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Sunday, December 30, 2012

You REALLY Sucked!

Close It Out, and Crack Open a New One!

Good Evening, Peeps!

Sorry I was not around last week, but that only entitles my adoring public to a double portion for the Big '13!  And that ain't bad!

I already blogged about new beginnings, that's a subject we're all familiar with.  It's for sure that I've got some new beginnings going on for the Big '13.  But before that becomes official, it's also a good idea to trash all the not-so-happy material we collected in the past 12 months.

Yesterday in NYC, some organization put together a "Good Riddance Day."  Everything that people wanted to be rid of at the end of the year was shredded, compacted, or otherwise destroyed, along with notes of things that we all aspire to be rid of!

I know I've got a boatload of things I'm anxious to be rid of that accumulated in 2012, and I recommend all y'all do likewise.  So before I commence the purge cycle, let's review:

(1)  Memories of people who did not make my life happier.

(2)  Thoughts of people who seem to irritate me, and the reactionary thoughts that somehow keep the irritation on the repeat cycle long after the irritating source has been removed.  Of course, a long term removal of said irritants would be ideal, but you and I usually don't have a secret "eject" button to make that happen (with a few exceptions).

(3)  Any records that are older than 5 years -- that's why we have shredders!

(4)  Anything expired -- this may require the intervention of the Food Police, the Coupon Police, or the Out Of Date Magazine Task Force, but someone's gotta handle that job for real!!!!!!!!!!

(5)  Anything that takes up space for no good reason.

(6)  Any relationship that is not based on respect, trust, and understanding, and is instead based on guilt, fear, or obligation.

(7)  Stress triggered by something I have no control over and cannot fix at that moment.

(8)  Resentment of anyone who offers constructive and respectful criticism, doubt and fear engendered by negative criticism, and the understanding to differentiate between them both.

(9)  Grudges against anyone who wronged me this year.

(10)  Desperate need for approval by others, even when their approval is completely unnecessary.

(11)  Stagnant annoyance and irritation at people who act like jerks and a$$#oles.  As I've said before, merely hating them doesn't bring down G-D's wrath on them, they'll eventually bring that on themselves.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive.  In fact, I encourage all my Pillarites to comment and add their own s--t list!  Even for me, writing it down is the first and most decisive step towards getting rid of all this clutter and waste product that can only hold us back.

And of course, the two biggest things I'd like to close out, trash, and forget about for 2012:

(A)  Hurricane Sandy -- a natural disaster that left people homeless and unsheltered, ripped my beloved Long Island apart, and created yet another reason for people to gripe, complain, moan, and whine about how ineffectual government agencies are and always will be.

(B)  The Cancellation of the NYC Marathon -- after all the self-righteous posturing and soap-box commentary about how runners were selfish for not wanting the marathon to be canceled, and the shameless political pressure that caused it to be canceled, I'd like to put that nonsense far behind me.  And with the NYC RUNS marathon in February, and a visit to the upstate Frontier this May, that's exactly what your friendly neighborhood blogger intends to do.

So that's it.  Take a hike, 2012!  Get lost, disappear, vamanos!  And take that stupid Mayan BS with you too!

Now to make the Big '13 The Year of the Pillars!


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

There's Nothing Wrong With Admitting Your Mistakes!

Extra post, all.

There's an element in our culture that says that nobody should screw up.  Only problem is, all of us do.  All of us, no matter who we are.

There's also an element in our culture that demands that people who screw up admit their mistakes, apologize, and try to make good on it.  Only problem is, when we do that, there's another element in our culture that demands that we suffer consequences.

So which is it?  If the errant party is not lying, not being selfish, not pointing fingers, and not making excuses, why the hostility?  Don't we all want people to accept accountability for the 1-5% of the time that they're not on the ball?  And if it really is only 1-5% of the time that they screw up, don't we owe them enough respect to withhold any desires to flay the skin from their bodies?  Don't they deserve a little "that's OK" if it can be easily corrected?  And if they're ready, willing, and able to make it right, shouldn't they be given the chance to do so?

Don't get me wrong, most of us do screw up only 1-5% of the time, if we're smart, conscientious, and honestly care about the things we do.  But if the percentage is higher than that, somebody's got some real problems to work through.

However, if the vast majority of the time, we know what we're doing, what's the harm in indulging a small amount of human error?  I'm not talking about felonies or negligence causing injuries, mind you, I'm talking about just every day stuff.  Maybe it's annoying that someone else didn't get it right, but if you're feeling angry enough to start an argument, don't aim it that person's way.  Chances are, they already know they screwed up, and they don't need some abusive comment or threat to make it worse.

And for those of us who do have the misfortune of having a 1-5% day, nobody should feel so threatened that they can't admit a screw-up.  If it didn't cost anyone money, and didn't result in death or injury, there's nothing wrong at all with admitting that you did it.  We're taught to forgive and apologize from such early ages, who keeps sending us these mixed messages?

Bottom line, we're all human.  Don't use it as a crutch to not avoid making mistakes, but let it be a reminder that none of us is perfect all of the time.  If you make a mistake, don't listen to those who would rub it in your face.  And if someone else has made a mistake that impacts you, if it can be remedied, save your steam for something else.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Video For Both Posts

Sharing Our Thoughts - An Extra Post

The answers to many of our problems are not immediately made clear.  Sometimes they involve painstaking research of authoritative sources.  Other times, they involve deep soul-searching, which is far more difficult.  And yes, sometimes, they're out here in the blogosphere, and they involve answers both from within and without.

Tonight, I was about to post something, as a follow-up to the post about the Connecticut shooting, that would have been full of righteous anger, pain-driven fury, and unresolved grudges.  However, a faithful reader of mine, who will go nameless, reminded me of one of my earlier posts, namely "Who's In Control" from January 29, 2012, where I talked about how to maintain control over the thought process and not be consumed by stress, fear, anger, hate, etc.  She can be credited not only with (a) reminding me that once my words are out there, people do read them; and (b) completely altering what I was about to post.  So you see, the answer was already within me (I wrote it and apparently needed to re-read it), and was also external (she reminded me about it)!

(see also, "Don't Hulk Out," from November 20, 2011)

What can I say . . .  even though I present myself as an amateur guru/philosopher/anti-bullying crusader/self-help authority, I'm still flesh and blood.  I still get angry sometimes, and if something gets under my skin deep enough, I need to proceed carefully with a metaphorical tweezers to remove it.  It appears that my friend just provided them, helped me remove this splinter of negativity, and even cleanse the wound to prevent infection . . . and she did it by saying "Look, David, I found your tweezers!"

Hey, even Richard Carlson has been reminded to not "sweat the small stuff" by his children many a time!

This friend of mind has also been blogging quite a bit about her own life experiences, and they appear to be a fascinating read.  She's chosen to do it anonymously, which I respect, but she's also granted permission to me to post a link to it.  Check the blogroll down below, and you'll see it.

So that's my second of two posts for this Sunday night.  Have a good week, all!

No Answers

Good Evening, Friends and Neighbors.

Once again, we are confronted with a horrible tragedy, a thousand questions, and absolutely no rhyme or reason for its occurrence.  This one is worse than earlier tragedies because the victims were children under the age  of 10.

It's completely unnatural.  It makes no sense.  And the killer committed suicide when it was over, preventing the world from ever knowing the real answers.

Every parent in America felt their whole world stop when this story broke.  How could they not?  Our children are expected to outlive us, not to have their lives tragically cut short by someone who didn't take his meds.

Gun control?  Maybe.  We do have a Second Amendment, but there has to be a way to make sure that those rights can only be exercised by people who know how to handle firearms safely, and not by criminals or the mentally ill?

The mentally ill?  If they can't be trusted to take their medication when needed, they need to be restrained.

Schools?  Apparently we now need Columbine-style security at all levels of education, sad but true.

However, with all due respect to the memory of the 26 children and adults who died Friday, and their families, we will learn from this and move on, somewhat more jaded and cynical, but wiser.  If we have to take even more steps to protect children, to the extent we might smother them, and to restrain the mentally ill, to the point that we suffocate them, and pass even more anti-gun laws, none of which will prevent murders like this from happening, then it's a price we'll have to pay.  It's a senseless world we live in, and the response may ultimately prove equally senseless, and somewhat depressing.

There's just gotta be a better way . . . .

Sunday, December 9, 2012

New Beginnings For The Season

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year!

Good Evening, Peeps!

Yes, as we all know as good environmentalists, it's good to recycle.  However, as annoyed as I get with the notion of gift-giving etiquette, I admit that recycling is always better than re-gifting.

