Tag Archives: self knowledge

Too Cool For School? Not Me

I don’t know about you, but I have an affliction: when I try to be cool, I end up looking like a fool.

I think this all started at the end of junior high. Until that time I was a confirmed bookworm who never had time to think of things like being cool—my nose was always in a novel so I rarely registered where I really was in time or place. Nor did I care about how I looked or what I wore. Not until the day I saw Gloria wearing a cool sweater with a dickie collar. Wow, I really wanted one!

The poodle skirt phase was before my time, but I craved having a dickie collar.

I think I probably also wanted to look like the girl in the picture below. She was so white–so American. From her loafers to her plaid skirt to the shutters on her house, she personified the kind of girl who scared me to death. But I wanted to imitate.

Next thing I knew, I really wanted to shop at the Bon.

None of this was happening for me as my mother was against all of it. She thought shopping at Lerner’s was just fine for me. Somehow I wangled white bucks out of my dad.

The coolest was the white buck bag that accompanied them—it came out in almost every class so I could apply a little of whatever that powder was to my shoes, whether they needed it or not.

My mother did loosen up enough to buy me pedal pushers and saddle shoes, which was a great victory.

I was 14 when I started high school—being young was a disadvantage to coolness. I joined this high school sorority to be cooler and started smoking to be cooler still. But it really didn’t work.

I still wasn’t cool. Which was fine at Garfield High School. Just getting to go to school there was cool enough.

In my heart of hearts, I was still a nerd who loved being in the library more than anything.

This continued on into college. I loved to study. Well, maybe not loved—but I admit to liking it a lot. At the University of Washington, I used to study at Balmer Hall—it had big tables where I could spread out my books, notebooks, three pens with different colored inks, index cards and ruler. I remember one day acting very cool as I walked by a group of guys, pretending not to see them. I walked straight into a huge ash can that tipped over, spreading sand and cigarette butts across the floor. I can still hear the clang of the metal as it bumped over the floor. Not so cool, after all.

As I get older, a lot of my “too cool for school” episodes involve falls and/or being a know-it-all. My mother always said, “Pride goes before a fall,”—it seems my karma is to act that out again and again. It’s not that I’m unsteady on my feet…yet. I go to yoga to practice my balance and work out to keep my strength up. No, it’s more that I don’t pay attention to my surroundings.

Usually, before it happens, I’ve just congratulated myself on my fitness, and that my skinned knees and elbows have finally healed. (It takes so much longer now.) I’m thinking things like, I’m doing pretty darn well for a 70-year-old!

Like on our 50th anniversary. I wore a flowing dress and my new diamond ring—I felt youthful and beautiful.

As we walked up a few stairs into the oceanside restaurant, I was handed a glass of champagne. How sophisticated and cool is this, I thought.

I stepped forward to take the champagne, not realizing I was on the edge of the lanai. Yes, I stepped into empty space. I tried to get back onto the stair and keep my balance, but couldn’t quite do it. I started falling backwards and decided the wisest course was to just go with it. Fortunately it was only a short distance into the flowerbed. The horrified onlookers did give me points for the gracefulness of my descent. Except for a few scratches and a rip in my dress, I was just shaken, but unhurt.

My final point about being cool or being a fool concerns my fondness for getting things right. It’s not that I say, “I told you so,” (although I do roll my eyes quite a bit). Like when we were traveling in the Galapagos and Peru with friends. I was wise and ate according to the rules we’d be given. The rest of them ate off the street and tried the national dish, guinea pig. What fools, I thought, as they all succumbed to Inca Revenge, and asked to borrow Imodium.

I, on the other hand, was so cool that I had nary a stomach cramp. Until we got home. Then the 105 degree fever that goes with malaria hit me. Not so cool after that.

Another problem is that I try to stay current technologically: I’m so cool that I use the Internet all the time. This leads me to buy gadgets, which I can’t figure out how to use. Like this electric wine opener. You have to admit it looks cool and very high tech, but I can’t even figure out how to put it in the charger unit. Now, I don’t know what to do with it.

I hate to say it, but being cool is just not my thing. At this point, it’s a battle to keep from making that old saying true: There’s no fool like an old fool! 🙂

 

 

 

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Just Saying

I’m a head case, always have been and unless I get dementia, always will be. My mind is continuously busy with thoughts and questions so it’s not unusual for me to walk into a room and not know why I’ve come there. People say that’s a sign of senility but I’ve been doing that since I was ten. I didn’t realize until this morning that my mind is also crowded with adages, song lyrics and literary allusions.

