3 years, 9 months, and 18 days. Be wary of social media: use it wisely, not blindly.




My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I love you.  I miss you.  Know that no one and nothing could ever take the place of my sons.  Ever.  You will always have a special place in my heart.

That’s why I want you to have a safe, successful, meaningful, and happy life.


... Quote: A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for

Live.  Explore.  Use available means to expand your minds and your horizons.

The internet is a great tool for that.  With a click of a mouse, you have access to millions of books to read,

numerous on-line courses,

hundreds of first-hand accounts of travel and life around the world

However, as with all things, the internet has its negative side.  It presents a grave danger for numerous reasons.  First and foremost, because people can post things anonymously and hide behind the anonymity, they are more likely to post mean and nasty things which they would not otherwise say or do in person, where their identity is easily determined.  Numerous studies have shown darkness and anonymity encourages dishonesty and antisocial behaviors.  See, e.g., http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00224545.1976.9711936#preview; http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2010/01/28/0956797609360754; and, https://newrepublic.com/article/117152/how-sunglasses-and-masks-affect-moral-behavior.   Second, kids and people of limited capacity are particularly vulnerable to these dark, mean, and misinformed posts because they lack the tools to objectively assess the truth or veracity of the posts.  See, e.g., https://newrepublic.com/article/117152/how-sunglasses-and-masks-affect-moral-behavior; http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/10/26/13413292/social-media-disrupting-politics; and, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/10/28/the-man-who-duped-trumpkins-fox-news.html.  Thus, kids are often exposed to — and fall prey to —  cyber-bullying, sexual predators, pornography, and misinformation via the internet.  See, e.g., http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/4-dangers-internet; http://www.covenanteyes.com/2012/01/03/7-dangers-of-the-internet-for-kids/; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/10619007/Children-using-social-networks-underage-exposes-them-to-danger.html; and, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/internet/9637676/The-internet-can-be-a-dark-and-dangerous-place.html.

Another danger is that the internet makes it easier for people to close themselves off by limiting their interactions only to like-minded individuals.  The danger here can be great because group think frequently fosters and heightens the negative traits around which the group was formed.  For example, hate group exchange anecdotes and hate-filled stories, stoking further the flames of hatred.  Often, the voice of reason and of dissent are absent (or ejected) from such groups; thus, the tenor of their conversations is very one-sided. Add youth and limited capacity to the mix, and a volatile environment ensues.

According to Julie Lynn Evans, a leading child psychotherapist, one of the dangers of the internet is the plethora of chatrooms to explore the numerous human interests – both the healthy and perverted.

“The misery in those chatrooms is overwhelming and heart-rending – the sheer weight of it,” she says. “Teenagers haven’t got anybody with a good, strong sense of self-worth to protect them when they are in there. The chatrooms become their reality.


Thus, beware of the internet.  Use it wisely.  Be critical.  Always ask who the speaker is and what his/her biases are.  Information from trusted sources that have been vetted by experts are more trustworthy then blogs and postings by organizations or individuals with a bone to pick.

Stay safe, my sons.

All my love, always,




3 years, 9 months, and 10 days. To be happy, live a meaningful life.

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I am unhappy.  In fact, I am miserable.  I breathe.  I eat.  I read Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  But, I am empty and joyless.  Without my sons, it is hard to find meaning to my life.

I’m not the only one to equate meaning with happiness.  Below is a great discussion of the same.  (Since I cannot contact you directly or else those corrupt thugs will put you in foster home with strangers, I am hoping you will someday find your way to this blog and find some use in it.)

All my love, always,



This Is How To Unlock Meaning In Life: 4 Proven Secrets

There’s no shortage of tips about what brings happiness, but what gives your life meaning?

“Meaning in life” is one of those things everybody insists is vitally important — yet nobody tells you what it really is, and directions to get there never seem to come up on Google Maps.

I had to take geometry to graduate high school but knowing what a rhombus is has never helped me. Nobody thought it was important to teach me about meaning. Seriously, my air conditioner came with better instructions than anything that’s important in life.