That being said, I'd like to borrow something from last year's post about Chanukah and Christmas (with a few small edits) and build on it:

The celebration of these two holidays have given rise to a certain degree of awkwardness that many have attempted to remedy by simply merging both holidays into a generic December/winter-solstice celebration to make sure nobody gets "offended" or left out, or made to feel disloyal in some way.  I can still remember songs being replaced from an elementary school's holiday concert for just that reason.  The terms used to describe an office party likewise become homogenized and genericized to avoid ruffling feathers.

Rather than continue in this politically correct mishmash, I propose a different approach -- celebrate the underlying MESSAGES of both holidays, and how they coincide, and not contradict!  They BOTH stand for NEW BEGINNINGS, and declarations of SELF-IDENTITY!


Just look at them:  Chanukah celebrates a new beginning for Judaism by removing a corrupting influence, despite the fact that most of the Jews actually wanted the corrupting influence to continue.  Christmas celebrates a new beginning because a savior and redeemer was born, half human and half diety, just ready to start one of the most influential lives ever lived.  Until he met the end of his human life in his early 30's, he would face an onslaught of corrupting influences, and inspire those around him to resist them without even getting aggressive.

Now that I've found and isolated the common thread between both festivals, what exactly am I planning to do with it?  Glad you asked . . . .

I am not suggesting that any of you dispense with family traditions, of course.  But my proposal would be to merge Chanukah, Christmas, and New Year's into a two-week nonsectarian festival of New Beginnings.  Is it any accident that Chanukah and Christmas are both perched so perilously close to January 1st?  Let's make the timing work for us!

Let's go easy on the list of what you want to give/receive in terms of material gifts -- instead, make a list of new beginnings!  How will you cleanse the temple that is your life from the impurities that have been deposited there?  Will you restore it to the joy and peace you knew in childhood?  Will you remove negativity, obsessions, and old habits from your sanctuary and replace them with things worth venerating?

Or better yet, will this be a year to start a whole new life?  I mean from the ground up, from the beginning forward?  Can you get past everything that happened before that held you back and make this a Day One instead?

Not to toot my own horn, but I think we may have discovered the "true meaning" of the "holiday season" -- to start a new beginning!

So how about it -- are you ready to cleanse your temple, be re-birthed, or preferably both?  Why not?

Maybe it looks like too much of a chore to cleanse that temple.  Let it stay like that, I don't care, it doesn't bother me.  Really?  

Now imagine how clean, majestic, and snazzy jazzy that temple would look if it were cleansed -- wouldn't you rather have that?  A psyche free from frustration and self-defeating thoughts?  The ability to act more than react?  The understanding that solving problems is better than worrying about them, and that hating people doesn't change them?  Yeah, it's a pain and a half to have the temple set up that way, but how much happier would you be if it were?!!?!?!

And starting over?  Who's into that?  Haven't we already learned what we needed to in childhood? Can't we skip these lectures and just do what we've always done?  Aren't we just OK taking this path?

I'll say it politely:  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We get a chance to "start over," in huge ways and small ways, every day.  We don't really even have to wait for this time of year, as we could have done it in July if we were so inclined.  But since time of year is dedicated to the birth of a child who would change the entire world, it's only fitting to begin a new life within ourselves now.  

And yes, as those of you who personally know me are aware, this year I've been doing both of the above.  I won't discuss what this actually means, for several reasons, but I've been cleansing my temple and beginning a new life for this entire year.   Don't get me wrong, temples don't get cleansed overnight (despite what the ads may say), and re-birth is a little messy, which sometimes sets the cleansing process back a little.  But I think they are both necessary and interdependent processes.  If you're going to have a newly-refurnished temple, you've gotta have a newly-refurbished self to preside over it, of course.  In other words, your change must be complete, inside and out.

So, Friends and Neighbors, given what was written last year, and coupling it with my own experience this year, it's a good idea to make this winter holiday season one of starting a new beginning, regardless of what faith or stripe you represent.   By all means, continue with the customs you've always known and loved, but it's always good to share with those who do it a little differently.  Either way, let this December be a celebration of brand new traditions and originating new customs.

That's my piece.  For all my friends celebrating the second candle lighting, Happy Chanukah!

PS -- a good friend of mine who has studied the Bible extensively recently stumped me.  When I wished Happy Chanukah to everyone in the Tribe, he asked me, "Which one?"  

As a matter of clarification, Jews often affectionately refer to the Jewish community as a whole as "the Tribe" (sort of like Cleveland Indians fans) and to fellow Jews as M.O.T. -- Member Of the Tribe.  With the exception of those whose family names give obvious hints, it's very difficult for Jews to determine whether they originated from one of the twelve tribes of Isreal, although we could possibly narrow it down to Judah and Levi.  Accordingly, use of "the Tribe" does not designate ancestry from any particular biblical tribe. It's really just a cute little saying.  :)

Like it, comment, tweet it, retweet it, share it, etc.!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

People Who Need People

People Who Need People

Good Evening All -- while there's always something to be said for Thanksgiving, I've noticed that the Black Friday post from last year still gets tons of hits every week around the world.  Why mess with a good thing?  I just reposted it.

This time of year, when family is brought back into focus, we're reminded of how important it really is to have people in your life who are loyal, who care, and are genuinely interested in your well-being.  There's something about being around an extended table full of food, which may or may not include a "kiddie table," with people you cherish and respect that can make you feel like you're part of something a little bigger than yourself.  And whether we celebrate Chanukah or Christmas, that closeness is likely to be repeated in December as well.

The question is, whether certain people really need that closeness, and if so, if it's needed during the rest of the year.  There are many of us who are content to simply live their own lives by their own terms, without any  outside influence whatsoever.  They are self-made, self-driven, fiercely independent, and firmly believe that they don't need to be involved with anyone, family or otherwise, to have a fulfilling life.  Chances are, they're right.  There are a lot more people who are unmarried and childless these days than in prior years, and lots of people are simply content to be "on their own."  There are numerous reasons for this phenomenon that don't require review, suffice it to say that it's just personal preference.

However, no man or woman is an island.  As the recent hurricane has taught us, we all need somebody.  Somebody who can temporarily provide us with food, shelter, and electricity when a natural disaster takes them away from us.  Somebody who can console and comfort us if we've suffered a loss or a tragedy.  Somebody who can just be there and make us feel like everything is OK, and possibly make us laugh or crack a smile.

Those of you who know me know that I tend to be independent and individualistic.  I've always tried to be one of those people who achieved whatever I've gotten on my own, and not through the aid of others.  But the fact of the matter is, it's not possible to be a loner in every area of one's life.  Without family, be it by blood relatives, a spouse, friends, or a significant other, we simply can't survive.

As I've mentioned before, my parents have been very supportive and helpful to me this year, and I haven't forgotten it.  I was privileged to be able to spend a week with them this year, and to break bread with a few other families at the table.  They reminded me that, even if I am independent, and not a follow-the-crowd type, family must remain my home base and support system throughout my life.  And that goes for everyone else, too.

So, even after we've headed back to work, we'll be returning home for the holidays once more in a few weeks.  Let's be thankful for the family we all have, be they blood relatives, spouses, or just really close friends.  Even if we're all rugged individuals, and are complete by ourselves, we still need them far more than we might admit.

That's my piece for this evening -- have a good night and rest easy!

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Reposting for Thanksgiving.

Hey all -- visiting my folks down here in Florida.  Didn't get a chance to write a new blog post on Sunday, but that can wait until later this week.

In the meantime, since our friends in the retail industry have now decided to open stores on Thanksgiving night again, and since this post receives the most views out of anything else I've posted thus far, it was only fair to re-post what I wrote on Black Friday 2011.  Maybe this time people might take it to heart a little bit more!  Here it is, in its unedited glory:

Yesterday was Thanksgiving.  A completely American holiday!  An old friend of mine on Facebook recently described how this day should be considered the perfect holiday:  no annoying music, nobody getting drunk, no exclusion based on religion, and the option of watching three football games featuring some of the best teams in the NFL!

I've commented in the past how Thanksgiving appeared to be evolving into a two-day holiday, following the lead set by Jews in the western hemisphere, who celebrated several holidays that had originally been celebrated as one day, for two.  However, it appears that the retail industry has taken advantage of this trend, to the point of infringing on the holiday itself.  Accordingly, this expected two-day holiday is splitting into two completely separate halves, and they couldn't be more different than day and night.

