the “story” and then lengthened their broadcast by thrusting the microphones at crying witnesses and simply asking, over and over again, “How do you feel?” As a former first responder I can tell you that seeing someone die in a tragic accident NEVER feels good… so why keep pressing those who are emotionally hurting to boost ratings with their despair? Stick to the facts, good and bad, to me that’s news.

 

A few decades ago my husband was working as a news photographer for a local newspaper. Part of his job was to listen in on emergency channels and photograph news events as they were happening. There was the one day he came across a devastating house fire. The family, including children and pets, all made it out alive thanks to the heroic actions of the responding firefighters. The house and everything they owned, in the material sense, was gone. 


Mark took dramatic photos of the parents hugging their children with tears running down their faces. He had shots of firefighters covered in soot and still entering the house to save whatever and whoever they could. When he got his photos back to the newspaper editor, the first question the man asked was “Did anybody die?” Mark answered, “No the firefighters saved them all.” The editor gave a simple answer which absolutely stunned my husband, “Too bad. That won’t sell.”

 

Please, News Editors for newspapers and TV media, give us news and facts, not sensationalism. We have enough soap operas and TV dramas to fill our appetites for scandals and tears. Let’s celebrate some of the good that happens, the heroes that come through for us, and the tragedies that “could have been worse” if not for the quick actions and selflessness of others.

 


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

NO MAN IS AN ISLAND

 

Sounds familiar, yes? That is the title of a poem written by John Donne (the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral in London in the early 17th century).

No man is an island,

Entire of itself;

Every man is a piece of the continent, 

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less,

As well as if a promontory were:

As well as if a manor of thy friend's

Or of thine own were.

Any man's death diminishes me,

Because I am involved in mankind.

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.

 

What does this mean? We do not exist by or for ourselves, we are not the only ones who matter. This also means that we tend not to thrive when isolated from our fellow men (& women). Ironic isn’t it how so many of us are still reeling from the isolation we experienced through much of 2020 and part of 2021?

 

It is no wonder that so many of us are ready to “get out into the world”, we need to hug our loved ones, kick up our heels a bit and party, take the family on that exciting vacation and mix with others… Yes, it is time to “live again”, but we still have to be cautious.

 

Just today I read an article how better than half-a-dozen ALREADY VACCINATED people came down with Covid after being a crowded meeting together. Admittedly, there was no report of how many total people there were who were NOT vaccinated. The thing is, is it really so hard to wear a mask for safety in a crowded indoor setting?

 

The vaccines offer up to about 94% immunity, that’s still not 100%, and depending on out individual immune systems, those few points might make a difference. And before you ask why bother getting the vaccine at all, the recorded statistics do show that fully vaccinated folks who do catch Covid-19 generally have milder cases than those without vaccines. And since they have found variants of the virus, we should still take precautions anyway. Down the road we will learn more about boosters and more.

 

It is very scary, but it is scarier to think of a widespread pandemic shutting off our contacts with family and friends again. We are in this all together — like Donne said, “NO man is an island”, so let’s work together and live life TOGETHER… SAFELY. 


Do it for yourself and for those around you.

 

John Donne



Wednesday, July 14, 2021

SAGE WORDS

 

One of the best pieces of advice my late sister ever gave me was “Don’t expect everybody to be you.” My sister was a psychologist and interestingly we were both raised by a former Social Worker, so there was always a lot of advice going around.

 

Our parents raised us with a strong value system and they both believed in the “Golden Rule” – don’t treat others as they may have treated you, treat them as “you would want to be treated”. My sister reinforced that upbringing by reminding me that life was not always Tit-for-Tat, sometimes behavior would be disappointing, but ONLY disappointing if you expected folks to respond/react the way YOU would.

 

In our family at this time of sudden bereavement there have been discussions of “Oh we heard from so & so” or “She/he sent a beautiful card” or “What a beautiful Shiva basket!” (A “Shiva basket” is a way for friends to comfort and care for those who are mourning a loss) Of course, as all humans do, we also realize that we may not have heard from someone whom we had expected to.

 

My sister, Bobi, would explain that some folks cannot handle the idea of loss, either because of their own fears, or maybe they are also in a period of grief and cannot see beyond their own pain. If they have not offered words of comfort or even acknowledged your pain, they may not be able to as compared to not wanting to. Hence, “Don’t expect everybody to be you.”