Thankfully, somebody took it upon themselves to get to the bottom of this by looking at what the research has to say.

Emily Esfahani Smith has written a wonderful new book entitled The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters. And it has many of the answers we need.

So what makes for a meaningful life? How does it differ from just being happy? Let’s get to it…


What’s The Difference Between Happy And Meaningful?

People commit suicide because they’re unhappy, right? Wrong. They do it because they lack meaning.

From The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters:

When they crunched the numbers, they discovered a surprising trend: happiness and unhappiness did not predict suicide. The variable that did, they found, was meaning — or, more precisely, the lack of it.

So there’s more to life than “pleasure good, pain bad.” (Sorry, Epicurus.) But that ain’t the half of it…

Research shows meaning and happiness can be at odds with one another. People with the most meaningful lives were “givers.” But those with the happiest lives were “takers.”

Best example? Parenthood. Cleaning poopy diapers makes nobody happy. Kids are really expensive. They crash your Mazda. (Sorry, dad.) My MBA friend Vlad loves his kids but also adds, “They’re definitely ROI negative.”

And the research agrees. Kids don’t make you happier:

Using data sets from Europe and America, numerous scholars have found some evidence that, on aggregate, parents often report statistically significantly lower levels of happiness (Alesina et al., 2004), life satisfaction (Di Tella et al., 2003), marital satisfaction (Twenge et al., 2003), and mental well-being (Clark & Oswald, 2002) compared with non-parents.

However, I’m guessing you aren’t rushing to schedule a vasectomy or a tube-tying right now, are ya? Why?

Because as Emily points out, research also shows children bring enormous meaning to people’s lives. Getting zero sleep for the first year of your child’s life does not make you happy. But as we saw, happiness isn’t everything. Parenthood is the ultimate form of giving. And givers lead meaningful lives.

So it seems we’re in a real sticky wicket here: do you have to be unhappy to have meaning? Thankfully, the answer is no.

A life focused exclusively on happiness is like that container of ice cream that quickly brings a huge dose of pleasure — followed by a stomachache, regret and a root canal. A meaningful life does produce good feelings — but it takes a while to catch up.

For a 10-day period, researchers told one group of students to do things that make their life meaningful. They helped people. They studied hard. They cheered up friends.

The researchers told another group of students to just do stuff that made’em happy. They slept in, played video games, and ate candy. (My guess is they probably also did other stuff the study did not discuss but to my knowledge, nobody got pregnant or had their liver explode.)

So what happened at the end of the study? Initially, exactly what you’d expect. The “be happy” group got happier. And the “be meaningful” group got meaningful-er. But three months later, things changed. The happy feelings of the second group faded fast. Meanwhile…

From The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters:

The students who had pursued meaning said they felt more “enriched,” “inspired,” and “part of something greater than myself.” They also reported fewer negative moods. Over the long term, it seemed, pursuing meaning actually boosted psychological health.

Parenthood can be a pain in the ass. But it also brings tremendous meaning to life. Don’t sell your kids on the black market just yet. Meaning is the tortoise. Happiness is the hare. You remember who won that race? Exactly.

(To learn the 7 step morning ritual that will keep you positive all day, click here.)

So over the long haul, meaning beats happy. But how do we get there? Emily’s book covers 4 things that came up time and time again in the research on meaningful lives…


1) Belonging

Remember how it wasn’t unhappiness that led to suicide but lack of meaning? When Emile Durkheim, the father of sociology, looked at suicide demographics the numbers initially seemed all over the place and didn’t make a lot of sense. For instance:

  • Living in a country in the midst of war actually reduced suicide.
  • Being educated increased suicide.
  • Jewish people were more educated — but somehow were less likely to kill themselves.

What the heck was going on?

It was about belonging. War is miserable — but it bonds people together against an enemy. Education often means leaving friends and family to go to school or that fancy job. Jewish people were educated, but they often lived in strong communities.