"Black Friday" has become the unofficial first shopping day of the Christmas/Holiday season.  When this term because part of our culture, there was the understanding that this would be the opportunity for all the aggressive early-bird types to buy all the gifts they needed for Chanukah/Christmas/Kwanzaa as soon as Thanksgiving was over, to avoid the last-minute insanity of buying gifts on Christmas Eve itself (those who celebrate Chanukah, an 8-day holiday, could argue that the gifts could be given on the last night, and not the first night, but that only delays and extends the last-minute insanity).

Most retail outlets would acknowledge these early birds by opening their stores early.  Maybe at 7am, maybe at 6 am.  That is to say, at dawn, or maybe a few minutes beforehand, on the morning of the day AFTER Thanksgiving.

So what do we now have this year?  Stores opening at 3 a.m.  Not good enough?  2 a.m.  Still not content to camp outside in tents until then?  Midnight at Target (tar-ZHAY)!  But now, thanks to Walmart, Best Buy, and Geek Squad, we have the final insult -- 10 pm on Thanksgiving ITSELF!

Employees had to put the kaibosh on their own Thanksgiving dinner, and all the happiness that goes with it, for the sake of material things!  Early-bird types were now prepping to go to retail malls and outlets late at night, or in the "wee small hours of the morning," to grab the best deals they could off the shelves, with the knowledge that if they were not fast enough, someone else could yank it away from them.

Excuse me . . . is this not the same insanity that the idea of Black Friday was intended to prevent?  Shopping for presents at insane hours??  Whatever happened to the image of being thankful for what we've already been given -- have we rejected that so quickly to grab and snatch what we don't already have???

Even if Thanksgiving one day becomes a two-day holiday, let's please make it two days of Thanksgiving, and NOT Black Thursday And Friday.  Yes, it certainly is a tradition to give gifts to loved ones during the December celebrations that follow Thanksgiving, but it's not a life-or-death obligation!  Gift-giving is meant to make the holidays happier and more enjoyable, and not to usurp, overtake, or obliterate the true meaning of the holiday!

So my recommendation is this:  The day after Thanksgiving, if you don't have to work, use it as you would any other vacation day.  Sleep late!  If you want to make sure you're not forgetting to buy gifts for the loved ones in your life, wait until the weekend AFTER Thanksgiving.  If you can't wait that long, do it the SUNDAY after Thanksgiving!  The recipients of your gifts will (hopefully) be a thousand times more concerned with the thought that went into your choice of gift than the manner in which it was obtained (or how much it cost you).

As I said above, the tradition of gift-giving at this time of the year is meant to make the holidays happier and more enjoyable.  What you choose to give is not a measure of who you are as a person, and neither is the price of the gift you purchased.  However, there are still those who think of gift-giving as a mandatory requirement and a dollar-for-dollar obligation, and continue to use it as an excuse for demeaning tit-for-tat attitudes towards others.  As a result, the joy of gift-giving is sometimes ruined because it becomes something that is motivated less by caring and happiness, and more by a desire to appease someone else.  All I'll say on that subject is that those of us who choose to express our friendship, affection, and love for others through gifts are welcome to do so because they choose to give that way, not because some unseen force tells us we MUST purchase it at 2am to get the best dealnot because "everyone's doing it,"  not to make ourselves look good, and not so we can demand something from the recipient later!  It's a gift, not an obligation -- that means that the recipient is not required to reciprocate anything.  If they choose to do so, that's great -- but it's their decision to do so, and not yours!

In conclusion, let's remember that the message of Thanksgiving should temper the gift-giving season with a little wisdom.  We cannot be defined by gifts.  Gifts are important, but the people in your life matter a thousand times more than gifts do.  The fact that we have these people in our lives, and that they hopefully love us as much as we love them, is the greatest gift that there is, and it cannot be priced or put on sale like material objects.  If you really wanted to rush out there and snag all the gifts you could, I'm glad I didn't stop you.  However, life would be a little more balanced if we rushed out to be kind and respectful to others just as quickly and just as intently as we did when a corporate giant told us to buy something when we should have been sleeping.

DISCLAIMER:  The above post was not meant to impede or decry our capitalist system, to state that gifts should never be purchased, or to imply that anyone who looks forward to receiving gifts in December is wrong.  Any misperception of insults or besmirchings is entirely the responsibility of the reader of this message, and the author bears no responsibility for same.

For those who read and like this blog, I am thankful for you.  Just as I am already thankful for my health, my earnings, my family, and my friends, I am thankful for you.  Please keep reading, and don't be afraid to comment!

And now, in 2012, I call upon my loyal readership to do the following:
(1)  On Thanksgiving night, either (a) STAY HOME; or (b) GO TO A THANKSGIVING DINNER AT SOMEONE ELSE'S HOUSE.  You are not slaves to the urging of advertising.  Tell your friends and family that you are thankful for them, for everything that you have, and that you live in a country where freedom is still alive and well.
(3)  Pick a time for gift-purchasing, or giving, that suits you best.

Feel free to like, comment, share, re-post, re-tweet, anything else you'd like to do to get this message out, and remind everyone else that this holiday matters.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Election is Over, and the Nation Has Spoken.

The Nation Has Spoken

This one may be a few days after the fact, but it bears mention nonetheless . . . .

The 2012 election was one of the most contentious, high-conflict, and polarizing elections in American history, as I stated in my October 28, 2012 blog post.  But Tuesday night, just before 11pm, our electorate finally made its decision.  In a quick and decisive come-from-behind victory, President Barack Obama secured most of the electoral-vote-heavy swing states that he needed within an hour.  Finally, with the most populous counties of Northern Ohio reporting in, the President secured the 270 electoral votes he needed for re-election.  He graciously thanked his supporters for carrying him through, while his opponent, Governor Romney, gave an equally gracious concession speech.

So where do we go from here?  Allow me to explain:

(1)  FOR THOSE WHO VOTED FOR MITT ROMNEY:  You rallied behind your candidate, and he set forth an ambitious and determined campaign.  His platform emphasized the weaknesses of the current administration, and he made an excellent case for himself to bring "Morning in America" once more.  However, democracy is based on majority rule, and the majority has chosen not to elect him.  You can still acknowledge the good he has done for this country, both of his home states, his company, his church, and his family.  And you can also follow some advice my father learned in the Army:  "Even if you don't respect the man, you must respect the Office he holds."  And that man is still Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, the chair of the Executive Branch of the Government, the Leader of the Free World, and the representative of our country abroad.  

The election was the opportunity for those who sought new leadership and a new direction to exercise their constitutional rights to do so.  However, those who sought to keep this President were in the majority, and he earned re-election fair and square, with or without Florida's votes.  For the next four years, barring any fortuitous circumstances, he will continue as President.  Until that time, when both parties will select people best qualified to lead this nation for the next four years after that, it is best to respect the Office this man holds, and to acknowledge that he has a job to do.

(2)  FOR THOSE WHO VOTED FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA:  As I stated in the October 28th post, keep the celebrations and gloating to the bare minimum.  You've done enough dancing in the streets for now, and you'll get another chance to do a little more this January 21st.  Otherwise, this President has much to do in his second term.  He has an economy that has not yet shown the recovery this country needs, and strained relationships with at least one of our allies.  He has one war in progress that started right after 9/11, with little reason for it to continue.  And quite frankly, he governs a nation with nearly half its population not confident in his leadership abilities.  He could easily disregard what those people think, because he never has to worry about being re-elected again, but that's a mistake.  He is still accountable to all citizens, even the ones that wanted to vote him out of office.  He must now unite this country, and explain why it is important to put our political and philosophical differences aside for the sake of cooperation.

Above all else, now is also the time for this country to put aside the antagonism and divisiveness that characterized this election, and rally behind this President, regardless of who voted for him and who did not. More conflict and disagreement will only keep us deadlocked and paralyzed.  Let's hope that our elected officials can put aside party loyalty for the common good.

That's my piece, all.  Have a good night, and a Happy Veterans Day to those who have answered the call of duty and served to protect and defend this country.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Things I Cannot Change

Good Evening All.

As many of you heard this afternoon, the New York City Marathon was canceled.  I've got quite a few thoughts going through my head.

First of all, this past week New York City and New Jersey got walloped by a hurricane, and nearly everyone I know was or still is without power as a result.  Some had their homes flooded, and at least one friend of mine lost absolutely everything.  I could have bet money on the marathon being canceled, I was preparing to just accept it, and move on.