 

This advice is solid and not just in times of grief. Someone may not react with delight over our accomplishments and joy, and we may feel that it dampens the mood. It is us that makes our own pleasure over happy times and, while it may be nice to receive the proverbial pat on the back, is it really vital? Would it make our own pride less or more? We know in our own hearts how we feel.

 

Sometimes someone we called a friend lets us down such as in the figurative stab-in-the-back. No, it isn’t right, but to react the same way because of disappointment lowers our own standards. While we need to protect ourselves and our loved ones from injury, emotional or physical, there is a level of being ourselves that we must maintain for we are the ones who need to live with ourselves and should not lower standards. True friends will stay by our sides, and those who are not true are not really vital to our day-to-day existence.

 

Don’t expect everybody to be you.”
I thank my sister for teaching me that very important piece of advice.



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Wednesday, July 7, 2021

IT WILL NEVER BE THE SAME

 

 

From early 2020 through spring of 2021, the COVID pandemic brought about so many losses and changes… in less polite terms, COVID was a b*tch!

 

Throughout the pandemic, which affected the entire world and not just our country, we heard of lives lost (sometimes whole families!), financial difficulties, closed businesses, inadequate schooling, jobs gone, and emotional trauma that will last forever. Politics and politicians became part of the blame game. Friends became adversaries about things like masks and vaccines. Increased racism became a focus for anger, fear and blame.

 

There was so much heartache as families could not see each other, grandparents felt forgotten, children only saw friends via computerized apps, and relatives in hospitals and nursing homes were kept isolated from family and friends. Healthcare workers were overtaxed and often driven into despondency because of the emotional toll. While many workers who were still lucky enough to have their jobs worked from home, it changed the relaxing escape to go home at the end of the workday, into the feeling of “living” at your job. Snow days no longer existed since many students were learning from their own homes via computer. And areas without decent internet and computers were often left without schooling, and “ZOOM” family get-togethers.

 

According to reports, here in America, there were 621,633 COVID deaths as of July 7, 2021 — yes, SOME of those who died had “pre-existing conditions”, conditions which they had lived with for many years before COVID struck. There were many TEMPORARY business closures that turned into permanent ones, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report, “the pandemic resulted in the permanent closure of roughly 200,000 U.S. establishments above historical levels during the first year of the viral outbreak”; that is ABOVE the national rate of normal businesses that close for reasons including bankruptcy, retirement, and general demographics. Many EMTs, Paramedics, Healthcare Workers and other First Responders died, they died doing their job to help others.

 

It’s been said that US job losses due to COVID-19 are the highest since the Great Depression. Food banks were overtaxed helping to feed families who couldn’t afford groceries. Prices on certain commodities rose because of hoarding and shortages, 2020 became the year of toilet paper and hand sanitizer shortages. Our economy suffered in every conceivable area. In June of 2020 it was estimated that nearly half of all American homeowners considered selling their home simply because they could not afford the mortgage payments. Over one-third of homeowners could not afford to hire outside contractors to make necessary home repairs and had to attempt the job themselves; about 18% of those were unsuccessful.

 

But even when the COVID illness wasn’t the threat, there were many lives lost because of it. People experiencing chest pains, severe “headaches” or other sudden symptoms were afraid to call 911 or go to the hospital and the waiting game caused a higher mortality rate. People in the often-unknown stages of Dementia or other debilitating conditions were not being seen in-person by their doctors and the isolation from family members and friends, as well as the lack of personal interaction caused many sufferers to deteriorate at a faster rate. According to the Houston News in May, 2021, “Dementia diseases were the sixth leading cause of American deaths during the Covid Lockdown of 2020” due to the severity of isolation brought on by the lockdown.  

 

Things will never be the same. There is no way we can go back. Just about everyone knows the empty hole that has been left in their lives by the loss of loved ones. Families who were uprooted are trying to make their new lives with different expectations. While the major lockdown restrictions have been lifted in our country, there are still CDC recommendations to wear masks (especially if you are not vaccinated). Some travel restrictions remain in place depending on your destination and departure point.

 

We can only go on from this point as wisely AND KINDLY as possible.

 

 




 

 

 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

LIFE GOES ON

 

Life goes on, despite tears and disappointments life continues.  We can sit mired in sadness or we can choose to live our best lives. For anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one, a life-altering illness, the breakup of a relationship, or the betrayal of a friend, LIFE GOES ON.