I am lucky enough to belong to a group that gets together as often as three times a week. Chances are, I’ll see Andy, Justin, and Charlie tomorrow. Bob’s outta town but should be back soon. And we’re still coaxing Drew to move back from Montreal.

What groups do you belong to? Quickest way to add meaning to your life is to see them more often. Not part of a group? Join one. No groups to join? Start one. It’s as easy as texting people to get together regularly around a common interest.

(To learn the 4 rituals that neuroscience says will make your brain happy, click here.)

Alright, so you gotta belong. But you can’t just sit around “belonging” all day. What do you actually have to do?


2) Purpose

The word “purpose” is downright intimidating. Relax — you don’t have to strive to cure cancer. Purpose is less about what you do and more about how you see what you do.

In her book, Emily tells a story I love. It was 1962 and President Kennedy was visiting NASA. He runs into a janitor. The President asks the guy what he’s doing. The janitor replies, “Helping put a man on the moon.”

That’s purpose. He didn’t say “emptying trash cans” (and he didn’t make a Marilyn Monroe joke like a certain blogger who has issues with authority might.)

“Helping put a man on the moon” has both of the qualities that Stanford developmental psychologist William Dawson says we need for purpose:

First, it’s a stable and far-reaching goal. “Make it to the end of the workday without getting fired” doesn’t cut it. You need something that motivates you and that you can organize your actions around.

Second, it involves a contribution to the world. It makes a difference in the lives of people who don’t happen to be you.

Wharton’s Adam Grant did a study that looked at over 200 million people in 500 different jobs to figure out which careers are the most meaningful. All of the ones at the top (surgeons, clergy, educators) were roles that helped other people.

So how can you redefine your role at work to find more meaning? What’s a bigger goal it contributes to? How does it better the lives of others?

In school I hated writing term papers. Now, one could argue, I write them for a living. But I don’t see it that way; I’m helping people learn.

(To learn the 6 rituals that ancient wisdom says will improve your life, click here.)

Alright. You feel like you belong. You’ve got a purpose to what you do. But that doesn’t seem to sum up a deep “meaning” in life that you could explain to others. And, as it turns out, that’s vital…


3) Storytelling

No, you don’t have to write a novel or anything. But you need to remember that your brain is wired for stories. It’s how you make sense of the world. And you have a story you tell yourself about your life — whether you realize it or not.

My story is that I was a nerd who got picked on in high school but after being bitten by a radioactive spider I… Oops, that’s not my story, that’s Spider-Man’s. But there is something we can learn from Spider-Man’s story…

Dan McAdams is a professor at Northwestern who studies “narrative identity.” And he found a trend in the stories that people with meaningful lives tell themselves. Their lives are a “redemption story.”

From The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters:

In these stories, the tellers move from suffering to salvation — they experience a negative event followed by a positive event that resulted from the negative event and therefore gives their suffering some meaning.

Peter Parker gains superpowers from the radioactive spider bite. But filled with hubris, he refuses to help stop a criminal. The criminal later kills Peter’s beloved Uncle Ben, the man that raised him. Wracked by guilt and loss, he realizes that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Peter resolves to use his superpowers to fight crime and becomes Spider-Man.

It’s a redemption story. But people who lack meaning in their lives usually tell a very different kind of story: a “contamination story.” In these stories, tragedy doesn’t produce growth. No good comes from the bad. Is this you?

If so, the good news is you can change your internal story. You get to decide what scenes it contains, and whether it ends with the death of your uncle, or in your decision to snare evildoers with your webs.

Professor James Pennebaker has shown that just 20 minutes of writing your story for 4 days has the power to dramatically improve your life. It helps people overcome anxiety, tragedy and heartache. Those who wrote about their problems felt happier, slept better, and even got better grades.

You rarely get to change the world, Peter Parker. But you can change your story, Spider-Man.

(To learn how to do the writing exercise that changes lives — from Pennebaker himself — click here.)

So we’ve talked about friends, purpose and stories but what gives that real whammo-bammo visceral feeling of meaning?