Instead, Mayor Bloomberg shocked everyone by announcing that the marathon was still going to happen.  I tried to re-focus, knowing that now my 20 weeks of training would result in hopefully a triumph, and possibly a PR (I still haven't beat 4 hours in NYC, darn it).  So off I went to the expo, got my bib, and I was good to go!

And then this morning, the New York Post published an article about how the marathon was using three electric generators -- enough to power 400 homes in Staten Island, those left standing anyway, that no longer had power.  Also, there were stories of hurricane victims rendered homeless who were being displaced from the hotels that initially offered them shelter because they had to make room for all the marathoners who made reservations.

So in response to all the controversy, the marathon has been canceled.  It felt nice to get my hopes up, but not to have the rug pulled out from under me and all the thousands of other runners.  In my humble opinion, the Mayor should have just canceled it two days ago and been done with it.  Or better yet, maybe just postpone it a week or two, so everyone could have walked away with something decided in their favor.

That being said, this is one of those things that is beyond my control.  I did train for this marathon, and I'd do it again with no problem, but it's just not to be this year.  Overall, I don't have that much of a reason to be upset.

Unlike the people I mentioned above, I was extremely fortunate to have not lost power, or my home.  Given the disaster that just happened, New Yorkers need to recover completely before they can celebrate something fun and encouraging.  There are far too many people who need shelter and recovery before we can cheer again.

This hurricane, in and of itself, taught me more lessons about things we cannot change.  I was fully expecting that whole mess to blow out to sea and pass us by because I didn't want to live in fear of anything.  Since I didn't, I simply had to adapt.  I couldn't get into work because they shut down the trains, so I did what little I could do with my phone and my computer.  I couldn't deal with the insane traffic going into work on Wednesday on the Q60 bus, so I just got out and walked my now-favorite bridge into Manhattan.

So now, all the training and no marathon?  And several days lost from work?  Well, I'll just have to:

(1) Do another nice LOOOOONG run -- not saying it'll be 26.2, but I'll go pretty darn long anyway.
(2) Find out who out there in Nassau and Suffolk needs a little extra help, now that the LIRR is running.
(3) Donate to relief funds, and to those I know who need the most help.
(4) Go to the office and try to make up whatever I didn't get to this week.

So be it.  No point in being upset over this, really.  I've run marathons before, and I'll continue to do so.  I'm pretty sure the next one I run will remain on the calendar, so I'll just set a new date.

Once again, big thanks to everyone who faithfully encouraged my training through MapMyRun, I've appreciated it all.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

So Where Is She?

Two Races

Good Evening All!

Those of us on the Eastern Seaboard have now battened down our hatches for the second hurricane in two years.  However, as I write, there are no gale-force winds, driving rain, or gigantic hailstones.  Call it reverse Murphy's Law -- when you're Prepared to the teeth for something, it either does not happen or is revealed to be non-threatening.  It's when you're NOT prepared for it that it bites you in the haunches!  Either way, I've stocked up for a storm, and have been assured that the MTA subways have been shut down until further notice.  We await news of its reopening . . . .

Next week, we'll be treated to two races.  One is crucial for the athlete in all of us, and one is even more crucial to the future of our country.

A week from today, I will have completed my 7th NYC Marathon.  Unlike other years, when I've trained with a group in Central Park two nights a week and once every weekend, I've gone it alone.  I used the official 20-week NYRR training program and used it with the MapMyRun app on my phone.

While there may be those who think social media has gone too far, enabling us to track our very movements at any time, I respectfully disagreed.  Every time I've posted my training results, even when I thought I wasn't at my best, there was always somebody giving me a thumbs-up.  It's just a little blip on a screen, a rendering of someone's name, a small helping of bits and bytes, but it's a good thing to see.

Our sport thrives on encouragement and positive reinforcement.  It is through these constant reminders that mere novices are able to gain enough strength and speed to transform their bodies in ways not thought possible.  It is also through these constant reminders that those who may already have some experience in this sport can still rise to yet another level.  So to all my friends, family, acquaintances, confidantes, and otherwise important people, I'd like to thank you in advance for all the likes and comments.  You helped me raise my game this year, and I hope to convert that into a PR next week.

Aaaaand then there's that other race, which will end two days after the fun one.  Yes, the 2012 Presidential Election will finally be delivered to us, the voters, to elect our leaders as can only be done in a democratic republic such as ours.  It's not a day heralded by parades and fireworks, but it is the most important American holiday, second only to Thanksgiving.  In other parts of the world, even to this day, criticism is squashed, dissent is eliminated, and opposition results in death or torture.  Yet here in America, our forebears granted to us the right to select our leaders to govern as we see best, and to elect new leaders if those initially elected cannot succeed.  Or, on the other hand, where the applicable constitution or charter allows, we can re-elect those leaders who have succeeded.

This election will go down in history as one of the most high-conflict, polarizing, and downright ugly elections ever seen.  It pitted two opposite visions of America against each other, and exposed some damning weaknesses on both sides, leading many to lose confidence in the system I praised above.  And through the magic of social media, it has pitted these opposing visions of America against each other with fire and venom not seen since the 1860's (this is meant for dramatic effect, I'm sure there were other eras with more conflict, I just don't leave myself enough editing time to be sure).

But when the final ballot is tabulated, a winner is declared, and a loser concedes, I can only hope that we turn our thoughts to a united America.  I can only hope that those who support the winning candidate can limit their celebrations to one day following the election, and then a little bit more on Inauguration Day, and then turn their attention to the fulfillment of all campaign promises and/or logical and cogent explanations as to why they cannot be fulfilled, and what can be done instead.  I can also hope that those who support the losing candidate can graciously put their angry rhetoric to the side and focus on what can still be done to ensure that their interests can still be  represented with respect and civility towards our democratically-elected leader.

Shocking as it may seem, it's actually easier to run 26.2 miles than it is for us as Americans to set differences aside for the sake of our national interests.  Maybe we could learn from this election how sticking to party lines and engaging in groupthink prevents our nation from moving forward, and make more attempts to avoid this four years from now.

That's my peace, all.  My thoughts and prayers are for the continued safety of everyone who may be in Hurricane Sandy's path.  Stay safe!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Support Breast Cancer Research

Under Your Skin

Hey All -- Double Portion!

No matter what we do, there is always a chance that someone, or something, will get under our skin.  Get our goat, grind our gears, boil our blood . . . or just plain p--- us off!

(sorry all, this is a family blog)

We're only human, so unless we're campaigning for sainthood, we're at least going to feel this reaction emotionally, even if we don't actually express it.  So what's to be done about it, without exposing ourselves to homicide charges?

(A)  NEVER let your anger effect your judgment.  Expressing why you're getting ticked, even a little bit forcefully, is OK, but DON'T let that expression include (1) any kind of cursing; (2) name-calling or slams against the other person (especially not anything that could cost you your reputation); or (3) any sort of threats.  If you must call someone on their BS, call them out only on the specific issues, and don't hit "below the belt."  Chances are, these people are trying to goad you into all of the above, and they're experts in using them against you.

(B)  FIND the breach in your "skin," patch it back up, and heal it. We've all got weak spots, but you don't let them stay weak and vulnerable if you expect to function like a healthy and same adult.  If need be, find a trusted family member or friend to vent to about how it stings and hurts.  Or better yet, open a new page in your journal and let 'er rip.  Write down everything you hate or can't stand about what's happened, and LEAVE it all on that page.  If it's in there, and not bouncing around your cerebral cortex, you've advanced yourself many levels and gotten your "groove" back.  Then get to work on the chink in your armor that allowed a sling or arrow to penetrate, and seal it back the heck up.  Don't leave that area unguarded again if you can help it.

As I've previously posted, anger is only useful from a position of strength.  Unfortunately, many of us will still feel angry when we are not in a position of strength, and can't do anything about it.  The feelings will happen regardless, but we are the only ones who can keep them under control.  Let's not lose the one power we have in that situation.

Yeah, now I'm back up to date -- feel free to comment!

A Good Cause

Hey All -- I know, I know, I've been missing a little bit, but not to worry, The Man Has Returned!  :)

The proliferation of the color pink has become an annual event we expect every October.  And this has nothing to do with a certain relative's favorite color, but everything to do with a worthy cause.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  An especially dangerous cancer, this natural parasite can spread to the bones, causing fractures and spinal cord compression.  It causes the deaths of tens of thousands of women each year, and hundreds of thousands of new cases are diagnosed each year.

