4 year, 9 months, and 3 days. Be bold.

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A few years ago, at Easter dinner with my in-laws, I noticed my husband’s grandmother dipping pieces of yellow cake into her glass of soda. She’s a woman of nearly 90 with a preternatural grip for hugs and pinching cheeks but, in this, she was gentle: letting each bite soak into her orange Crush, allowing it to achieve full saturation before popping it in her mouth.

“Ew, Nonna!” someone chuckled in protest. But it was her table and home, and she’d apparently been doing this for years, so no one said much more about it.

Some seasons later, maybe a Thanksgiving, my other nonna-in-law did something similar with her dinner roll, tearing it into strips and letting the red wine from her glass climb up into the bread before eating it. This time, I resolved that I would ask why. But first — wanting my question to come across as the genuine curiosity it was, rather than an accusation of bad table manners — I decided to try it myself.

Those first few dips completely changed the way I eat at family meals. Part of what won me over was the pleasure of the thing itself: Wine-soaked bread is sharp, puckery and delicious, a double hit of fermented tang. But more important, I soon came to realize, was the role it can play in pacing out a marathon meal.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Be bold.  Don’t be timid.  There is no rehearsal in life.  This is it.  You get one chance to make the most of each moment because you can never have that moment back.  Try new things and new ways of doing things.  If you fail, fail spectacularly, then try again.

Don’t fear failure.  How else would you learn what works?

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Don’t worry about what other people think or say?  They have their own crosses to bear and who knows how well they carry on with their own burdens?  They have their own lives to live.  Let them worry their insecurities and failures.  You just focus on what you have control over:  yourself.

Do your best.  The hell with the rest.

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What is the commonality of those listed above?  They tried and failed, but never gave up.  Be persistent.  Be bold.  Be you.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

 

 

 

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4 years, 9 months, and 2 days. Don’t be a snowflake. Be resilient.

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In its annual survey of students, the American College Health Association found a significant increase — to 62 percent in 2016 from 50 percent in 2011 — of undergraduates reporting “overwhelming anxiety” in the previous year. Surveys that look at symptoms related to anxiety are also telling. In 1985, the Higher Education Research Institute at U.C.L.A. began asking incoming college freshmen if they “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do” during the previous year. In 1985, 18 percent said they did. By 2010, that number had increased to 29 percent. Last year, it surged to 41 percent.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/11/magazine/why-are-more-american-teenagers-than-ever-suffering-from-severe-anxiety.html?action=click&contentCollection=Europe&module=Trending&version=Full&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

 

When Mr. Hanks was 5, living in Redding, Calif., his parents separated. His mother, a waitress, kept the youngest of the four children while Tom went with the other two to live with his father. He was playing with his siblings one night when he was told he had to go with his father. He was a cook who married twice more and Tom had lots of stepsiblings and lived with a lot of upheaval. “By the age of 10, I’d lived in 10 houses.”

“By and large, they were all positive people and we were all just kind of in this odd potluck circumstance,” he said, adding that he still vividly recalls the confusion of being that little boy. “I could probably count on one hand the number of times I was in a room alone with my mom, or in a car alone. That is not exactly what happened to me, but there were times when either my mom or my dad — the same thing was true for both — in which being alone with them, I realized, was like, ‘This is a special time.’ For other people, it’s not a special time. It’s just part and parcel to the day.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/11/style/tom-hanks-uncommon-type-harvey-weinstein-donald-trump.html?action=click&contentCollection=Magazine&module=Trending&version=Full&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

 

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Be like Tom Hanks.  He’s had his share of rough times in life, but he remains strong, good, and talented. He doesn’t adopt a “Woe is me!” attitude.

Everyone in life has his or her own cross to carry.  It is no use to cry about it all the time.  Deal with it and move on.

Victimhood is becoming an art, and it is making us weak.  Yes, mourn when bad things happen.  Take time to recover and heal.  Then, get back on the horse and move on!

Don’t wallow in the misery, the misfortune, the bad.  Without the negative, how could you fully appreciate the beauty of kindness, of goodness, of fortune?  Take the bad with the good.  Learn from each.  Keep what you must.  Then, move on with the business of growing as a person and living as a person.

According to the article above, 18% of incoming college freshmen felt overwhelmed in 1985 versus 62% today.  Has college gotten harder?  No.  Has the challenges of living on your own for the first time gotten harder?  No.  Yet, why are more incoming freshmen overwhelmed?  Maybe they lack the survival skills and fortitude of earlier generations for whom life was more challenging, and for whom less was given.  These days, we have too many helicopter parents whose life’s mission is to not let their child fail.  (Of course, I’m oversimplifying.  The factors are many, and too much to go into here.)  They intervene at the most inopportune times, when children are presented with opportunities to test themselves, learn, and grow.  Without challenging ourselves, how will we ever know what we are capable of? how good we are?