4) Transcendence

Another intimidating word. Don’t worry. It doesn’t involve any heavy lifting or math. You don’t need to know what a rhombus is.

Sometimes life feels so small. You’re heavily focused on a few things or maybe just one thing, like your career or your romantic relationship. And then that bubble pops. You lose the job. You get dumped.

You’re all-in on that one thing and now that thing is gone. It’s absolutely crushing. There’s a whole big world out there overflowing with opportunities and potential but right now it doesn’t feel that way. It feels meaningless.

But there are experiences that provide that feeling of just how big and amazing life is. The secret is a little word with big impact: awe.

Astronauts have reported seeing the Earth from a distance has these sorts of life-changing transcendent effects — but let’s focus on a slightly more practical option, shall we?

Get out in nature. Researchers had one group of students stare at 200 foot trees. Another group looked at tall buildings. Afterward, those who had looked at the trees became far more helpful when tested. Why?

From The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters:

The awe-inspired people, researchers found, felt a diminished sense of their own importance compared to others, and that likely led them to be more generous… They abandoned the conceit, which many of us have, that they were the center of the world. Instead, they stepped outside of themselves to connect with and focus on others.

You don’t need a spaceship to find meaning. But a trip to the Grand Canyon might not be a bad idea.

(To learn what Harvard research says will make you successful and happy, click here.)

Alright, we’ve covered a lot. Let’s round it all up…


Sum Up

Here’s how to find meaning in life:

  • Belong to a group: I’ll be at lunch with Andy and the guys. Where will you be?
  • Give your work purpose: You’re not emptying trash cans. You’re helping get a man on the moon.
  • Craft your story: End it with redemption, not contamination, and become the superhero of your life.
  • Transcendence: Nature is big. Your problems are small.

Life can be hard. But remember, while the difficult moments may decrease happiness, they’re essential for building meaning. And that’s what matters in the long run.

We flourish around friends. Unbearable stress becomes yet another challenge when you have purpose. A superhero origin story gives you hope and redemption. And nature makes your big problems seem tiny.

Collect all four and you’re on your way to learning the meaning of your life.

And that’s a lot more important than learning what a rhombus is.


3 years, 9 months, and 8 days. “Self-Reliance”



My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Today, we will hear from Mr. Emerson on the most important of topics:  self-reliance.  Trust yourself.  Believe in yourself.  Heed your counsel.

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in private heart is true for all men, — that is genius….  A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages.  Yet, he dismisses without notice his thoughts, because it is his.  In every work of genius, we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty….

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion….  The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.  Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none.  This sculpture in the memory is not without preestablished harmony.  The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray.  We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represent….  A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into this work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace….

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.  Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events.  Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being.  And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.

What pretty oracles nature yields us on this text, in the face and behavior of children, babes, and even brutes!….  Their mind being whole, their eye is as yet unconquered, and when we look in their faces, we are disconcerted.  Infancy conforms to nobody: all conform to it….

A boy is in the parlour what the pit is in the playhouse; independent, irresponsible, looking out from his corner on such people and facts as pass by, he tries and sentences them on their merits, in the swift, summary way of boys, as good, bad, interesting, silly, eloquent, troublesome.  He cumbers himself never about consequences, about interests: he gives an independent, genuine verdict.  You must court him: he does not court you.  But the man is, as it were, clapped into jail by his consciousness.  As soon as he has once acted or spoken with eclat, he is a committed person, watched by the sympathy or the hatred of hundreds, whose affections must now enter into his account….

Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members….  The virtue in most request is conformity.  Self-reliance is its aversion.  It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.

Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.

I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions.  Every decent and well-spoken individual affects and sways me more than is right.  I ought to go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways….  [T]ruth is handsomer than the affection of love.