This morning, at Jones Beach on Long Island, a 5-mile walk was held to raise continuing awareness, and research funds, to battle and hopefully eradicate this deadly disease.  I was honored to be among everyone else there, and to support research to treat and combat this scourge.

The central purpose of this blog is self-fulfillment and self-acceptance.  However, sometimes it takes extra pride and self-respect to contribute your time or money to a cause that helps others, and may save lives.  Without taking away all that is needed to continue and improve our self-confidence, you'll find an extra boost in pride that can only come from giving to something a little bit bigger than you and me.

If any you have not already done so, I encourage you to donate to the American Cancer Society, or any other organization committed to battling this disease.  And diary this occasion next year to make it an annual event.  Chances are, you may be saving the life of someone close and dear to you, or maybe a friend or relative of someone close and dear to you.

You'll be glad you did.  Trust me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Form and The Fog

Hey All -- wasn't around Sunday night, I was busy doing other things.  However, as a very close friend of mine gently reminded me recently, sometimes it's good to shake things up a little.  :)

There are two groups of extremists who are doomed to failure.  The first group is of those who will only follow the letter of the law, only do as they're told, and refuse to think, reason, surmise, or even guess what is beyond that which is required.  The second group is of those who just let everything go, never show the slightest concern when urgency is needed, expect life to resolve itself without any contribution on their part, and simply, as another close friend of mine put it, "don't give a flyin' fig."

They both SUCK.  They both RUIN things.  And YOU must never be a member of either group!

Members of the first group inevitably find themselves in positions of authority, because they loooooooooooove telling other people what to do.  And sometime in the past, some foolio convinced these people that as long as they spoke in a loud, obnoxious voice and demanded that people do what they wanted, or else, then they'd get respect.  And since them, some even worse foolios proved that first foolio right!  

What's worse as that these types may have been annointed to high stations that cloak them with immunity and impunity, and grant them undeserved authority.  Accordingly, we must be cautious around these types, lest they wreak havoc upon us.  But that doesn't mean we should be afraid of them.  We're able to think beyond "the rules," to use "the rules" to our advantage, to read between the lines of those rules, to give the rules new meanings, and sometimes supersede these glorified camp counselors and maybe, just maybe, change the rules.  

All they can do is blindly follow the rules.  Nice life, jabroni.

And then there's the second group.  These ones just aimlessly tumble through life with no direction, no purpose, no ambition, no desire, and nothing to offer the world.  They are sublimely content with having their major decisions made by others, without a thought to what their lives mean.  While the rest of us responsible types must always be sure that our immediate needs are taken care of, and that every decision is made with a degree of thought, these foolios wander through life "dazed and confused," but always prevented from failing due to the undeserved intervention of those enablers who keep them in a perpetual state of being "saved by the bell."

All they can do is exist.  What's the point?

We all know people like this.  Chances are, we may have been like one of these two extremes, and then woke up and stopped.  But if there's any hope for a life that will be lived by the Four Pillars, in which you Exist, Matter, Belong, and Deserve, you'd better stay out of both camps as much as possible!

You must also Think and Focus.  That doesn't mean you obsess and become anal rententive.  It doesn't mean you freak out over the smallest issue and make everything a problem.  It means you become independent and free-thinking, and that you also don't allow your thoughts to be slowed by distractions or lethargy.

So don't just exist in a fog, and don't just spend your life doing as you're told.  You don't have the luxury.

And let those two extremes handle life their way -- ironically, the members of one camp almost always marry those in the other.  Go Figure!

Have a great night everyone!

Also as a side note, there's a close friend of mine organizing a Breast Cancer walk-a-thon for this weekend.  With that close friend's permission, I'd like to include her link on the blog.  I await that person's permission before doing so.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I Alone Decide

From my darkened and fortified sanctum, from my secret and covert lair,
I watch over all in the world that's mine, I survey my territory far and broad.

I sit high above in my high far tower, rotating and observing my domain below,
Observing all that moves, stretches and transforms, my agents are my faithful eyes and ears.

The data from below is infinite, if I were able I'd digest it every waking hour,
Authority reaching over all that I see, my fiefdom and empire, mine for the taking.

Loyalty and honor the sole requirements, to enter and stay, lest they should dissipate,
Dissent is accepted, in reasonable doses, lest it flame into rebellion, never tolerated.

Only those with respect are admitted here, no blowhards or loudmouths may benefit,
Criticism is only accepted if constructive, cross-examination is strongly discouraged.

Through struggle and strife was my land made free, liberated from the old regime,
Defend and protect it at all costs is a rule hard to translate to times of peace.

So even if my realm is clean and pure, who's there who can share it with me?
Lonely at the top is an understatement, this throne has room for more than one seat.

Who can match my commands and desires with the common sense that I've missed?
Who can soothe my my doubts and fears, and make me more human than ruler?

Queen Esther wisened up the emperor of Persia, Evita brought about a New Argentina,
Josephine charmed the Little General, and Dagny Taggart found who was John Galt.

Who, like them, can match me as an equal, and not be as a taskmaster or a maid?
Who can understand me on all levels, and who can I understand exactly the same?

Who can help me choose my words wisely, and not hastily, when they count the most?
Who can I speak to without fear and worry, but instead with trust and confidence?

The choice is mine, and I will choose wisely, no following or abdicating will come from me,
And even if the choice is mine alone to make, the choice to be alone is my last resort.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Moving On With Awareness

Hey All. 

As discussed on Wednesday, this past week was Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.  Along with refraining from eating, drinking, and other activities normally taken for granted, Jews are encouraged to atone for their sins, perform acts of kindness and righteousness, and to find ways to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Those of you who have been to services in synagogue on that holiday know that it's quite long and repetitive.  It's not designed that way because there's a test later, or because some snooty hall monitor wants to make sure you're following along with every word.  My understanding is that it's meant to provide a background for direct communication between ourselves and the Almighty.

So during that period of communication, I not only asked for forgiveness for my slips and foul-ups, I asked for a roap map, or a guide-post, to see how I could reduce, if not eliminate, further instances of what I'd done.  And wouldn't you know it, I received an answer.

The worst sins I committed this past year were not against other people, but against myself.  I'd been guilty of holding onto anger, worry, fear, and stress long after the causes of these feelings had disappeared or become resolved.  This is the equivalent of neglecting to remove trash from a full receptacle.  Too much buildup that can only be destructive (anyone seen "Hoarders" lately?)

The sad thing is, I'd blogged against this practice of psychological self-mutilation many times, but was guilty of doing the same thing myself.  So what was the way to avoid this?  Simple commitment and practice.

As my father still likes to remind my sister and I, our minds sometimes wander on their own, but we are able to control this wandering.  We can decide what thoughts occupy space in our heads, but when we don't, our minds will repetitively regurgitate thoughts that will never give us a moment's peace.  

So in that spirit, here's the guidepost I received:

(1) If the situation is still ongoing, do whatever is necessary to resolve it.
(2) If it is finished, or nothing can be done to resolve it, cease thinking about it.
(3) If at first you can't stop thinking about it, actively concentrate on other matters.

Not an easy task, but I know that life will be infinitely better if it's done.  The key is to practice it every time a negative thought rears its head.  After that's done enough times, it will hopefully replace the former stress out/stay angry/stay worried/stay paranoid/stay hopeless-and-then-find-out-it-was-nothing-in-the-first-place practice that traps us far too often.  And let's face it, having that reaction is just as bad as that kid who pulls a fire alarm when there's not really a fire.  Creates a whole crazy scenario that was completely unnecessary!

Well, it's been less than a week, but I have been attempting to put it into practice.  Yeah, sometimes an issue at work will enter my thoughts on the weekend when I'm not working, but if I can't think up a solution to the problem right then and there, and email or text a note to myself to fix it on Monday, then I get busy and active doing anything else but think about it.  Given my normal tendency to vege and chill whenever I'm able, this does not seem completely natural.  But if it gets me off of this vicious cycle, without yelling "Jane stop this crazy thing" like George Jetson, then so be it.  :)

That doesn't mean you get lazy and irresponsible and just blow off your work duties or family responsibilities.  It just means that there's a time and place to deal with them, and a time and place to NOT deal with them AT ALL.  A high school football team does not discuss its algebra homework in the huddle, and a business executive does not discuss his child support payments and board meetings.  Do likewise.

That's my piece, all.  Have a good Sunday night!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Record Is Closed

This evening, the 24-hour fast day of Yom Kippur came to an end.  For those who observe, this was our last chance to seek forgiveness for all wrongs we committed this year, and to ask for a chance to do it right this year.

