"If it's not fun, why do it?"

Archive for December, 2014

Happiness is My Choice, 3

Crutches

my crutches” by dmitiri_66, used under CC BY-NC 2.0

Chanukah is over but its lessons are not.

One of the great lessons of Chanukah is rededicating ourselves to thanking Hashem on a daily basis –‟V’Ahl Nissecha SheBeChal Yom Imanu” 1 — for all of the ‘little’ and not so little miracles that are with us every day. 2

Thankfulness. Gratitude. Awareness.

The body is an amazing creation yet I wake into it daily and walk it about, taking it for granted.  I never thought about what a miracle it was that my knee could bend … until one day it couldn’t bend, after the anterior cruciate ligament had torn.  Why and how it snapped, I’ll never know.  One day I was clambering about on Puerto Rico’s rocky shore, capering for the camera, preparing to leave after a successful business trip. Hours later on the jet homeward there was a moment of blinding pain and the knee ceased to function. When I couldn’t bend my leg by my own volition, I thought I’d never walk again. I was who-knows-where over the Atlantic Ocean, in the darkness, a zillion feet above the icy water, when it happened. Nobody saw anything, nobody noticed me falling onto the empty seats in my row, not even the coworker I’d spent four days with. I couldn’t fathom what had happened.

Gratitude at that pain-filled time? Yes!!!

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Chanukah menorah lighting in New York City.

Strangely, I remember feeling blessed, taken care of and calm. At that moment I was spiritually-centered and had a flash of clarity. I realized that I could have been liable for a worse outcome, such as a hijacking or a plane crash and death in the freezing waters, two of the most dramatic scenarios possible. I knew that G-d had spared me from worse. G-d gave me the clarity to acknowledge His kindness at that moment where I could have despaired but instead saw His hand in the works.

After momentary searing pain I notified the air crew, assuring them that nothing due to the operation of the flight caused my injury. An unscheduled landing sent me to a Baltimore hospital where a screaming woman in the next cubicle with a dislocated her knee was getting it realigned. I wondered if that was my fate, but they released me with splints and crutches. The airline picked up the tab for a hotel room, rescheduled my return flight, arranged a cab to the airport, and I winged back home the next day. I started physical therapy and ultimately had surgery. It took a few months to reestablish nerve pathways and relearn walking. Twenty-some years later, I walk mostly unimpeded, thoughtlessly, expecting my foot to contact something solid where I guide it. Bending my knee. Walking. Little things? Actions taken for granted?

I choose to dedicate time to acknowledge my gratitude every day. 

I’d like to be disciplined enough to write a daily gratitude journal. From time to time I start one but don’t carry through. Despite this, I’m able to focus on gratitude daily, even if I don’t write it down. I’ve made a choice. When I’m outdoors, perhaps rushing to the subway station past a few blocks of apartment buildings, parked cars, and piles of trash set out for collection, I whisper to the Creator, “Thanks G-d-for giving me the ability to walk.” I’ll hear a bird chirping or see one flying overhead and give thanks for the ability to enjoy its sweet song or follow the arc flight. If the train arrives after I get to the subway platform, instead of leaving a moment before I descend the steps, my lips smile, recognizing where this boon originated.

Everybody loves a cup of coffee!

My cup is neither half-empty nor half-full.

Does this mean I see my cup as being half-full?

Chanukah commemorates the historic event of the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. Rededication of the Temple itself, the edifice, required preparation of the building (i.e., removal of idols, cleaning up pig blood, restoring order) and having the proper tools (e.g., menorah, pure oil) to do so.  Rededication was not limited to the structure; it required intensive preparation by the priests for restoration of the order of prayer. The worshipers, too, needed to be in the frame of mind to take on this holy duty and be immersed in the Temple experience. They reconnected with the Source of All Good in that time and place. I resonate to the message of Chanukah because it is my birthday and validates a fundamental truth: we are not in control of the world but He is.

How do I maintain a spiritual connection today? My attitude sustains my connection, and my choices produce my attitude.  Happiness is my choice, satisfaction with my lot. Gratitude propels me toward happiness. It’s my choice to look at things with a good eye.  It’s my choice to  remember to be grateful. Those choices bring me happiness.

My cup is neither half-empty nor half-full; rather, it is brimming over with gifts and delight.