Giving everyone a gold star for showing up is doing a disservice to our children.  It fails to reward each individual child’s effort.  Empty praises help no one.

He goes on to admonish against today’s culture of excessive parental praise, which he argues does more for lifting the self-esteem of the parents than for cultivating a healthy one in their children:

Admiring our children may temporarily lift our self-esteem by signaling to those around us what fantastic parents we are and what terrific kids we have — but it isn’t doing much for a child’s sense of self. In trying so hard to be different from our parents, we’re actually doing much the same thing — doling out empty praise the way an earlier generation doled out thoughtless criticism. If we do it to avoid thinking about our child and her world, and about what our child feels, then praise, just like criticism, is ultimately expressing our indifference.

To explore what the healthier substitute for praise might be, he recounts observing an eighty-year-old remedial reading teacher named Charlotte Stiglitz, the mother of the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who told Grosz of her teaching methodology:

I don’t praise a small child for doing what they ought to be able to do,’ she told me. ‘I praise them when they do something really difficult — like sharing a toy or showing patience. I also think it is important to say “thank you”. When I’m slow in getting a snack for a child, or slow to help them and they have been patient, I thank them. But I wouldn’t praise a child who is playing or reading.

https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/05/23/stephen-grosz-examined-life/

Be present.  Do your best — neither I, nor anyone else, can expect no more than that.  Keep trying.  Keep moving forward.  Keep learning.  Keep growing.

Be thankful for what you have, and the many blessings in your lives.  However, that does not mean you can rest there and stay where you are.  Life continues to flow around you.  If you don’t move forward with it, then you will be left far behind your friends and cohorts.  And, I’m not talking about things and acquisitions.  I’m talking about life, maturity, and the unique experiences that only living will afford you.  You do not want to be a man of 90, but stunted in emotion, intelligence, and life’s experience.  It would be unbecoming.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

4 years, 8 months, and 29 days. Embrace growth and reject stagnation. You will fail if you stand in one place because others will surpass you.

http://www.sociedadytecnologia.org/file/download/212611

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Remember when you were kids and I encouraged you to always try new things?  I love your sense of adventure and your willingness to try new things!  Don’t ever lose that sense of curiosity and adventure!  Those are the traits that will propel you forward in life, and help expand your horizons.

You guys would be proud of Ms. J.  She once bit the head off a giant roasted bug that was served as a delicacy.  I must admit, she was braver than in that situation.  I bit off other parts, but avoided the head.

The point here is to know your limits and to know what is good or bad for you.  If you know certain texture would cause you to chuck, then why do it?  Of course, if it’s illegal or a dangerous substance, don’t do it.  Don’t even try. That’s simply foolishness.  Below are faces of a person before and after meth use.  It isn’t pretty, is it?  Meth is highly addictive, so it’s risky to even take one hit.

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I have a friend who takes the opposite tack with his kids.  He hates wastes more than he values a sense of adventure; thus, if his kids try a bite of something, he’d make them finish the entire thing.  Well, as a result, they don’t waste food, but, as you can imagine, they are not much into trying new things.

Me?  I prefer you try new things and would even allow you to spit it out if you find it disagreeable.  If you don’t try, how will you ever know new things and you will be stagnant for life, being limited only to what you already know.

That leads me to the concept of a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset.  In essence, the former is being closed minded and the latter being open minded.  Be the latter.

Life is a journey.  Experience all the good things she has to offer.  Why deprive yourself because of fear of the unknown?

Think about all the wonderful fruits and vegetables you love.  Imagine the first person to eat a pineapple, tomato, or dragon fruit.  If no one tried, then we would never have known those fruits are edible.  That would be a waste. (But, that said, I’m not encouraging you to go out there and taste every new plant, seed, or fruit you come across.  Some are poisonous.  If you feel a strong urge to try fruits never before discovered, arm yourself first with the requisite knowledge about botany and other relevant sciences, and be certain to take the necessary precautions.  Again, DON’T DO IT.  Try things new to you, but not new to the human race.)

Don’t fear failure.  Failure is a healthy part of life.  It teaches you lessons about what to do and what not to do.  Anyone who has never failed is a person who had never taken risks.  Those people live in fear of life.  Don’t be like them.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 years, 8 months, and 19 days. Follow YOUR dreams, not others’

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Richard Cory

Edwin Arlington Robinson, 18691935

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked,
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich--yes, richer than a king--
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

My dearest Shosh ad Jaialai:

4 years, 8 months, and 19 days is an eternity.  I miss you greatly and hope you are well.

Today, let’s talk about living your dreams.  Dare to dream, and to follow your dreams.  Don’t worry about the opinions of others.  They have their lives to live, and you have yours.