In my profession, you usually get just once chance to make your argument or prove your case.  It's usually done "on the record," so there's always proof that you made it.  Only problem is, if you DON'T make that argument or offer of proof that you needed, and the record is CLOSED, YOU LOSE.

That means you can't bring it up for the first time on appeal -- can't sneak anything past judges at that level, for sure!

Well, I thought I covered everything as I was in temple last night and today, and made most of my peace with G-D.  However, during the course of the day, I did get a little curt and short with someone that I should not have.  I'm feeling a bit low about that, but the holiday is over.

That being said, the liturgy of this day says that the only atonement granted is for sins between you and G-D, which He is most likely to forgive.  Sins committed between you and other people?  You're on your own.

So, without bringing up any names or places, I would like to let this individual, who is a Facebook friend, know that I was wrong and I'm sorry.  I have no idea whether this person is in a forgiving mood, but I'm being sincere.

Of course, per my September 16, 2012 re-post, the ball would be in that person's court now.  If he/she is too good and full of themselves to accept my apology, my obligation ends.  By the way, this is why some people will tell you that NOT apologizing gets more respect than apologizing.  Far too many people see contrition as an act of weakness and groveling, and it emboldens them to rub it in the penitent one's face.

Accordingly, if my sincere entreaty is not accepted, then as far as I'm concerned, it's withdrawn, and my transgression is absolved.  It takes guts to admit that you made a mistake and you want forgiveness, but it takes little more than human decency to grant that forgiveness -- we're all human, after all.

Too big to forgive?  Take a gander at the book of Jonah, the lamest prophet in the Bible.  Went out of his way disobey G-D's own directive because he didn't want to see a whole nation of sinners forgiven.  Much to his chagrin, they did request atonement most sincerely, and it was granted over his objection, and G-D took the opportunity to rub it in Jonah's face so he'd finally learn!  Even after living in a whale's (or fish's) stomach for three days, the smell of the brine and seaweed did not alert him to the fact that forgiveness is available to all those who ask for it, and that nobody is so big to judge others not to forgive (except the Nazis, they'll never deserve it).

So now that the record is closed, and all is said and done -- I am sorry, but if I'm not forgiven, there's no real need to be.

Comment, y'all!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Victorious Video!

Now That Felt Good!

Hey All, it's Sunday night!

Today, I had pretty good race.  Ran in the 18-Mile Tune-Up at Central Park, and wasn't sure how I'd do.  Last week I tried to do 16 miles on my own crossing the Queensborough Bridge and back, but good old MapMyRun just wasn't cooperating that day.  Got a big fat "Auto-Pause" instead of an accurate tracking, so I couldn't really gauge how I did.

Today, however, felt different.  This was three loops of the big 6-mile loop of Central Park, including Harlem Hill!  I tried to start out slow and relaxed, but I fell in with a chatty bunch, including a pace group leader for other races who had a million stories to tell, and wound up doing a 9-minute pace along with them.  I worried whether I was wasting what I'd need for the end, and then took a mint chocolate chip Gu with a Powerade chaser as I began the second loop at Mile 6.  That sent a few bursts of energy through me, and I found myself coming close to 8-minute splits.  After a while, I just dialed in that pace and stayed with it as long as I could, although that second Gu at Mile 12 didn't hurt matters.  Towards the end, I felt myself slowing a tiny bit, but I reminded myself that the finish line was near.  Right on cue, I came within range of the PA system, reminding the runners still competing to stay in the rec lanes on the left side of the road and leave the rest of the park to everyone else.  Lady, you can remind us all you want, I'm coming in for the home stretch!  So as soon as I saw the turn on the 102nd Street transverse, I booked it!

Met up with that chatty bunch later, and we compared "gun times," and extrapolated them to likely marathon times.  Mine was 2:34, and I was pretty happy with that, but I wanted to wait until the "chip time" was available before logging it with good old MapMyRun.  After I did, and posted it on Facebook, I got a lot of likes and comments that made me smile!  :)

I'd like to thank everybody for the congrats and accolades, but this isn't the end by any means.  The first Sunday in November, I've gotta stare down 26.2 miles on a journey through the Five Boroughs of NYC.  So in between then and now, I've gotta do at least one 20-miler on my own, and then taper down.  I'll keep you all posted, of course.

But it's not all about me, you understand.  Another triumph today was that of a good friend of mine who competed in a duathlon outside Buffalo, and placed second in her age group!  As a prize, she was awarded a snazzy-jazzy plate specifically designated for second place in her age group, and a free jar of peanut butter, LOL!  I still think they should switch to Nutella, but that's just me.  :)

Either way you slice it, this really is a good way to start the New Year that many of my tribespeople are celebrating.  I've talked a little bit about new beginnings, about starting classes at a metaphorical new school, and making changes in life.  This race was one good way to get a jump-start on that, as I needed a little boost of confidence to get started on all of those things.  I hope to ride these new changes all the way to Marathon Sunday and beyond, and in other senses besides running.  This year I'm also going to be re-kindling old friendships, making new ones, and making vast improvements and overhauls to this part-time hobby I call my blog.  To the extent I can't see what can be done to make it better now, I plan to enlist expert opinions of those who know how to make these things successes, and continue to make great connections and spread a little extra confidence, self-esteem, and good old-fashioned happiness to all who read it.

Back to work tomorrow, peeps!  Monday awaits . . . .  :)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A New Year With a Repost!

Hey All --

Since many of you might have missed last year's post regarding the Jewish New Year and the Ten Days of Awe.  So, in honor of this holiday, here is last year's post, with a few edits, and some emphasis added for good measure.


Some of you may be aware that this week is the Jewish New Year, and next week is the Day of Atonement.  This is the time of year when many devout Jews take into account their deeds and misdeeds, their successes and failures, and their strengths and weaknesses.  Many of you might not celebrate these holidays, but what I've got to say about it may be worth a read.

During the Ten Days of Awe, G-D is said to take into account each person's conduct throughout the prior year, and to decide what consequences he or she will or may not experience as a result of that conduct.  It is implied that if we've done wrong, we may face a comeuppance.  However, the liturgy of these days states that "Prayer, Righteousness, and Repentance avert (or lessen, depending on the translation) the severe decree."

You've seen me blog about misdeeds before.  The Four Principles tell us that we Exist, Matter, Belong, and Deserve, but they don't tell us that we're perfect.  Unless one of you is a divine super-being from another world, and chose not to enlighten me to this fact, then it's pretty obvious that we've all made mistakes this past year.  We've all opened our mouths and put our feet in them.  We've all forgotten things we should have remembered, and obsessed over things that were completely irrelevant, to our detriment.  We've all gotten too big for our britches and put our own desires over others' needs.  And we've all gotten so incensed in the heat of a disagreement, that we've done or said things that should not have been done or said, and can't be taken back.

The liturgy gives us a road map that might persuade the Almighty to grant us forgiveness:

PRAYER -- this can take many forms.  For those who are traditional, this could mean attending morning synagogue services and wearing tefillin as a "sign upon your hand and as frontlets between your eyes (see Deuteronomy Chapter 6)."  Or maybe going to church, mass, temple or mosque, and reciting the appropriate supplications seeking forgiveness.  Or maybe just finding a quiet park bench, overlooking a lake, and seeking a personal connection with G-D.

There's no one sure-fire request to make of the Holy One, but I would borrow the recommendation a good friend of mine once made.  Think of how it feels when you're with a good friend, you tell a joke, and your friend laughs.  If you can go to the park bench described above, and you can sense that a good friend is already there, listening to you, you may have already made the connection.  Depending on your surroundings, either out loud or silently, just ask for it.  Ask to be forgiven.  Admit that you're only limited, and did the wrong thing, and that you want another chance.  There can never be any assurance of what the outcome will be, but if you don't ask, it's guaranteed you won't get.

RIGHTEOUSNESS -- this is a concerted effort to do the opposite of whatever mistakes you made last year.  Did you zag when you should have zigged?  Zig and zig hard.  Did you forget too many details?  Plug some notes into your smartphone so you'll remember.  Did you chew out a subordinate at work?  PRAISE your subordinates and praise them well.

Did you insult someone just because you thought they were weaker or dumber than you?  Make respect and honor your watchwords, because you won't get as many free passes as you think you will.  

This part is separate from the prayer component because most of us don't need guidance to know right from wrong.  Most of the time, we just know.  Abraham knew that it was wrong to try to kill his son Isaac.  However, because he received a commandment from on high, and didn't know where He was going with it, Abraham didn't have the gumption to refuse.  Many of us have found ourselves in that predicament because someone "cool" wanted us to do something that wasn't.  Righteousness means standing up to those who would have you do the wrong thing, consequences be damned, and saying NO.