Virtues are, in the popular estimate, rather the exception than the rule.  There is the man and his virtues.  Men do what is called a good action, as some piece of courage or charity, much as they would pay a fine in expiation of daily non-appearance on parade.  Their works are done as an apology or extenuation of their living in the world, as invalids and the insane pay a high board.  Their virtues are penances.  I do not wish to expiate, but to live.  My life is for itself and not for a spectacle.  I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady….  I cannot consent to pay for a privilege where I have intrinsic right.  Few and mean as my gifts may be, I actually am, and do not need for my own assurance or the assurance of my fellows any secondary testimony.

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.  This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness.  It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it.  It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after your own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

The objection to conforming to usages that have become dead to you is that it scatters your force.  It loses your time and blurs the impression of your character.  If you maintain a dead church, contribute to a dead Bible-society, vote with a great party either for the government or against it, spread your table like base housekeepers, — under all these screens I have difficulty to detect the precise man you are.  And, of course, so much force is withdrawn from your proper life.  But do your work, and I shall know you.  Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself.  A man must consider what a blindman’s buff is this game of conformity.  If I know your sect, I anticipate your argument….  Well, most men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief, and attached themselves to some one of these communities of opinions.  This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars.  Their every truth is not quite true….  Meanwhile, nature is not slow to equip us in the prison-uniform of the party to which we adhere….

For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure….  [B]ut the sour faces of he multitude, like their sweet faces, have no deep cause, but are put on and off as the wind blows and a newspaper directs….

The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of other have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them….

Suppose you should contradict yourself; what then?  It seems to be a rule of wisdom never to rely on your memory alone, scarcely even in acts of pure memory, but to bring the past for judgement into the thousand-eyed present, and live ever in a new day….

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines….  Speak what you think now in harsh words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradicts every thing you said to-day.  — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.” — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood?  Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh.  To be great is to be misunderstood.

[N]o man can violate his nature….   We pass for what we are.  Character teaches above our wills. Men imagine that they communicate their virtues or vice only by overt actions, and do not see that virtues or vice emit a breath every moment….

For of one will, the actions will be harmonious, however unlike they seem….  Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions.  Your conformity explains nothing….  Greatness appeals to the future.  If I can be firm enough to-day to do right, and scorn eyes, I must have done so much right before as to defend me now.  Be it how it will, do right now.  Always scorn appearances, and you always may.  The force of character is cumulative.  All the foregone days of virtue work their wealth into this.  What makes the majesty of the heroes of the senate and the field, so fills the imagination?  The consciousness of a train of great days and victories behind….  Honor is venerable to us because it is no ephemeris.  it is always ancient virtue.  We worship to-day because it is not of to-day.  We love it and pay it homage, because it is not a trap for our love and homage, but is self-dependent, self-derived, and therefore of an old immaculate pedigree, even if shown in a young person….

Let us affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the times, and hurl in the face of custom, and trade, and office, the fact which is the upshot of all history, that there is a great responsible Thinker and Actor working wherever a man works; that a true man belongs to no other time or place, but is the centre of things….  Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age….

Let a man know his worth, and keep things under his feet.  Let him not peep or steal, or skulk up and down with the air of a charity boy, a bastard, or an interloper, in the world which exists for him….  The picture waits for my verdict: it is not to command me, but I am to settle its claims to praise….

Insist on yourself; never imitate.  Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession.  That which each can do best, none by his Maker can teach him.  No man yet knows what it is, nor can, till that person has exhibited it.  Where is the master who could have taught Shakspeare?…  Shakspeare will never be made by the study of Shakspeare.  Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much.



Be you.  You are unique.  Your life’s experience is unique.  Your story is unique.  Be you.  But, be the best you.

All my love, always,



3 years, 9 months, and 6 days. Be patient.



My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I dreamt of you again last night.  In the dream, I entered a room to speak with Ms. L and noticed you, Jaialai, standing quietly in the room.  I asked if you’d been there for a while.  You said, “Yes.”  You appeared so lost, so small, so sad.

Be patient, my sons.  I’m coming.  Recent events have shown the world in no uncertain terms of the police brutality and racism that exists in the America.  See, e.g.,


Soon, my sons, their lies about us will be laid bare.  Truth will prevail.  Until then

all my love, always,



3 years, 9 months, and 5 days. Rise above the decay.