—————


1. Part of the “Modim” מוֹדִים אֲנַחְנוּ לָךְ prayer in the Amidah prayer, recited three times daily by devout Jews.

2. Hakhel Organization, Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin – Rote Map?!?‏, December 26, 2014.  [To subscribe: send an email to majordomo@hakhel.info (leave the subject line blank) with the the words “subscribe list” (no quotations) in the body of your email message.]

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21 years

happy birthday 21

Happy 21st birthday guys!

Twenty-one years ago today a miracle occurred. Two lives came into the world, my twin sons Z & Y. When I learned I was expecting twins, tears of joy ran down my face. Talk about surprise!! I’ve been totally grateful since G-d blessed me, entrusting me with raising these two little souls. The pleasure experienced through the years of their development far eclipses the sheer exhilaration of that moment.

The soul is an amazing thing. We cannot see it; we have no direct evidence of its existence. Yet, we know that each person carries a spark of the Divine as evidenced by his actions: kindness, generosity, thoughtfulness, caring, selflessness, loving. To think that I was entrusted to raise little people, souls within mortal bodies, so they could express these actions on earth! I can think of no higher calling.

Now we enter a different phase as they are longer children but men. I am always going to be a Mother, sometimes a confidante, friend, and adviser. I love them as a special part of myself taken wing. My soul soars higher, lofted by the beat of their wings. May their souls ever rise higher and higher!

Happiness is My Choice, 2

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Fishermen Statue in Reykjavik Harbor © Just Having Fun. Photo was taken close to midnight on a June evening.

What is success? Does success equal happiness? Can I find happiness through success?

I’m responding to a blog post I read the other day. Allison Marie Conway wrote the following around the topics of success, ambition, creativity, and spirituality in a post entitled “I’m Chewing Stale Gum Successfully – Can We Please Talk About Ambition Now?”:

I guess I’m developing narcoleptic tendencies around the word success. It seems to have been putting me to sleep lately, all the use and overuse of the word ‘success’ and everything, everywhere, all the time.[…] The numbers and the stats and the ranks and the followers and the attention and all those figures that we too often accept by default as marks of what we traditionally call ‘success’ are fine but quite honestly at the moment, I’m over it.[…] It’s like the piece of chewing gum you’ve gnashed every last bit of worthwhile juice out of. It was freshly inviting at first and enjoyable for the first few hundred munches, but now it tastes more than a little bit like the underside of a cardboard box. (One might imagine.)

If I met you at a cocktail party (gosh I would seriously so love that!) I would not be all that interested in hearing about numbers that somehow rank you in some kind of obscure success-shelving system. I would, however, love to hear about what stealthy initiatives you have going and about what invisible-ness [sic] you imagine moves you toward the otherwise daunting blank canvas. I’d especially love to hear you talk about the way you create your music or your poetry or your designs. I’d be enthralled to learn about what ideas came to you and how and why you molded your thing the way you did. I’d lean in tight to hear about how you got mixed up and pushed around and then back on your feet again as you tried to get your art out just the way you envisioned it. I’d love to know why any of it matters to you; what shifts inside you when you do your creative thing. What keeps you coming back?

Stale gum: who would have thought that lump of plastic would lead to inspiration and introspection? Where Allison is discussing creativity, she is also discussing life and happiness.  What measures we track ourselves with, how we compare ourselves to the outside world, indicate our happiness levels. These measures are artificial, however, and happiness does not equal success. To the contrary, happiness is success.

Meaningless measurements include grades, job titles, salaries, popular votes, or any externality that assigns a rank to ourselves, a comparison against others, subjective values that place worth on our existence.

We can only be compared to ourselves, to the evolving person that G-d wants us to be.  Admission that we are imperfect — but can make constant progress toward improving ourselves — is the first step to happiness.

What the Sailors See, Reykjavik, Iceland © Just Having FunWhat elusive measure is success? I don’t buy into it. Rather, I think in terms of being fortunate, being satisfied, and improving my little corner of humanity. By these measures I reap success and satisfaction in so many ways.