REPENTANCE -- this is the tough part.  This means admitting to someone other than G-D that you wronged them, and promising not to go that route again.  Only problem is, to borrow a cliche from several action movies, G-D forgives, but many people don't.  Some of them see repentance as a sign of weakness, and an invitation to browbeat, to upbraid, to rub salt in wounds, to take advantage, and to put you down in order to make themselves look more righteous than they really are.

Several of you have been reading my post from September 19, 2010 on New Day, entitled "The Fast He Wanted," which contains an even more concrete example of a refusal to forgive.  Here's the link, for those who haven't yet read it:

This is where the 24-hour Statute of Limitations can be used as a buffer.  Chances are, the bastion of self-righteousness that you're now facing didn't tell you that you'd offended them until days, months, or weeks had passed.  This means that any claim they once had against you is waived.  This means that you do not need to feel guilty over what they perceive to have occurred, and you are under no obligation to apologize.  However, to comply with the three steps outlined above, and just because it's good to "be a mensch," you must still apologize if you know you've done wrong.

The 24-hour Statute of Limitations does not prevent you from repenting for your sins if you choose to do so.  It does, however, bar the allegedly aggrieved from attacking you further, because they didn't timely state their claim.  And if they do choose to attack you at a moment of contrition, any obligation you may have felt to apologize and make whole evaporates.  That's right.  Their claim was waived ab initio, you tried to make good on it anyway, and they tried to take advantage of your good nature to state a claim untimely.  People who do that are completely undeserving of repentance, and over time, they'll learn that the hard way.

As for those who were timely, but are less callous and more accepting, don't let them down.  REALLY make good on whatever ails them.  Don't just say you're sorry, show you're sorry.  By money, by deeds, by actions, whatever it is, make them whole.  Even if you can't completely make them whole, your efforts and your intentions will be golden, and they will respect you for it.  And they themselves will be golden by their choice to forgive!

The reading of the Prophets for the Second Day of Rosh Hashanah comes from Chapter 31 of the Book of Jeremiah.  In that passage, Israel is compared to Rachel weeping for her departed children, and G-D tells her to stop her weeping, because her work will be rewarded, and Israel will be forgiven for its sins.  The message, according to some rabbis, is that as long as you have performed Prayer, Righteousness, and Repentance, there's no need to keep begging and groveling for forgiveness.  Without expressly saying so, Jeremiah is saying that G-D had his own 24-hour Statute of Limitations in those days.  Once you've said your peace go G-D, it's OK to feel free.

So let it be with you all.  Get it right with G-D, get it right with yourself, and ask to get it right with others.  Everything else should be a piece of cake!

A good holiday to those that observe.  And may those that don't observe take something good away from this week's entry.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday Video

A Friendly Rivalry

Hey All --

As some of you may be aware, this weekend was Week One for the NFL.  Back to spending all day Sunday, Monday night, and sometimes Thursday night watching teams of super-developed athletes find ways to overpower, outwit, outgun, and out-man each other.

Usually this involves rivalries that get re-kindled several times each season between certain teams.  Many times, these rivalries are geographically based.  Today, Week One included a matchup between a team representing New York City and its suburbs (including Northern New Jersey), and one representing Buffalo and its suburbs -- a classic battle between Upstate and Downstate New York!

Since I actually had a few other plans this afternoon that would take me away from the 4th quarter of this game (which may have been the most exciting part), I was watching the earlier portions of the game by myself.  However, it just so happens that some of my friends in Western Upstate New York had gathered at someone's house to watch that game together, exhorting the efforts of my team's opponents.  Although we were separated by more than 400 miles, through the magic of Facebook, we experienced this game together, each taking good natured jabs at the other team's painful and obvious weaknesses, and loudly celebrating each team's scoring, or successful appeal of referee calls on review (now that they happen on every other play).

Even though my team managed to win this game, and my commentary proudly reflected that, there was obviously no real malice aimed at the other team, or the city it represents, or its fans.  It was nothing more than good old-fashioned pride on display as two teams who've struggled in the AFC for many years did their best to start the season right.  And yes, this would sound better if the NFL Films guy were narrating it, but they usually save that golden voice for playoff-deciding games, conference championships, the Super Bowl, and anything deserving pain-staking, artistic slow motion.

It's only me, but maybe if there were more people out there in the blogosphere who had friends in rival cities that could virtually watch games between their two teams together, it would just make the experience that much better.  In football, this could be all season long, but in baseball, hockey, and basketball, it could easily fit into the playoff schedule.  Imagine Skyping and Facebooking with "the other side" during the Stanley Cup or the Super Bowl?  Even if it were a blowout and somebody had to mail the winning team's fans something of value, it would be a shared experience that would make the game that much better.

So let's all try to make this happen during the season whenever possible.  And better yet, if the NHL manages to take a hint from other leagues and try to avoid this looming lockout, maybe throwing in a few regular season games as shared experiences may send a message to those owners and players that too many people love the sport for them to let labor disputes tarnish it.

Feel free to comment, all!

Monday, September 3, 2012

New School Video

A New Beginning

Hi All:

Those of you with children at home know that Labor Day Weekend coincides with returning to school.  This usually means starting a new grade, getting a new teacher, or even starting over at a completely new level of education, be it middle school, high school, college or beyond.  Some of you children out there might feel somewhat nervous or anxious.  Not because there's anything bad awaiting you on the other side, but because it's new, different, and unfamiliar.  Just enough to change the foundation your world is based on, make you feel uncomfortable, and somewhat uncertain about what lies ahead.

If I could get just a little bit personal, that's exactly what's happening with me.  I won't be getting into the specifics -- yet -- but I have a new beginning this week too.  Since many of you have been reading this blog regularly, I wanted to share a few of my feelings with you.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared, even a little.

This was a new beginning that I chose for myself.  I had every reason in the world to begin it, and I still have every reason in the world to make it happen.  That didn't make the decision an easy one, and it's not going to make this new beginning feel like a breeze.  If anything, it feels a lot like the first day of school . . . for a semester that's going to last the rest of my life.

This new classroom I'm occupying has different rules than the one I was in last year.  It allows more freedoms, but also requires more responsibilities.  It teaches lessons for those who are mature, in age and in attitude, but it also reminds us that these lessons originate from mistakes and misunderstandings.  It allows new opportunities to grow and learn, but it also contains reminders of opportunities that were not taken, and lost.

Ultimately, I know I'll be using this classroom to learn from those past mistakes.  This could be a classroom where I'm the star pupil, and ultimately the teacher.  A classroom where I can learn exactly what I need to make better decisions, be they life choices or "little things."  My only problem will be my memories of last year's class, how to use them, and when not to use them.

Yes, we've all crammed for tests and developed photographic memories during our scholastic careers (three days before I took the bar exam, I could quote things chapter and verse).  But in this classroom, the idea is to not be stuck and stifled by everything that was remembered.  As an old Jedi Master once tried to teach his final student, I clearly must unlearn much of what I've learned.  Not easy at all, folks.  That's because to excel in this new classroom, I can't just ingest and regurgitate black-letter rules that are never questioned or modified.  In this new academic period, I'm forced to completely overhaul my attitude about life in general.  And that means putting the past in categories that me most -- as guideposts, as reference material, as footnotes, as anecdotal evidence . . . or better yet, as shredding.  And knowing where it all belongs.  And let me tell you, that means a lot of editorial work, and even more shredding!

I've cultivated a hobby, more like a mini-career, writing these motivational messages as a modern-day part-time philosopher.  I like to remind people of life-affirming approaches to address conflict and adversity while achieving the self-actualization that sometimes eludes us.  What I say sometimes sounds deep and profound, but I still put my pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else.  I am no guru, no master, and no sensei.  I'm still flesh and blood, I still face challenges, and I still have feelings that are all too human.  I'd like to think that by sharing some of this with you all -- only some of it now, and some of it later -- I'll get through some of those lessons better than it would by merely going it alone.

One final note -- my close relatives and friends who read this blog already know what I'm talking about, and can read between the lines.  The rest of you, being the smart cookies you are, have probably already figured it out for yourselves.  That being said, I'd rather not comment on the exact reason why I'm starting this new school until I know that it's the right time to do so.  Until then, anyone who has a question to ask, or a specific statement to make about this situation, please email me, Facebook me, or Direct Message me privately.