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As I did the breakfast dishes, I was thinking about George Washington. He cut down the cherry tree but he would not tell a lie. That story from first grade has had a lasting effect on me. I rarely tell even a white lie—I’d never lie about something big. And my word is my bond.

Thoughts about George led to a flood of others. Growing up, my brother, sister and I were taught to never judge anyone until we’d walked in his or her shoes. We drank in the concepts of compassion and respect for others with our Gerber formula. We knew that there but for the grace of God, we’d have gone into the ovens of Auschwitz.

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Taught to be responsible for each other and be grateful for what we had, we knew we needed to share our bounty. I took this to heart and have literally given people the shirt off my back.

My brother gave away the money for his birthday party to help a family in need.

My brother gave away the money for his birthday party to help a family in need.

The work ethic and saving for a rainy day were strong themes in my childhood. Our parents were children of immigrants fleeing religious persecution.

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They married during the Depression and had no money. But when the going got tough, the tough got going. They worked like dogs to become successful and to make sure we all went to college.

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We were admonished that the early bird gets the worm and that practice makes perfect.

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“Waste not, want not,” they said if we left the lights on. If we didn’t finish our vegetables, we were reminded about the starving children in China. Along with this, we were taught that a penny saved was a penny earned, but also that all that glitters is not gold. There was also a sneaky suspicion that money was the root of all evil.

My parents weren’t the speak when spoken to kind. We were encouraged to have our own opinions as long as we honored our mother and father, and thought before we spoke. However, we were cautioned about opening a Pandora’s box and that it’s better to be safe rather than sorry.

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Since the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I taught these same values to my own children.

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They have taught them to theirs. Which makes me proud as punch, even though I know that pride goes before a fall. We all believe immigrants like our families have made this country strong.

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I think who we are is a combination of our nature and how we’ve been nurtured. I’ve been told many times not to be so nice because nice guys finish last, but it’s just the way I’m wired. Besides, I’m the tortoise to many others’ hare. Slow and steady wins my race.

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Which reminds me, I think there’s a place for everything and everything has a place. That’s why I go crazy when I need my scissors and they aren’t where I put them. The Borrowers have moved them.

Even though I’m an old dog, I’m trying to learn new tricks. An inveterate multi-tasker, I can rush around like a chicken with my head cut off, but I’m getting better. I don’t rob Peter so much to pay Paul. I’m more into the moment, into the Now. I’ve always been slow to anger, and believed you can catch more flies with honey rather than vinegar. I have a long fuse but when lit, watch out. Then I’d be happy to cut off my nose to spite my face. I’m willing to share all this because I’m an open book. The truth is, you can’t tell a book by its cover.

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Besides all these sayings, song lyrics play in my head. They come up from my subconscious, unbidden. Last fall while my husband was going through Proton radiation, the constant theme song playing was, “Put on a Happy Face.”

Lately, it’s “Wake Me Up When It’s All Over,” because I’m as frightened as a rabbit about the present political climate, as well as just climate in general. Hope springs eternal so I’m hoping the Emperor has someone around who tells him he has no clothes on. I’m hoping they don’t throw the baby out with the bath water when reforming affordable health care.

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I’ve given up watching television. I’m sick of the pundits earning fame and fortune while crying, “The sky is falling.” And I can’t handle the bloggers, who obviously never went to Journalism School where we learned to be clear, concise and accurate.

Right now the lyric in my head is Bob Marley’s, “every little thing’s gonna be all right.” I know there’s no fool like an old fool, but I still believe good triumphs over evil. I’m still looking for the silver lining.

 

 

 

Fer Klempt, For Good

There are sometimes my heart is so full that I get choked with emotion. Last Friday we walked to Mercerdale Park on Mercer Island, a suburb of Seattle, to watch the high school homecoming parade. Really we went to watch the high school band. Really we went to watch our grandson play the trumpet in the band.

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A combination of things came together to overfill my heart. First and foremost was seeing our grandson, 16, standing amongst his band mates. I felt so much love and pride mixed with awe that the baby I’d held (not so long ago, was it?) was now this accomplished young man. I was completely fer klempt.

The sound of the band and the nip in the air stirred something in me too. I had a subliminal instant flashback to the days of Garfield High and the UDub—going to the games with my friends and with my dad. In this troubled world, it was comforting to see untainted exuberance. There was a small town innocence without the feeling of xenophobia that we’ve been witnessing on the news. And I didn’t think too hard about injustice and prejudice for a moment. I just enjoyed.