Can any sensitive person find peace of mind nowadays?” said Anna Pavlovna.

War and Peace (1869)

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I’ve previously shared the adage “If you’re near ink, you will be stained; if you are near the light, you will be illuminated” and instructed you to be selective of your companions..  Sometimes, due to circumstances, that may not be possible.

This leads me that adage’s corollary: “You can live in mud, but not carry the its stench.”  You may be mire in decay, but let it not taint you.

Take Oprah Winfred for instances.  She was born into poverty and difficult circumstances.  But, through hard work and perseverance, she rose above that and made something good of herself.  Despite her wealth and success, she lives free of scandals that plague.  The same cannot be said of the many rich and boorish who dominate the ether today.

It is disheartening to see lewdness and vulgarity grace the airwaves and the front pages of most major newspapers today.  Such smut was once relegated to yellow journalism.  Unfortunately, yellow journalism has now gone mainstream.  That does not bode well for our society.

Regardless, rise above the decay.  Just because Kim Kardashian, for example, found fame by the release of her sex tape does not mean she is worthy of emulation or attention.  Attend to better.  Just because your mother frequently takes you to your cousins on her side — at least one of whom is a felon, and a number of others fail to make much of their lives — doesn’t mean you must follow their footsteps and be tainted by their values.  Be better.

All my love, always,


3 years, 9 months, and 3 days. What people say is a reflection of them, NOT YOU!



(During WWII, Germany, Italy, and Japan constituted the Axis Powers, yet, for various reasons, only persons of Japanese ancestry were rounded up and imprisoned.)

‘Go Back to China’: Readers Respond to Racist Insults Shouted at a New York Times Editor.



“Scout,” said Atticus, “nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don’t mean anything—like snot-nose. It’s hard to explain—ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody’s favoring Negroes over and above themselves. It’s slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody.”

“You aren’t really a nigger-lover, then, are you?”

“I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody… I’m hard put, sometimes—baby, it’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you.” (11.107-109).

To Kill a Mockingbirdhttps://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL95_V8pZbmMA6Hh4_4e2-rTL2wNCgJJpa.


My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

In the course of your life, you will encounter racists and be assaulted by racist remarks. People of all races and colors have made, and will continue to make, disparaging remarks about other people of different races and colors as well as other people of the same race and color.  For example, black people call other blacks “Oreos”, Asians “bananas”, whites “nigger-lovers”, etc.

Know that other people’s conducts are a reflection of their own insecurities, ignorance, and trashiness.   They have nothing to do with you.  They are their problem, not yours.  Don’t take ownership of their problem and think it is somehow a reflection of you.  It isn’t.  It’s them, not you.

(Differentiate these common occurrences, resulting from the everyday interactions with humanity, with constructive feedback from the few, trusted confidants.  True friends will hold up a mirror and allow you to see yourself as others see you.  It is wise to heed them.)

When assaulted by the crass, it is best to take the high road where possible.  As they say, “Don’t wrestle with pigs.  It only makes them happy and you dirty.” 

That said, where necessary, speak up.  Remember, it is your responsibility to teach other people how to treat you.  However, remember also that it is not your responsibility to teach everyone.  Their ignorance and insecurities are their problems, not yours.  Choose your battles wisely.  If it is a stranger, let them live their life in ignorance and insecurity.  What is it to you?  If it is a classmate or coworker that you must interact with regularly, then address it.

Jaialai provided a perfect example. Once, our very white Ms. J was at the supermarket with all of the kids, hers and mine.  A rude woman stopped her and asked if those were all her kids.  Before Ms. J could respond, five-year-old Jaialai said to the woman, “You are just rude!”  Embarrassed to be schooled by a five-year-old, the woman walked on.

Don’t take ownership of what’s not yours.  This is true of other people’s things, and ideas.  It is equally true of their insecurities, ignorance, and trashiness.  Regarding the latter, it’s their problem, not yours.  As Ron White said,

You can’t fix stupid.

