Please Don’t Buy Me A Star.

d6bbe3dce08905c3464aba45792f9d16I beg of you.  Okay.  We’ve just limped through the major gift giving holidays and my birthday is months away so the likelihood of anyone giving me anything exists only in my imagination but just in case you do decide to surprise me with some sort of gift please don’t make it my very own star.
Driving home this evening I heard advertised on the radio the invitation to give the perfect gift — a star named after and belonging to the person of your choice.  No price was mentioned but I’m thinking that if you have to ask the price you already can’t afford the star.
Here are my concerns and why I truly don’t want anyone to give me a star.
First, is it really possible to sell something that you don’t own?  Isn’t that sort of behavior the stuff of which prison sentences are made?  Okay.  Perhaps it might be argued that no one owns the stars but does that uncertain area really make it all right to sell and give?
In the second place, if we can see a star isn’t it already dead?  I don’t know much about astronomy and perhaps some of our learned NASA/JPL readers can provide more information on this dead star visibility stuff but really, if I’m right, would it seriously be okay to give as a gift a dead star?  That would be kind of like giving someone the gift of your dead cat.  I mean, come on.  We’ve had two dead cats during the past several months and we didn’t try to give either of them away as a gift.
Thirdly, is there anyone actually buying stars to either give as gifts or, against the wisdom of the radio ad, keep as personal possessions?  If there are then I fear the end of all rational though is upon us.
Oh, wait.  Rational thought already ended.
Whatever your opinion of this star buying thing, you won’t catch me buying one.  I don’t have any money left.  Several years ago I bought the  Brooklyn Bridge.  It was really expensive and I couldn’t afford it but I’ve never regretted the purchase because as proof of ownership I got, in addition to the actual bridge, a t-shirt with a bridge photograph.
But stars?  Come on.  Really.

Annual Crossing

2c90dc2eaa28728146fc2f7ec8f6ef42Here we are again at this narrow bridge

Ready to begin our annual crossing –
Returned to this moment by ancient migratory
Patterns mapped in stone.
For a month we’ve wondered
What to bring – how best to pack and what to wear –
Difficult preparations even though
We try to make them every year.
I always over pack and now at this
Pre-crossing liminal moment I wonder –
Will I really need a flashlight?
If I haven’t yet read that issue of ‘Scientific American’
I bought on impulse last year at the Jet Blue
Terminal of JFK maybe I should admit
That I’ll never read it
And leave it behind.
I open my pack for a final inventory before
Stepping on to the bridge.  Does my Zip Lock
Bag of anger weigh too much?  Is my Nalgene
Bottle of tears absolutely necessary?  Did I pack
Enough hope and forgiveness?  Where is that
Stuff sack of patience I meant to take?  Is there
Time to repack before I cross to the other side?
Is anyone less prepared than I?
Rav Nachman — our tour guide – said that
The important thing is to not be afraid.
I just heard a scream.  No wait.  We’ve heard
That sound before — our shrieking
Hollow filled with awe horn
Reminding us to watch our steps.
This bridge between our sunsets is, indeed,
Narrow.  Each year we journey together we
Become better packers.  We learn to travel
Lightly.  The anger was too heavy.  Tears once
Shed are gone forever.  Maybe the flashlight is
Still a good idea.  We make these crossings
Together to steady and prepare for the moment
We must cross the bridge alone – comforted by
Our yearly migrations to sacred moments at this
Fearless time.

 

Making Lists Helps Keep Things Under Control

Every once in awhile I get to feeling pretty overwhelmed.  That generally happens when I believe I’ve got so much to do that I can’t even begin to choose what to do first.  That’s when the list comes in.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I don’t write down every single chore needing attention.  That would just begin the feeling overwhelmed cycle all over again.  I write down no more than a half dozen things I want to do.  A half dozen chores seems manageable.  And very quickly I am able to cross things off of the list.

Arnold Lobel wrote a wonderful serialized children’s story about a Frog and a Toad who are friends.  In Frog and Toad Together Toad wakes up feeling pretty overwhelmed, too.