The next day, the breaking news on television was the rally and  march in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was a peaceful protest against police shooting black men like Keith Scott and Terence Crutcher. Hundreds of Charlotte residents turned out—blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics, gay, straight and in between. Parents pushed their kids in strollers, teenage kids with drums beat out a cadence—much like what had happened the afternoon before on Mercer Island.

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It was the white people wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts that got me fer klempt the second time in two days. They get it, I thought as I choked back tears. They understand where the focus has to be—not right now on all lives mattering, but on the lives that haven’t been mattering.

America is a complex country with systemic problems. It’s no fairy tale and a lot of times there are no happy endings. It’s better to acknowledge that, instead of covering it up. Otherwise, we’re just ostriches and the status quo will rule. Call me sentimental, but I’d like to see Americans working together with mutual respect to solve our problems. In this country, we have the potential to do just that. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

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America, the Beautiful

America, the beautiful. Or is it America, the beautiful? I think it’s probably both. Certainly this country is not perfect. Certainly, I would live no where else. And I’m eternally grateful to my grandparents who had the courage to flee Russia and Lithuania. As they sailed into New York harbor, they felt the protecting shelter of the Statue of Liberty and the benediction of Emma Lazarus’ words: “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”.

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Their way was not easy when they hit these shores. Instead of the streets of gold they’d heard about, they found only poverty, hardship and prejudice. But they weren’t afraid they’d be killed outright as they had in Europe. With hard work and perseverance, they could build a successful life. And they did.

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Fast forward a hundred years and their granddaughter has been lucky enough to go to Washington D.C. three times in the last ten months. Who’d ah thought? I’ve toured the Capitol Building twice and the White House once. I’ve toured the monuments all three times. I’m now a junkie!

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The city is built on a grand scale that we don’t see much of in our united states. Statues and magnificent buildings are interspersed with green parkways. It’s beautiful, truly.

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This last trip I was at an ADL convention. The Anti-Defamation League was originally founded in 1915 to protect Jewish people from Antisemitism. It has grown and broadened its goal to protect all human and civil rights. I feel safer at night to know the ADL exists. I was impressed by the dedication of the young people attending, and inspired to action, myself.

Our hotel was only a ten minute stroll from the White House and I walked to it a couple of times. Tourists from around the world flock there. It’s impressive both because of its architecture and its significance.  My four-year-old granddaughter walked there with her babysitter. My daughter and grandson walked there to see it at night.

We were home only two days when I heard about the shooting at a White House check point. It sent shivers down my spine. What if one of my family had been there then?

 

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“Did you hear about the shooting at the White House?” I said as I walked into the dentist’s office.

“I hope they shot Obama,” a pleasant looking woman said.

I was taken aback. “Too unkind,” I said. “He’s our President.” Where’s the respect? I thought. There should be some respect for our President, if nothing else. Just plain old human decency.

The woman gave me a dirty look and turned her back on me. I sat down across the waiting room, not looking at her either.

Where has all the civility gone? I wondered. Long time passing.

Will it take another 911 to get out the “United We Stand” posters, and to bring back the realization that we’re all Americans, all part of the same family? Disagree, fine. Disparage, okay. But to wish someone’s injury or death? That’s too ugly of an American for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Jewish New Year: 5775

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Rosh Hashana is one of the most important Jewish holidays. It translates from the Hebrew into Head of the Year. Several people have asked me what the holiday is like. For our family, we will have a big dinner at our house tonight and tomorrow we will go to the synagogue. At our dinner, we have a mini-service and eat the traditional foods from the recipes handed down through the generations. Apples and honey play a prominent part, symbolizing the sweet things of life. The shofar, a ram’s horn, is blown, signalling the ancients’ way of announcing the beginning of the holiday. At my house (once a teacher always a teacher) we will fill out a worksheet that asks, what can I do for my family, my community, and the world to make it a better place?

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Every year I write a little something. I will share with you this year’s.

 Rosh Hashanah   5775

Tonight, we celebrate the beginning of the Jewish New Year 5775.

We celebrate

our love for family and all humanity,

our desire to help our fellow man,

our hope to be the best people we can be,

our prayers for peace in the world.

We celebrate by reflecting on our past year. We remember the good things we have done, and the bad things we have done. We make a pledge to be better people—to do more good things—to put our words into action. Life is not a game of perfect. Just like golf, we will make some mistakes. But we never give up.