All my love, always,



3 years, 9 months, and 1 day. Focus on what’s important. Money isn’t.




My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Sometimes, it is best to hear another’s story.  Below is one you will find instructive.

I spent 2 years cleaning houses. What I saw makes me never want to be rich.

Let me tell you something you already know: Your housekeeper spies on you.

We work alone. We get bored. What do you expect?

I worked for a company cleaning houses for two years. It was flexible. It paid well enough. I didn’t think of it as a career, or identify with it; it was just what I did to get myself through college as a single mom.

At first I didn’t snoop. When they set me off on my own with a white binder containing directions for each house, I just dropped my daughter off at day care and went.

I checked how many pills they’d taken and learned which prescriptions had turned into recreationsI found the houses on little winding roads, the hidden keys tucked under gnomes or rugs. I parked my car where it wouldn’t drip oil on their driveway, lugged my tray of supplies inside, and called to clock in, standing by picture windows overlooking the ocean, looking at the perfectly manicured lawn, the chairs around the deck, the path down to the dock, and the boat that glittered even in the rain. I cleaned, and I moved on. I had 20 clients and two or three houses a day to get to, anyway.

But after a few months, my boss told me to clean slower. (We didn’t call it that, of course. We called it “more detailed.”) The company had a high turnover rate, she explained, and we billed by the hour. If I cleaned houses quicker than the girl who’d replace me, clients would want to continue paying the lower rate.

So I started looking through the piles of papers instead of straightening them. I looked for secrets in the nightstands, for the story below the American dream. I searched for the stashes of empty wine bottles and peeked into medicine cabinets. I checked how many pills they’d taken in two weeks and learned which prescriptions had turned into recreations. I found pills for everything: pain, anxiety, sleeplessness, depression, impotence, allergies, high blood pressure, diabetes. There were other medications, too. My personal favorite: a topical testosterone cream.

(I had to look that one up. It offsets a lack of libido in women. You apply the cream anywhere on your body except the genitals.)

I named my houses.

One was the Porn House, for all the issues of Hustler in the nightstand and for the bottle of lube that sometimes sat in front of the alarm clock, illuminated by the red numbers. I had to change the sheets, of course, but I never picked any socks up off the floor. There was always something cooking in the crock pot; sometimes I’d walk in and the whole house smelled of caramelizing ham.

The wife left notes addressed to “Cleaner” under a magnet on the fridge that said We’re staying together for the cat. She slept in the spare bedroom.

Next to the Porn House was the Sad House. They shared a driveway, and both had large garages and living rooms facing the ocean.

I did both houses every other Wednesday, but didn’t go to the Sad House much. The owner spent a lot of time in the hospital, and so his house stayed clean, except for dust that settled on the kitchen counters and the dining room table.

His wife had died some years earlier — I guessed in the late ’80s — but every trinket she’d collected remained on the windowsills, and her to-do lists remained tacked to the cork board by the desk in the kitchen.

“Get new hose.”

“Fix crack in sidewalk.”

“New latch for gate.”

The bathroom had two sinks. Hers still had a hair dryer plugged in and hung on a hook. His side had a cup with a comb and whatever medication he took in the morning and at night — it was different every time.

Across from the sink was a wicker shelf. It had a picture of their eldest son on top of a mountain. He had a green bandana and a beard, and gave a peace sign; the photo was framed with that poem you see on bereavement cards: “Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not there. I do not sleep.” That’s how it starts. I copied it down to give to a friend who’d just lost her dog.

Beside the photo were two little boxes, one made from a heavy clay, the other some kind of dark pewter. His wife’s picture leaned behind the clay box. I opened them once. They had ashes, and tags and statements from the funeral home. I wondered if it comforted him to have them there, behind him, while he combed his hair.

carpetThe money my clients spent startled me. One house had a receipt for a throw blanket more expensive than my car. I vacuumed children’s bedrooms bigger than my apartment. Rob’s House — my picky Friday client who adored me — had $3,000 worth of television and stereo equipment just in the living room. The TV was always on. My Christmas card from him and his wife contained a $100 bonus, the highest the company had ever seen. That was around when the prescription bottles multiplied by the bathroom sink and Rob’s skin took on a yellow tone.