In my own life, I recently suffered the passing of a loved one.  As I experienced the shock, pain and cries of “how do I cope”, I realized that she loved me as much as I love her — and she would not want me to “stop living”. I need to honor her memory and the love between two sisters. For ourselves and for those around us that we care about, we need to choose life in the best way possible. It is okay to carry our memories, and even shed a tear now and then, but life goes on.


Make the most of the time YOU have left to honor the memories and to care for those still around you. If someone you love has passed on and your heart feels broken, know that they would not want you to waste what is left of your life or to ignore other loved ones around you. You might even want AND need to double your love for the other members of your family who have also suffered the loss. You can never replace the loss but being with other members of your family is good for all of you.


If you have ever dabbled with Tarot Cards, you might have noticed the Five of Cups. The card depicts a figure that is wearing a black cloak. The person hides her face in what seems to be despair. There are five cups on the ground, three of which have fallen while the other two remain standing. The woman, however, doesn’t seem to notice that there are two standing cups and is too busy mourning over those which are fallen. There is a powerful river which flows between her and a house or a castle in the distance, indicating that a torrent of emotions have separated her from home.


Always remember your loved ones who have passed before you, keeping their memories alive will keep them from dying a “second death" by being forgotten. In Judaism we say a prayer for the deceased that is called Yizkor:

May Gd remember the soul of my (mention her Hebrew name and that of her mother) who has gone to her [supernal] world, because I will - without obligating myself with a vow - donate charity for her sake. In this merit, may her soul be bound up in the bond of life with the souls of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, and with the other righteous men and women who are in Gan Eden; and let us say, Amen.

 

Honor those you have lost by living the best way you can — love others, do good for others (including strangers) with charity and empathy, and most importantly, love yourself. Never lose sight of what you have had... and still have.

 


 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

A SAD DAY

 

By the time you are reading this, I will most probably be on my way to my sweet sister’s funeral. When you lose someone that you have always felt so close to, it is not easy.

 

My sister Bobi was my first and forever friend and losing her feels like I have lost a part of myself. As kids she was my protector, a childhood friend called her “the cool big sister” — even as adults she was always trying to make things “easy” for me. We’re not kids anymore… we both have adult children. Bobi was also blessed with grandchildren and her very first great-grandchild.

 

My big sister (who always tried to tell folks that she was the younger sister!) helped me through some dark periods in my life, so often she knew the right thing to say and when to say it. Alright, there were times I balked at things she said, but most times her words rang true. Since our folks died before I was blessed with children, my sister was the one I called when I needed advice, and maybe that’s why she always seemed to take a big interest in my offspring’s welfare because in a small way she helped raise them.

 

We cried together when we lost our parents and other loved ones. And boy did we ever laugh together… not always at the most appropriate times. We had squabbles like most sisters do, but we never stayed angry at each other for long. Talking to each other almost daily was like sustenance to us and our husbands tore their hair out back when long distance calls cost per minute.

 

As a writer her support was immeasurable which is why I feel a bit frustrated that somehow, I can’t find the right words to express the hole I feel now that she is “gone”. Fortunately, our parents raised us with a bit of belief in an afterlife that surrounds our earth-bound selves and I sure as heck hope that is so and that I can always feel her presence in my life. We were five-and-a-half years apart in age but we may as well have been twins, we always seemed to be so connected. I remember the day when my daughter, in a petty mother-daughter disagreement, heard my sister comment on it and my daughter exclaimed, “There’s TWO of them!”… and now there is just me.

 

They say that losing a sibling is a different kind of grief. You lose someone who has known you all, or almost all, of your life. If your parents are already deceased, losing a sibling means losing another vital part of your “elementary family” and takes away a piece of your childhood. Your childhood memories are now only thoughts in your own mind, there’s no more sharing of childhood secrets and adventures. Burying a sibling is also burying a hunk of your life.

 

I am going to choose to remember all of the good times, maybe pick up a long-ago abandoned diary and record those memories that we shared. I will do my best to speak of her to her children and future generations for as long as I am here. And when I close my eyes I hope to picture her in my mind and hear her voice when I am lonely. I will always look up and tell her how much I love her.



Barbara Cordero Du-Bois

September 5, 1948 – June 20, 2021

 

 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOURSELF

When you enter a relationship, or even just are born into a family, you have a responsibility to care for yourself as well as the people you care about. Yep, that is one of the more important things in any relationship… don’t scare the you-know-what out of those people who love you if you can do ANYTHING to avoid it.