This is not always easy.  For example, when I was younger, I wanted to become a medical doctor.  In college, I majored in the hard sciences and worked as a lab assistant, but I also volunteered to assist a professor with his social science research because I thought it interesting.  Over time, I realized that my love lies in social science, not in medicine — but, to this day, I remain interested and curious about matters related to medicine, and my professional duties ultimately took me back to that industry.

Eventually, I changed my major to one of the social sciences.  At first, family members protested and warned me of the difficulties of finding jobs as a social science major.  Clearly, medicine offered a clearer career path.  What they said concerned me, of course, but they presented no new information, yet I knew I would not be happy if I must spend my entire life working as a physician.  Thus, their warnings fell on deaf ears.  I pursued my dreams; won sizable scholarships that enabled me to attend top programs in the U.S.; got a doctorate in my field of interest; and, carved out a successful, interesting, and, generally, rewarding career.

Do what you love, my sons, and you never have to “work” a day in your life.  Follow your interests and dreams.

Also, don’t buy the hype about this or that person having it all.  You never know the burdens carried by others.  Hell is visited upon each of us in our own unique ways.  None can escape it.  We all have our insecurities, fears, doubts, and weaknesses.  As noted in “Richard Rory”, never believe that just because someone has the looks, the mannerism, and the trappings of wealth and royalty, his life is without difficulties.  He, too, has his own demons to fight. (As reminded by the recent anniversary of Princess Diana’s death, her marriage to Prince Charles brought her more misery than it was worth: thus, she eventually divorced him.  Even marrying the future king of England has its costs.)  MIND YOU, SUICIDE IS THE COWARD’S WAY OUT AND THAT IS NOT WHAT I’M ADVOCATING HERE.

I recall a radio talk show years ago, where a prominent and wealthy lawyer was a guest.  An individual called in to the show and said she wished she made as much money as he.  He responded, “You can have my money, but you will also have to take all my responsibilities along with it.”

I believe the Buddha is right when he said, “Life is suffering.”   But, you can overcome it by changing the way you think and how you approach life.

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We’re not Buddhist, but do you not see that I share many of the same philosophies espoused by the Buddha?  At his core, he is but a humanist, isn’t he?  Isn’t Jesus also a humanist?  Aren’t all the great ones in history and folklore humanists also?

Live right.  You will find that living right helps relieve the burdens of life.

Be well, my sons.

All my love, always,

Dad

4 years, 8 months, and 16 days. Think critically for yourself, but check your critical weapons at home and with friends.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I miss you!  I drank a Yakult today, and had to stop because it reminded me too much of you.  You used to love that stuff.  I wonder if you still drink it sometimes.

Boys, let’s talk a little today about how to interact with the world.  Much of the time, I urge you to be YOUR best, to think critically, to work hard, to be kind to others, etc.  But, I’m talking about you!  I’m not talking about other people.  As your dad, I have a responsibility to help and guide you to become a productive, successful, and contributing member of society.  That’s my job.

You, on the other hand, have control only over yourself.  You don’t have control over others.  Thus, other than your brother and your family, don’t worry about other people in the sense of helping them become better versions of themselves — unless that is your job, of course.  Let them be.  Worry about improving yourself.

Thus, be critical about your conduct, your achievements, your goals, etc.  However, don’t be critical about the conducts, achievements, goals, etc., of others.  That’s their business.  That’s on them.

If you stick your nose in their affairs, I promise you that the reaction will be harsh.  People won’t like it.  Focus on making you better.

Now, because I am a critical thinker, people have sometimes accused me of wanting to be right.  That is often more an expression of their insecurities than anything else.  But, be mindful of it.  It may be an academic exercise or a cerebral game for you, but others may not see it the same way.  They may vest too much of themselves in a position to be willing to explore its weaknesses.  Let them be.  That’s on them, not you.  Note the weakness for yourself and store that knowledge in your mind’s encyclopedia.  Use it to prune your knowledge tree.  If they choose to let a branch of their knowledge tree rot, that’s their problem.  Don’t make it yours.

In other words, hone your social skills.  Some people will like the intellectual exercise and enjoying the mental duels with you.  Others won’t.  It doesn’t matter if they won’t because they have failed to fashion and sharpen their intellectual tools, they are mentally fatigued, or what have you.  Respect their space and their choices.  That’s ultimately what freedom and America is all about.

All my love, always,

Dad

P.S., and don’t worry if, by your silence, they think you a fool.  You know you’re not.  Who cares what they think.  Anyway, sometimes it is better to be thought a fool than to prove them right.

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4 years, 8 months, and 15 days. Feed the right wolf.

 

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Acting with intention and awareness is the larger concept – and any of us can do that at any time. In a busy, distracting world where any disturbing event anywhere races towards us in a moment, we can proactively care for ourselves. Maybe set aside an urge to stare at repetitive news coverage, take note of whatever has happened with compassion, and then allow our mind to settle before resolving on a next step forward.