Usually I never met my clients. I saw the lady from the Porn House after cleaning one time, at the store. She had on green hospital scrubs under a long red coat. Her short brown hair stuck out on one side, and she smoothed it while inspecting the steaks on clearance. I stood about 10 feet away from her, trying not to stare, holding cough syrup and juice for my daughter. She had no idea who I was. I knew she’d just gotten over a long sinus infection, and spat large wads of snot in the shower.

I saw the lady who used the testosterone cream at a restaurant. Her date was tall, in good shape, with fluffy blond hair. She had on high heels and too much makeup. They smiled at each other, but didn’t hold hands. He’d left an overnight bag at her house that week while the kids were at their dad’s. It had lube and one of those egg vibrators in it. I stood across from them at the bar, waiting for a friend, thinking how sad it must be to lose something like your libido.

The money my clients spent startled me. One house had a receipt for a throw blanket more expensive than my car.After a while, I got used to the loneliness these houses held. I got used to Cigarette Lady, whose husband went out of town a lot. She kept cartons of cigarettes in a freezer in the garage. They were the long, skinny types; I don’t remember the brand. A pantry off the kitchen had fat-free soups, crackers, and fat-free salad dressings. The refrigerator contained not much more than water and lettuce. A toilet in the upstairs bathroom off the kitchen always had crusted vomit under the rim.

My most regular client had me come twice a week for a few hours. Along with cleaning, I folded the laundry of a mother, father, and two young sons and put it away. The mother came out from her office once to pay me, and asked if I knew of any midwives in town. “I’m pregnant,” she said. “I can’t believe I’m telling you this; you’re the first person I’ve told besides my husband.”

We talked for a bit while I cleaned her stainless steel appliances and granite countertops in the kitchen. She wanted to try a home birth this time. I told her about mine. She hoped for a girl but didn’t really care either way.

A week or two after she told me about the pregnancy, I noticed spots of blood by the toilet. She told me about the miscarriage when I left. I acted as if I didn’t already know. She slouched. I wasn’t sure what to say.

After a while I decided to take on private clients along with my work for the cleaning company. That meant doing everything from fielding the initial call of interest to scheduling a day, time, and frequency of the clean. It meant weeding out the ones who wanted me to clean in costume or naked.

I vowed never to have a house bigger than I could clean myselfI stopped snooping after that. I didn’t have to. The bigger the house, the more they worked to afford it, the more prescription bottles they had. I started to see the fact that I couldn’t afford to buy my daughter fancy electronics as a luxury. We went to the beach and looked for crabs under the rocks instead. We spent rainy Saturdays doing a 25-cent puzzle. I vowed never to have a house bigger than I could clean myself.

I soon made enough with my private clients to quit the cleaning company entirely. I lost those houses, but there were no goodbyes. I’m not sure if they noticed I’d been replaced.

Stephanie Land is a writer whose work has been featured in Mamalode magazine, the Huffington Post, and Scary Mommy. She lives in Missoula, Montana, with her two daughters and their shelter dog. Read more of her story at stepville.com


Focus on what’s important in life, boys.  A friend, who used to make a six figure salary, told me about running into a woman at a fancy and expensive gym once.  She wore expensive designer clothes, drove an expensive car, and lived in a beautiful and expensive house while her husband worked.  Yet, she couldn’t stop complaining about how stressful was her life and how she had to be on a bunch of different meds to calm her nerves.  How sad for her.  Don’t be like that.

Money and wealth, in and of themselves, aren’t bad.  It’s when they become your raison d’etre, your only reason for being, that they become a problem.  Wealth is simply the means to a secure life.  Don’t mistaken it as the reason for life.

All my love, always,