We have ten days to think about who we are and who we want to be. We search our inner selves We slow down for a day to take stock. This is something our great-grandmothers and grandfathers did, as well. We carry on the heritage and connect with the generations before us.. In these Ten Days of Awe, we center ourselves by remembering we are not the sum of our accomplishments or the amount of our possessions. No, we are human beings who are moral at our core. We remember also to be grateful for what we have, especially our families and good health.

On Yom Kippur we ask for guidance and forgiveness of ourselves and of those who have wronged us. Every year we pray that all people can learn to do this so that hatred and prejudice will disappear. We pray that war will be no more—that people will not be power hungry and greedy. This year, we have seen the opposite. In Syria and in Gaza we saw that children were used as human shields. We saw many people cut down in war. We saw anti-semitism rear its ugly head. We saw ISIS emerge with its desire to control the world and destroy all people who do not believe exactly as they do. We saw prejudice and hatred against Blacks, Jews, Muslims and other minorities right here in our country. All this is troubling and frightening.

This year:

Our prayers for peace are even more important.

Our courage to stand up and be counted is even more important.

Our connection to each other is even more important.

Our commitment to learning the facts and not falling for stereotypes is even more important.

Life is a series of contrasts—the bitter and the sweet. Tonight, at the beginning of the year, we won’t worry about the bitter.

Tonight, it is all sweetness: HONEY and APPLES.

Forever Young?

I think one of the challenges of being in my sixties is to know my limitations but not let them limit me. This has become a kind of mantra. I used to say: “accept my limitations” but I’ve refined the concept to include ‘knowing’. I don’t want society or an individual defining me or my ability or limitations. I won’t accept their perception of what a senior citizen can or cannot do. Neither do I want to be an idiot and push myself beyond my capacity. Been there, done that and am writing the book about driving with a cast on my foot. (Trust me, don’t try it! Thank goodness, when I did I was on a deserted street.)

At my age, you do realize you can only push your body so much and it will push back. Hence, the knee, hip, shoulder replacement docs are doing a booming business. When I go to the gym and see guys lifting massive weights with so much effort that their faces are contorted, I foresee a future for them of contorted limbs. I know I need to respect my own limbs better than I have.

Aging is not something my generation is accepting gracefully. We’re the “forever young” babyboomers, dontcha know? But I don’t want to block enjoying and understanding this part of my life, even if the United States of America categorizes aging as a disease. I basically feel healthy and vibrant, brimming with vitality, especially if I get that catnap every day! I think most people my age do feel great,  although we’re portrayed quite differently in the media. Madison Avenue would have me wearing a LIFE ALERT in case I fall and can’t get up.

Here’s what sixtish looks like.

Self knowledge is important to me. I want to know who I am, what I want in life, where I’m going. In order to do that, I need to get quiet, which I find increasingly hard to do. It’s so easy now, being IPhone addicted, to never have a conversation with myself. Even on a walk alone, I can call my friend in Minnesota and talk the whole time, like I did today. Or in the car, I can talk or listen to music or a book. I never turn off so that I can tune in to my inner voice.

The other day I took a gym class that I thought might lead me to some inner reflection. It was called the Warrior Within. I saw that it combined Tai Chi, Yoga and meditation. I didn’t read the fine print, which explained the class featured the BOSU. Heck, I didn’t even know what a BOSU was. When I saw that little half-dome, it looked innocuous enough, and I liked the blue color. I thought, how bad could it be? I didn’t know that some sadist had created the disstablizer from hell.

BOSU Batterer.

We had to stand on it, which was not easy. Then we were expected to move on it and do a sun salutation while keeping our balance. We had to kneel on it and do leg lifts, turn over and do crunches. There was only me in the class and a guy who looked like he was in mid-forties. Damn, I wanted to quit, but my pride wouldn’t let me. I forged on, becoming the Little Engine that could—even if it was killing me.

Look at the biceps on these guys. Sheesh!!!

One of my inner voices said, “It is good to try new things. It is good to be challenged.” Another voice cussed that one out. I said aloud, “Are you kidding me?” The only good thing was that time, which normally flies by, slowed down to the point that each minute lasted at least ninety seconds.

So what did I learn about myself: I’m getting old? I have terrible balance? I don’t know when or how to quit? I can do more than I thought I could? I’m not sure what I learned. I’ll have to get back to you on that.