As Grandfather suggests in the folk tale, remain aware and feed the wolf of your choosing. Emphasize what is going well without candy-coating the rest. Take action when you can, while firmly making choices about where to give attention in life – and in your mind. Who knows, if enough of us focus on the healthier wolves more of the time, maybe we can even influence the tone and content of tomorrow’s headlines.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/child-development-central/201507/feed-the-right-wolf.

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Every day, the world pulls us in a million different directions.  Social media, friends, school, relatives, etc., are constantly telling us how they want us to be.  Wear this t-shirt or you won’t be popular.  Listen to this music and you may be accepted into the in-crowd.  Lash out at that kid who looked at you funny.

Ignore the noise.  Protect yourself if you’re in danger.  Take time to teach others how to treat you if it is necessary — “IF IT IS NECESSARY” is the operative concept.  But, otherwise, ignore the noise.

Too often, people are too busy dealing with their own insecurities to give much thought about you.  Their interactions with you are often an extension of their inner insecurities more than it is something about you.  Don’t let their problems become yours.  That is just wasted efforts.  You are not responsible for them.

You have control only over yourself.  Pay attention to what you are doing, what you are thinking, etc., and make sure the things you do will lead you down the right path towards your goals and dreams.

How you spend your moments is how you’ll spend your life.  Spend it well.

Feed the right wolf.  Only you can do that: no one can do that for you.

All my love, always,

Dad

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4 years, 8 months, and 3 days. Be wary of social media. It is unhealthy.

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https://i1.wp.com/bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/tulsaworld.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/8f/a8f9d43e-923c-11e3-b547-001a4bcf6878/52f8a784d47ed.image.jpg

I started the research for a book I am writing on how the external world affects our mental health. I wanted to acknowledge the downsides of social media, but to argue that far from being a force for ill,it offers a safe place where the insanities of life elsewhere can be processed and articulated.

But the deeper into the research I went, the harder it was to sustain this argument. Besides the Daily Mail screeching about the dangers, other people – scientists, psychologists, tech insiders and internet users themselves – were highlighting ways in which social media use was damaging health.

Even the internet activist and former Google employee Wael Ghonim – one of the initiators of the Arab spring and one-time poster boy for internet-inspired revolution – who once saw social media as a social cure – now saw it as a negative force. In his eyes it went from being a place for crowdsourcing and sharing, during the initial wave of demonstrations against the Egyptian regime, to a fractious battleground full of “echo chambers” and “hate speech”: “The same tool that united us to topple dictators eventually tore us apart.” Ghonim saw social media polarising people into angry opposing camps – army supporters and Islamists – leaving centrists such as himself stuck in the middle, powerless.

The evidence is growing that social media can be a health risk, particularly for young people who now have all the normal pressures of youth (fitting in, looking good, being popular) being exploited by the multibillion-dollar companies that own the platforms they spend much of their lives on.

Kurt Vonnegut said: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful who we pretend to be.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/06/social-media-good-evidence-platforms-insecurities-health (emphasis added).

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I have always taught you to be your own man and to think for yourselves.  Unfortunately, America is becoming a country of sheep.  Everyone is busy keeping up with the Jones.  Everyone copies the latest fads being religiously followed by everyone else.  Each is afraid to be different from the others for fear of ridicule.

How ironic.  In a country where individualism is touted as the ideal, peer pressure, marketing, and social forces run counter to that ideal, and those who are different are ostracized and rejected.

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But, remember, “a tiger doesn’t lose sleep over the opinion of sheep.”  Ignore the small-minded. They are insecure and feel good about themselves only by putting others down.  They are nothing.  Give them pity, and no more.  They are not worth your time.

Instead, focus on what you love and on pursuing your dreams.  You will never have to work a day in your life if you do what you love.  I have been blessed in that sense.  I have enjoyed my work and, for the most part, the people with whom I work.  I wish the same for you.

Jonas Salk said, “I have had dreams and I have had nightmares.  I overcame the nightmares because of my dreams.”  Dare to chase your dreams, my boys.  The world is full of timid people who live forgetful lives.  Be not like them.  Be like Hunter Thompson.

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!

Hunter S. Thompson

Get off Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all the other junk.  Those “friends” and “followers” aren’t really your friends.  They won’t recognize you from Adam if you should ever bump into them on the streets.  They neither know your nor care about you and will never lose sleep over your everyday struggles.  Let them be.  Leave them to their virtual worlds.

Live life.  Go outside.  Meet people.  Make friends.  Give a hand to someone in need.  Live!  You’ll be glad you did.  Your life will mean something and will be worth retelling.

All my love, always,

Dad