  • Standing in a long grocery store line is a time to exercise patience. Success.
  • When I get off the bus I thank the driver… and mean it; he got me to my destination safely. Success.
  • The old lady in the crosswalk smiled because I complimented her hairstyle. Success.
  • I will make you laugh to lighten a sober mood. Success.
  • I see beauty in a raindrop hanging off a leaf. Success.
  • When you mourn I will sit with you and share your sorrow. Success.
  • I can be happy for you when you marry off a child or get a new car. Your good fortune is reflected in my eyes because I despite that I am not blessed in the same manner. I don’t have to have what you have to be satisfied. Success.
  • I raised children who are loving, caring, thinking and civilized beings. Big Success!
sailors 2

Fishemen Statue in the Reykjavk, Iceland Harbor © Just Having Fun. Photo was taken near midnight on a June evening.

Having a good name and a good eye are the only measures of my life that will have any lasting impact. Others can make a difference by grand inventions or forging peace treaties. Me? I just take care of my own corner … with a smile. And with this, I choose Happiness.

Happiness is My Choice, 1

DSC02414We all have our own painful challenges. Hashem (G-d) gives us challenges to perfect us. Some ways we can understand at the time: immunization shots hurt when given but we don’t suffer a worse disease. We may only get an inkling about other benefits after we’ve passed phases of our lives: I may have failed to get the job I wanted but ended up in a more satisfying career I’d never have chosen at the outset. We may never understand how certain challenges perfect us; it’s incomprehensible why a child must suffer and die.

Pain, loneliness, fear, temptation, despair, confusion, loss, sadness, and torment — these are some of the feelings we encounter during those “challenges” (which is a dressed up word for events seen as negative). Our pain is real, our losses are tangible. But it is all in His Plan.

And in the end is the grave….

There’s a saying that if you had the opportunity to exchange your “peckel” (package/burden) with others, you’d ultimately choose your own troubles. Unless that is happening to me or mine, perhaps it’s not quite real to me. I may not feel your pain and be completely sympathetic. There are women who are scorned by their husbands or are abused; severely impoverished; who suffer debilitating diseases, or screaming pain. But that’s not my challenge. “Hey, I feel for you {{{hug}}}” I can write on Facebook, then click on the next post, find the next cartoon for a laugh. I’ll stick with my challenges because they are familiar. I know how to deal with them… or not.

Today’s news identifies African countries devastated by Ebola and AIDS. People are dying. Those problems seem so far away. Winter arrives in New York City, inviting mentally ill and poor people to seek shelter on sidewalks and in subway stations, How can this happen in the most advanced civilization in history? I should feel pain, but I usually don’t until it is me bleeding, until I stumble over what’s in front of me. Otherwise I’d be crying all the time. Perhaps that’s preferable?

Photo_121607_003Pain and tears are NOT my destiny. I am meant to soar, to reap the benefits of His World and pass on the message that “All He Does is For the Good.” It is for me to remove blinders, starting with myself first, and illuminate dark corners. I spread my wings and reach for the Heavens. To that I can aspire.

 

DSC02429adjEvery day is a gift, no matter how painful. Our faith demands that we cultivate the certainty that all is for the best. Gratitude is our nation’s backbone. Any outcome, therefore, can be a “happy ending.” Happiness is our choice. Happiness through pain is our privilege.

Today I pray to be happy with my lot and hope to soar. Or at least, let me have the patience to grow from the pain… and wait for the Big Reveal, whether it be now in my time, or later, in the World to Come.

The Cloud

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/f36/64094053/files/2014/12/img_60721.jpgWarm, gazing out the window, I watch the cloud that descended upon the city misting the streets. My cappuccino’s foam doesn’t quite reach my lips so I probe with my tongue. A wooden stirrer seems a better choice, so I reach for one and slide it into the cup. I savor the slightly piney tang under the pillowy mounds.

David Letterman grins down at us, his Late Show theater dominating the block. People rush beneath his gaze. I expected to see more shoppers, more people burdened by bags, but most seem to be the quotidian norm bolstered with boots and umbrellas. Traffic crawls by, wipers occasionally flapping to remove cloud bits from the windshields.

The mother next to me admonishes her daughters who are wearing matching headbands: braided red, green, and white metallic strands. “Eat something now,” she nags. “We have two hours until we need to be there.” One girl adjusts her headband. “Can we go by Rockefeller Center?” she asks. A homeless man taps on the window to attract attention. I don’t hear the mother’s reply. I’m transported into the cloud, dipping into my clouds of foamed milk, watching the slice of Manhattan sky I can see become more occluded by the cloud.