(ya know, when I was in my old school, I never did go out for the cross-country team -- this could be my chance to pick up that varsity letter after all those years . . . . )  :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Selective Enforcement

Selective Enforcement?

Hey all -- time for the second half of the double-portion.

Maybe this one belongs squarely in the life's-not-fair-suck-it-up category, but I've just seen it happen too many times that something's gotta give.

Sometimes in families, or elsewhere, we see people get off scot free with behavior that would have landed the rest of us in hot water.  Many times this is due to "the code," "the way it works," or because some stupid hen-pecking order has elevated some chump to an undeserved pedestal.

This unwritten hierarchy often permits the aforesaid chump to bully, malign, insult, deride, disrespect, and take pot shots at anyone they feel like with immunity and impunity.  And the enablers and hangers-on who permit this to happen are always at the ready with a plethora of platitudes and excuses why it just has to stay that way and can't ever change. 

What's to be done then?

You may have noticed the link I have to Dr. Benjamin Leichtling's website on my blog roll.  He says it best, but suffice it to say, his opinion seems to be that if these spoiled and enabled individuals don't think they're required to respect you, you're not required to give them further opportunities.  You can set up boundaries that prevent their entry unless and until they learn how to behave.  You can make it clear that the tone and the mouth are unacceptable.  You can repeat these Four Pillars to yourself as many times as you can to remind yourself that they don't get away with it with you.

This may mean causing a dust-up.  It may create warring factions and family feuds.  It comes with a great deal of risk.  But what about the reward?  At the very least, these overgrown trust-fund babies will learn that if they don't feel like growing up and changing the behavior, they had better look for other arenas where it will be accepted, because it won't be on your watch!

Short and sweet tonight all -- work tomorrow!

Comment, like, retweet, follow, +1, just show me the looooooove!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Wrong Way

Hey hey all -- my technical difficulties have now been rectified.  When you keep a laptop with Windows Vista for five years, you have to expect a Windows or McAfee update to go "down the wrong pipe" and cause trouble.  I thank the expert techie who helped me out of that jam.  One of these days your friendly neighborhood blogger needs to join the '10s and buy himself an iPad!

We gotta talk about yesterday's tragic events at the Empire State Building.  Just what the heck happened with this Jeffrey Johnson?  A year after losing a job, he tries to put a point-blank mob hit on an ex-co-worker in broad daylight? 

The thing that really doesn't make sense is that he lost his job a year ago.  A temporary desire for revenge is expected immediately after losing one's job, but a year later, even if times are still tough, that desire should have waned, or better yet disappeared.

Couldn't someone have helped this man out?  Couldn't he have tried to help himself?  Or better yet, did the murder victim bully or torment Johnson that badly, or cause his termination, or act spitefully or snarkily?  We haven't heard all the details yet, even in the year 2012, but they may explain a few things.

The archives of this blog are jam-packed with posts that rail against bullying and those who permit it to happen.  It's no secret that I expect effective consequences to be delivered against bullies, gangsters, and miscreants without abandon.  But never, and the Rock means never, have I ever suggested that victims deprive these bandejos of their very lives.   Murder is never the answer

The Columbine killers were bullied so much they probably didn't understand right and wrong anymore -- they were still wrong to kill.  The Colorado "Joker" may have had some issue with Batman fans -- still wrong anyway.  Tons of employees of the United States Postal Service have laid waste to their employer -- not the right move no matter how frustrating the life must be.

People who wrong you are asking for consequences, without a doubt.  But unless they have a gun to your head or are interested in leaving your body living but violated (and not "legitimately," Captain Wordsmith Akin) in the immediate future, ending their lives is not the way to solve the problem.  As I've said before, we don't live in a comic book.  You don't get to be a hero for blowing someone away just because you're so unbelievably badass.  You get to be a criminal, a terrorist, or a corpse yourself.

I may be borrowing a quote from my adversaries, the "we-don't-care-it-doesn't-bother-me-it's-your-problem" crowd, but this time I think they're right.  There is such a thing as "natural consequences."  Some may call it karma, G-D's will, or bad juju, but it exists no matter what name it has.  When people wrong you, you have an obligation to protect yourself and to present consequences for your tormentor's actions.  But that obligation is limited by reason, common sense, and basic human dignity.  Did someone backstab you last year and cost you a promotion?  You don't have to pretend to believe that schmucking fool's friend, but you can still stop grinding your teeth in their presence.  Did someone embarrass you at Boy Scout Camp back during childhood?  For all you know, he may have contracted a terminal illness and died a slow and painful death.  Did someone make you feel useless, inadequate, abject, and deserving of abuse when you were young?  For you know, he may be unemployable due to a criminal record and still living at home well into his 30's or 40's.

Point being, our window of opportunity to dispense consequences is limited by time, space, and natural law.  We do not decide that an offense other than murder warrants death, only G-D does.  We do not pretend we're in a Rambo movie and that anyone who tries to stop you from killing deserves to die worse.  Stand up for yourself, live by the Four Pillars, and shut people down when they try to hurt you, but don't let it expand to homicide.

And oh, by the way -- some of the examples of natural consequences I listed above are true stories.

Comment, like, retweet, do your thing, peeps!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Olympics Over, Games Begin!

More Prizes To Be Taken and Glory To Be Found

For many Olympic athletes, tonight is the end of a lifetime of training and focus towards victory.  Some of them met and exceeded their own expectations, and some came up slightly short. We did have Ali Raisman win a gold medal and dedicate it to the memory of the fallen Israeli athletes of 1972 -- showing more class than the administration even attempted.  We also had Michael Phelps finish off his career in style, the women's soccer team avenging last year's World Cup loss, and the Redeem Team -- well -- redeem itself!  Not to mention, our super-amazing track & field medalists!  :)

But we also had Mackayla Maroney come so close, but just not have her best day.  And we also had Marathon Meb Keflezighi come just short of medaling behind two Kenyans (expected) and a Ugandan (huh?).  And on his way to the history books, our boy Phelps also wound up collecting two silvers and failing to medal in one event.

As I stated at the start of these Games, the honor is not actually meant for the eventual winners, but for those who competed at their best level.  So for all those who did, much respect and admiration.

But as is the case with the rest of us, life goes on after the torch is extinguished and everyone packs up and moves out of the Olympic Village.  Back to their home countries, back to their families, back to start their lives again.

(holy hole, I think I'm morphing into my parents -- this is exactly what they would tell me whenever something was over.  NO chance to post-mortem, NO review and recap, NO post-game show, NOTHING of the sort, when it was over it was OVER, stop talking about it and go to bed.)

Well, without morphing into my folks, it's better to move on from these experiences, win or lose, before they hold you back.  Yes, our Redeem Team will brag about their gold medals throughout the NBA season, much to the chagrin of their teammates from other lands.  And yes, Phelps still needs to make $$$ from his endorsement deals.  But since these games only happen every four years (every two years, counting the Winter Games), they're forced to move on to other pursuits.

And so must we.  As sports fans, we must switch gears to the pennant race in baseball (Let's Go Yan-Kees!), the start of the football season (J! E! T! S! JETS! JETS! JETS!), and training camp for hockey (Go Isles, Please Don't Move)!

In my game, once a case is over, it gets closed up.  That's not including the question of whether something can be appealed, or whether settlement negotiations are needed.  I mean when it's OVER, it's over.  It's not kept in a library for reference, it's not left in an office taking up space, it's OVER.   Taken to storage, maintained for record keeping purposes for seven years, and then shredded

And so it should be.  This weekend, a friend of mine posted on Facebook that he was "so detached from the past & so focused in the present moment, that it almost feels like my past was a 'past life.'"  I've blogged before about moving on, etc., but that quote indicates that the speaker no longer needs to keep reminding himself to do so.  He's already gotten his head screwed on straight, and is looking at what's on his plate in front of him, that whatever was on his place yesterday is a nearly-forgotten fantasy.  If my folks ever met this guy, they'd shake his hand just for saying that!

Obviously, our lives are going in one direction, much like athletes running a marathon or a tri -- if you turn around and go back towards the starting line, you will not finish.  Much like our athletes who did their best and came home empty-handed, now is the time to learn and reinforce the lessons learned from what happened, and not to bemoan what might have been and wasn't.  Rather than kicking yourself for zigging when you should have zagged, for choosing this move instead of the other, or not being cool and smooth enough so that pole vaulter from New Zealand would've gone on a date with you, just don't repeat whatever mistakes were made. 

Have a good night, all.  Don't forget to comment!