He decides to make a list so he can remember all of the things he has to do that day.
The first thing he writes down is “Wake Up” and he immediately crosses that item off of his list because he has already done that.  Right away Toad is enjoying success and increasing his sense of self efficacy — his belief that he is capable of having an impact on his life.
Toad adds other items to his list:  Eat Breakfast.  Get Dressed.  Go To Frog’s House.  Take A Walk With Frog.  Eat Lunch.

Once Toad has his day written down it seems much more manageable.  His life seems under control.

Unfortunately Toad lets his list take control of his day instead letting it be a tool to guide him through the day.  When the wind blows the list away, Toad can’t run after it because running after the list wasn’t on the list.  Frog, who has no list, tries to catch it but the wind is too strong.

Unable to decide what next to do, Toad sits down and does nothing.  His good friend Frog sits with him.  Finally when Frog announces, in darkness, that is is time to go home and go to sleep, Toad remembers that “Go To Sleep” was the last thing on his list and so, happily, wishes his friend a good night and goes home to sleep.

It’s a good story which makes important points.  Lists are helpful but only as tools.  They don’t get to run the show.
I made my list today and crossed things off of it.  Tomorrow I will make another list because this is a good way to not feel overwhelmed.

Challenges of Change

a01fbb6fc41fc53a146b0f68e58f1192Liminal times can be unsettling.  We aren’t where we were nor are we where we will be soon.  So we feel off balance.  The expectation is that once we cross that threshold things will be steady again.  Not so fast, bud.  Regaining balance takes some time.  Always looking for the quick fix, we naturally believe that once the change happens life will return to normal.  Problem is ‘normal’ no longer exists and while we adjust to the new normal life may continue to feel out of sync, off balance.  Perhaps knowing this will help us adjust sooner or at least be a bit kinder to ourselves.

So That’s Why We Carry Jumper Cables

helping-handI don’t know how to use them and on some level they terrify me.  But there they are always rattling around in the trunk of the car.  One morning during this past week circumstances forced me to venture out to the nearest grocery story.  It was cold and windy. Earlier that morning snow fell in heavy clumps.  Had we not been out of milk and bread and, well, just about everything else I wouldn’t have even considered leaving the condo.  I pulled into the first available space in the parking lot of the Stop and Shop.  Only when I was getting out of the car did I notice the man standing in front of the van parked next to me.  The hood was raised.  He stood in front of it staring into the mystery of the internal combustion engine.  Back in La La Land I probably would have just gone on about my business but cold and snow and wind seem to change the way people interact.
“Hello,” I said loudly because the wind picked up just as I spoke.  “I have jumper cables.  Would that help?”
The man smiled and said, “That might just fix everything.”
“I have them but I don’t know how to use them.”
“I don’t have then but I sure do know how to use them.”
We were shouting at each other because that’s how you speak in a windy snow storm.
While he taught me to use jumper cables he said that he had just moved down from upstate New York.
“Where it’s warmer?” I shouted.
“That’s right,” he shouted back.
Today was his wife’s birthday and he had gone into the store to buy her flowers.  His battery had been failing and, when he accidentally left his lights on while he was choosing the flowers, it died.
With the jumper cables it started right up.
“I felt so lost,” he shouted over the wind.  “I didn’t know who to call and then you just appeared.  It’s a miracle.”
“Tell your wife happy birthday for me,” and with that I tossed the cables back into the trunk and went inside to buy oatmeal.
Welcome to New Jersey.

Canadian Geese Are A Lot Like Cattle

Canada_Geese_at_Marymoor_ParkOkay, so they don’t have four hooves or cuds even though they may re-chew their food from time to time but over the past several days I’ve had multiple opportunities to observe thousands of Canadian Geese and during my life I’ve had thousands of opportunities to observe multiple varieties of cattle and my conclusion is that cows and geese have one particular and striking similarity.  Side bar comment — That’s about as long as I can make that opening sentence.  Now onward to the very short point of this post.  Geese when not flying and just standing around tend to all face the same direction.  So do cows except, of course, that cows are never flying.  They do on occasion jump but that’s just over the moon.