Chocolate Art Deco Birthdays

 

Batman & Barbie at the Art Deco apartmentI wanted a chocolate birthday cake that had chocolate icing with blue writing for my 10th birthday. My Mom tried to talk me out of it. “Don’t you really want a yellow cake with nice white icing and pretty flowers?” she pleaded. For some reason, at that time and place, having a chocolate cake declared me as one who walked precariously on the edge of some juvenile boundary. Mom wanted her little girl to enjoy what the other girls enjoyed. I had other ideas.

Batman held more interest than Barbie. I’d rather have been zooming through the galaxies with the crew of the Starship Enterprise than be a Princess in my own court. Was I born in the wrong time, a girl on the forefront of distinctiveness in a cosmos of conformity?

Chocolate Birthday CakeI often look at our neighborhood and try to picture it being built up in the city as it was in the 1930s. How did Art Deco land on the shores of the Hudson? The streamlined styling of Rockefeller Center dazzles my imagination. The distinctive, curved pink glamour of our building’s entranceway charms me. What would my 1939 counterpart have dreamed of on her birthday?

Happy Birthday to me!

Signs of the Season

Sparkling lights in the lobby bathe Mr. & Mrs. Claus.Santa and Mrs. Claus have come to town!  They’ve settled in our lobby, bathed by the flashing lights of the Christmas tree that reflect off the highly-polished terrazzo floor. It’s only 2 weeks until Christmas. The Chanukah menorah sits nearby, set to be lit one light more night by night, at Chanukah’s start next Wednesday night. We celebrate it all. It’s the Season.

Our distinctive lobby and the historic mural have a natural beauty. Gleaming polished stone, richly veined with red and brown, clads the wall. Art deco styling of the light fixtures and elevator floor indicators dress it up.

Such a welcoming space has its own pizzazz!

Beautiful polished stone and art deco accents lend class.With only 9 hours of daylight, those sparks of brightness in the entrance vanquish some of the darkness I feel coming in from the cold and scurrying to the elevator or up the stairs, past the mailboxes. Attuned to the postal schedule, I sympathize with the mailman due to his heavier-than-usual seasonal burden. He comes later than usual, too, and spends a longer time at his tasks. The mailbox doors snap shut with distinctive clicks and echoes that I can hear from my 2nd floor apartment. A special kind of music.

Celebrate!

Gallery

Waiting is the Hardest Part

These are some of the yarns I have just waiting for a project!

First Snow

The first snow fell on Bennett Avenue the day before Thanksgiving. Big, wet, gloppy clumps that turned to slush hit the cars and street. It didn’t seem cold enough to stick (it didn’t), and already, rivulets of meltwater flowed down the gutter. The weathermen predicted this would be the first snowy Thanksgiving since 1988. Hah! We were preparing for our turkey dinners and the storm-that-didn’t-come. Still, I needed to move my car – it was Alternate Side Parking day on the Wednesday side of the street. I went downstairs, saw snow on the windshield, and did my happy dance. Snow!!

The First Snow barely stuck to the car.The car looked odd, though, off balance. NO!!!!! The driver’s side mirror was missing. A glance at the street revealed black plastic smithereens and mirror shards laughing at me. The double-parking demon decided to bedevil me. Clipped again! Four times in 3 years is four times too many. Did that driver even realize what happened? Sigh.

Cleaned off the windshield, double-parked the car on the Friday side, and joined some neighbors on the front step. Though the air was frigid, we chatted and watched the snow come down and finally stop … until it was time to move our cars again.

 

The Start of a Good Thing

This is the start of a Good Thing. A Fun Thing. A Meaningful Thing. My Thing.

If It's Not Fun Why Do It?My Thing is writing, thinking about writing, and thinking. I like to comment on my observations and thoughts. I like to share observations when I think they’ll be appreciated. Sometimes I observe too much, ruminate over thoughts. Here, in my Good Thing, I hope to ruminate aloud.

Most of all, I hope to have Fun. Or barring that, I hope to enjoy the torturous effort of getting my thoughts on “paper.” After all, if it’s not fun, why bother? Or, in the words of those venerable sages, Ben & Jerry, “If it’s not fun, why do it?”

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