 

Illness happens, and so do accidents, but when you ignore common sense or act recklessly you are literally betraying the trust that the person(s) who love you have. We are not possessions but when hearts are involved there is a very fragile surface that easily bruises. If you have ever worried about a loved one recovering from severe illness or sat in a hospital waiting room until a surgery is (successfully) completed, I am sure you understand what I mean.

 

While there are never any real guarantees, things like proper nutrition, avoidance of illicit drugs and excessive alcohol, not smoking, getting sufficient rest, and not taking unnecessary risks while driving or other activities, will help to minimize the chances of your loved one(s) pain and tears because of you. As I already said, sometimes illness does happen — well then follow doctor’s orders and keep things under control, or even better, get cured. And while there are other drivers on the road and sometimes no matter how careful you are there’s a bump or worse, so wear your seatbelt, make sure your car is road-ready, and stay attentive. Always cut the risk down.

 

Worrying about someone can also play havoc with your own health, but it is hard NOT to worry when someone you love is hurt or ill. Learn ways to relax and not to “worry yourself sick” — yeah, that is a real thing. Learn to focus on the things in front of you, things that you can manage and not let your imagination go places it should not. Being so stressed over things you can’t control will only be made worse by not taking proper care of yourself like forgetting to eat properly, not getting enough sleep, or using crutches like alcohol or drugs. Practice slow deep breathing to help relax your body and your muscles; if necessary, literally “go to a happy place” in your mind, imagine being on that beach or mountain top where you once felt so at peace.

 

Taking care of yourself when you are worried about someone else is also a responsibility, prevent yourself from getting sick. When your heart feels like it is beating too fast for your own body, your palms feel sweaty, or you begin crying without warning, then perhaps you are suffering from anxiety. In addition to meditation and deep breathing, you can try taking a walk or working out in the gym. Aromatherapy scents such as lavender, chamomile, and sandalwood have been thought to help the mind’s receptors and help to ease some of that anxiety. Writing your thoughts down can also help, looking at the thoughts that are making you anxious might help you realize what is real and what is only imagined, or exaggerated, and may even help you make a plan that will help you feel calmer.

 

If your anxiety seems out of control and if you really feel paralyzed, unable to function anywhere near normal, or even start contemplating dying, speaking to a licensed therapist would probably help. Don’t allow yourself to drown in panic, guilt, or fear. A professional can help you identify triggers, help you to learn calming methods, or perhaps prescribing anti-anxiety meds, could help. If you need help, get help and take care of yourself.

 


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.




Wednesday, April 21, 2021

WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT…

...and in many ways, we are all the same. So why is there so much hate these days? Why does looking or being “different” create so much suspicion and animosity?

 

In school kids make fun of other children who “look” different, it can be a child with prophylactics, who wears glasses, or even who comes to school in tattered clothes because of family finances. Maybe the child comes from a different culture which has a unique clothing style, or even wears a pendant of their faith. Some can make fun of children who may have a different skin color, or are overweight, or can’t speak fluent English, or anything that is different from “the cool kids”. Parents and teachers need to teach children about diversity in both culture, lifestyle and economic means.

 

Anti-bias education, at home and in the school, is a crucial step to opening children’s minds to acceptance. Things like teaching children that occupations are not gender-specific will help to bridge the gender gap, knowing that a little girl can grow up to lead a construction crew, or a little boy can study to be nurse (as examples) are ways to help children live up to their own personal potentials despite societal norms. Encouraging children to take personal pride in their cultural traditions AND accepting others who do the same will help them as they grow up and are exposed to diversity.

 

Exposing children to anti-bias books (appropriate for their age) will help to open their minds to peoples’ differences and humanity. It’s important not to stay quiet or discourage conversation — if the child questions how a girl can grow up to be the President for example, don’t admonish them. Encourage conversation and help them, through subtle questions and discussion starters, see all the things they are capable of and that no profession is specific to one gender. Ask them about hobbies and dreams. Maybe a young boy will tell others he likes to sew or crochet and the other children giggle, don’t admonish but tell them about fashion designers like Michael Kors or the tailor down the street. Help to foster interest in other children’s cultures and traditions by giving an opportunity to share fun customs and possibly sample cuisines.