I Never Could Put His Books Down

 

1315590125-mpalmerMichael Palmer kept me reading.  It was a given that once I started a Michael Palmer novel I would not stop reading until the story ended. That made him, in my opinion, a really good writer.  We might complain that his medical thrillers weren’t sufficiently erudite for the sophisticated literary palate and for some people that might have been a legitimate complaint.  I didn’t care and neither did my palate.  He knew how to tell a story and he knew how to keep us reading that story until he said it was time to stop.  That’s enough for me.  I will miss his stories.  And the world lost a good story teller. – Mary Walker Baron

 

OF LITTLE FAITH will be in the Winter Issue of ForeWord Magazine. We’re glowing.

From Carol Hoenig:
“How thrilled I was to be informed this morning that the following review for OF LITTLE FAITH will be in the Winter Issue of ForeWord Magazine. I’m glowing.”

“A raw yet sensitive portrayal of hypocrisy set against the backdrop of the tumultuous 1960s presents the struggles of a liberal woman in the context of her conservative family and upbringing.

Brutally frank and devastatingly real, this exceptional novel explores the dynamics of a dysfunctional family while calling attention to hypocritical behavior. Dredged memories of clergy pedophilia during the 1950s mingle with suppressed sexuality and feminist perceptions of a biblical world. Narrated from the distinctive viewpoints of four protagonists, the story reveals that interpretation of religious structure is highly personal, not a matter of dogma.

Two sisters, a brother, and a sister-in-law cannot agree on whether to sell their childhood home that is occupied by the sibling with a zealous attitude toward fundamentalist religion. Pitted against this woman are her liberal sister, Laura, who wishes to have a child without the entanglement of marriage during a time when it remains unacceptable, and her brother, who is a married minister who remains childless.

Laura, having been molested by a pastor, maintains a straightforward, carefree lifestyle that showcases the flaws of conservative purists who resist change. Through Laura’s eyes, a sincere desire cannot tolerate a “should” or a “must” in a preordained plan; rather, it is the spontaneity of living that enlightens those who seek the guidance of a higher power.

Filled with twists and surprises, this absorbing novel fulfills expectations without giving itself away. The end will astound even the most jaded. Meticulous effort, as well as personal experience, enhances the authenticity of Hoenig’s work, bringing to light a captivating though frightening decade. Women’s rights, the Vietnam War, and civil-rights protests set the backdrop for this engrossing exploration of human character.

Carol Hoenig is president of her own publishing consultant firm and an award-winning author with a gift for insightful storytelling. Her involvement in fundamentalism and later rejection of the church bring to light this sensitive portrayal of a fascinating cast of characters.

*Of Little Faith* delivers a punch to old-school beliefs while spotlighting the period when progress for women battled nightmarish condemnation and self-centered ritual.” –ForeWord Reviews, Winter Issue

Crossing The Street Isn’t Always Easy

He clearly was among the many homeless wandering the streets of Pomona, California.  Instead of the proverbial shopping cart he tried to pull a broken down, dirty, clothes and other possessions bulging through the seams wheeled suitcase.  One wheel was missing.  When the light changed he tried to hurry but the suitcase wouldn’t let him.  He pulled and tugged.  He looked at me waiting to make my right turn.   I saw only fear on his face and wondered what it was that he feared.  Could it be that I would become impatient and honk my horn or curse or even run him over?  I smiled at him and tried to motion that I wasn’t in that much of a hurry.  After all, I was only going to work.  He stared at me a moment and then resumed his struggle with the suitcase.
Finally he got across the street and I made my right turn.  I looked in my rear view mirror.  On the other side of the street, he stood staring in my direction.
I wondered if my moment of kindness had made a difference in his day.
I hope it did.

Heather Halperin, We HEART You!

Heather Halperin is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a professor at the University of Southern California, and a constant and enthusiastic supporter of Steel Cut Press.  She has just received the National Association of Social Worker’s Life Time Achievement award and we congratulate her on this well deserved honor.photo (25)