 

When parents and teachers have open minds and accept the differences EVERYONE has, it is easier to teach and help children to learn anti-bias behavior. It’s not too late to start. Watch the words you use, avoid stereotypes, open yourself to learning about others and offering knowledge about your own background. Stress the similarities, but don’t ignore the variety of things others can bring to any conversation or experience. Let’s work on being humans first and accept those around us without prejudice.

 


 

 

 

 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

SOME FOLKS JUST WANT TO ARGUE…

 

It gets frustrating when all YOU want to do is come up with constructive ways to improve a situation. You don’t start off criticizing or even talking about different viewpoints… maybe you are just trying to get folks involved. Not every argument is personal or about your relationship.

But along comes that ONE PERSON who just has to throw in a nasty about someone, dredges up something from the far-away past that has NOTHING to do with the discussion, and like a mad-dog, attacks. And then a bunch of people just jump on the bandwagon to throw nasty barbs around and no one even mentions the original issues anymore.

SIMPLY FRUSTRATING!

Some psychologists say that people who NEED to argue are doing it to boost their own self-esteem; they feel the need to impose their way to feel important. I imagine when they were young, they might have been the school-yard bullies, or maybe they were the ones picked on and now feel the need to attack before they are.

Unfortunately arguing back seems to only build their feeling of importance, maybe because they are getting such strong reactions and it seems to feed their needs. So really the best way to deal with the compulsive arguer is to just ignore them — I don’t think that is the easiest method for most of us and unfortunately things just seem to intensify.

It may take near super-human efforts, but the “experts” recommend not feeding into the arguments. Don’t try to make the aggressor see things your way. Don’t attack back. Ask questions, let someone explain their feelings. Do not let the aggressor, or you, make it personal. If you can, without confronting, try to steer the conversation back to the original intent; ask how he/she would recommend solving the ORIGINAL problem. Above all, stay calm (yes, if you are like me that might take counting SILENTLY to ten several times, lol).

If things are completely out-of-control, maybe you need to find a way to END the argument (preferably without coming to blows!). Try not to walk away in anger. Let the person know that they have been heard, whether or not you agree. If at all possible, find common ground in resolving the original issue. If there is anyway to think about the issue from their perspective, try, and let them know you are looking at it from their point of view. One way you MIGHT be able to end the argument is to suggest taking the time to think about it. Unfortunately, though, understand that some people won’t want to end the argument and you will have to find a way to walk away… even if it is just an excuse.

It’s difficult to get anything done constructively when there are those who are more interested in a power play or giving themselves a VOICE (possibly in the only way they think they can be heard). The sooner you can de-escalate the argument, the more chance you have to get back to your original purpose to possibly unite a group, initiate actions, or just simply raise interest. Remember that everyone will see things in a different way, it does pay to listen, but it also doesn’t mean that anyone needs to be berated or tormented.

Remember, smile and stay calm. Never lose your motivation. Don’t get discouraged.



Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The World Needs to Know

Yom Hashoah 

Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day 

Yom Hashoah 2021 is observed at sundown, Wednesday, April 7th and ends at sundown on Thursday, April 8th. Yom Hashoah, also called Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorates the lives of the Jewish people who died in the Holocaust between 1933 and 1945 more than 76 years ago.

Approximately six million Jews and some 5 million others, targeted for racial, political, ideological and behavioral reasons, died in the Holocaust. More than one million of those who perished were children. 

This day is remembered in the Hebrew calendar on the 27th day of Nisan.


Watch this video from 2017 of a group of young Canadian students
 visiting Auschwitz along with a survivor of the Nazi death camp




Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Authority Figures

If you’ve ever felt paranoid when a police car is driving behind you EVEN IF THERE ISN’T A RULE IN THE BOOK THAT YOU ARE BREAKING, then you are having the most typical reaction to authority figures.

 

FACT: “People on average will obey authority despite their own moral objections.”

 

I laughed the first time that I read that statement. Way back in 1977 I got an early morning call from my sister telling me that my dad had died suddenly. He had been at work in New Jersey, she was on her way to the hospital to do the legal stuff of identifying him. Meanwhile our mom, at home in the Bronx NYC, was sick and the police officer who delivered the news to her had told my sister that he was worried about her condition.

 

I was in Rockland County, NY, at least 40-minutes away and it was a miserable, rainy day. Nonetheless I got into the car and I knowingly did much more than the posted speed limits. (I was remembering a story of my dad rushing home because mommy wasn’t well and he actually received a police escort across the George Washington Bridge… I guess I was hoping for the same advantage) Maybe it was because of the weather, but no one stopped me so that I could ask for an escort.

 

 What really struck me as odd, and now in retrospect actually makes me chuckle, was when the coins I threw into the Tappan Zee Bridge hopper didn’t register, and instead of my just peeling out and hopefully attracting a police escort, I sat there honking my horn until the toll-taker a few booths over manually reset the light. I could NOT bring myself to go through the stop light even though I was certainly breaking the speed limit.

 

We are (mostly) conditioned to accept and obey authority figures… at least to a limit. So here I was, knowingly breaking every speed law in the rush to get to my grieving mother, and yet when it came to going through the STOP sign at the toll bridge, I froze, I couldn’t do it.

 

Especially in this day and age we’ve seen several instances where folks have ignored authority figures selectively. Many of us will “respect” and comply with authoritative directives unless our moral obligations are stronger, and we believe the authority is wrong. I guess I was able to justify the speed in which I was driving, and yet I was not prepared to burst through a red light at the toll booth. It sounds funny now, so many years later, when I clearly remember my annoyance and impatience at that toll basket and yet my foot remained frozen on the brake pedal.

 

Months after that horrible day I told my mom about the way I froze in-route to see her. She chuckled and told me it was all the years of her and daddy telling me there were rules to be followed. She joked while patting herself on the back reminding me what a good mother she was in teaching me to be a “good girl”.

 

So many years later (and no longer living in Rockland County!), many of the lessons that my folks taught me still remain, and not always in the BACK of my mind.


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

I Was Named for My Grandfather

 

In the Ashkenazi Jewish faith that I was raised in, it is customary to name a newborn baby for a deceased loved one — I was named for my maternal grandfather, Reuben. This tradition both honors the deceased, keeps them “alive” by connection, and it is believed helps to form a bond between the ancestor and the child.

 

I heard many wonderful stories about my grandfather and quite ironically, both my sister and I have very distinct memories of being read bedtime stories by him… even though he died long before either of us was born.

 

My grandfather was a loving man, a smart businessman, a devout Jew, and an actual HERO. Living in the Deep South, my mom grew up amidst many prejudices towards Jews, towards Blacks, and basically anyone who didn’t look the same. It was also customary for many families to have hired help in their homes, and most every housekeeper was Black. My grandma was criticized by her neighbors because she would often sit and have coffee with her housekeeper, and my mom and the housekeeper’s son would sometimes sit in the parlor and play board games together.

 

Mostly for safety reasons, the races did not normally mingle on the streets of the town they lived in, and no Black man was allowed to confront or get physical with a White person. Yet there was the one day my mom and a girlfriend had gone into town and were accosted by a couple of drunken White men who had stumbled out of a bar. They loudly told the men to keep their hands to themselves, but they wouldn’t listen.

 

As “luck” would have it, the housekeeper had sent her son into town to pick up groceries. The young man was across the street when he heard my mom and her friend yelling at the drunken men. One of the men had grabbed my mom’s friend by the arm and pulled her in tightly. At that point the housekeeper’s son ran across the street and loudly confronted the men. In both surprise and anger, the wrath of the drunks turned to this young Black man who firmly stood his ground and demanded that the two young ladies be left alone. The two girls walked up the street, followed by their rescuer who made sure that they were not harassed again.

 

That night when my grandfather returned home from work he found their housekeeper crying hysterically in my grandmother’s arms. They explained to him that there had been a death threat, a vow to lynch the young Black man for having the audacity to confront the White men; it didn’t matter that the White men were drunk and accosting White teenage girls. My grandmother had helped to hide the housekeeper’s son long enough to wait for my grandfather to come home and decide what to do.

 

That night my grandfather, a Jewish merchant in the south, contacted a friend in North Virginia and arranged for transport for this young man to somewhere in New York State. And then he rolled the young man up in a heavy carpet and tied the young man to the undercarriage of his delivery truck. He promised to bring the young man to safety, hoping that he would not get stopped along the way.

 

          My grandmother and the housekeeper kept a vigil at the kitchen table until the next morning when my grandfather walked in. He told the housekeeper that her son was safe and passed her money so that she could afford the transportation up north to join him.

 

          I watched the movie “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” on Netflix the other night and I was reminded of this heroic story my mom always told me. I am so proud to be named for my grandfather.



Billie Holiday sings "Strange Fruit"